Friday, February 17, 2012

Steinbeck vs. FDR

Novelist John Steinbeck is famous for capturing the mood of the Great Depression. The title of one of his most famous books, The Grapes of Wrath, expresses his anger at the situation, but also at the people who created the misery.

The wording of the title itself is an allusion to the fourteenth chapter of the biblical book of Revelation. At the end of chapter 25 in Steinbeck's story, the characters look on as food is destroyed - crop are burned, or dumped into rivers; millions of pigs are killed and buried.

This willful destruction of food that could have nourished people was a part of FDR's plan to help the economy. By destroying crops and livestock, Roosevelt hoped to increase the market price at which farmers could sell.

Whatever the New Deal intended, Steinbeck saw hungry people who were forced to watch as food was destroyed. Records indicate that six million pigs were killed and buried; crops were left to rot in fields rather than be harvested; other crops were burned.

Steinbeck saw a horrible injustice, carried out in the name of helping the poor, but actually inflicting a man-made food shortage on society's most vulnerable members. The wrath in The Grapes of Wrath is directed at FDR's progressivist New Deal plan of destroying food in order to help the hungry.