The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath is not only the most important novel written by Steinbeck, but it also had an immense effect on public opinion when it was published. It dealt with a contemporary social problem, the exodus of tens of thousands of small farmers from the Mid-Western States following widespread erosion in the Dust Bowl area. The creation of the Dust Bowl was ecological disaster whose effects were aggravated by economic factors, and the novel deals fully and explicitly with both these aspect of this great social and human tragedy.
The odd chapter of the book describe how the light was sloughed up and sown with cereal crops, thus depriving the land of its permanent covering of plants. At first the crops were good, but the soil was gradually exhausted and, when rainfall was scarce, the strong winds began to strip away the precious topsoil turning the area into a desert. farmers went bankrupt and the banks took their lands from them. Together with their families they loaded a few possessions into second-hand cars and began travelling westward, looking for jobs in California, where they hoped to find seasonal work in areas like the fertile Salinas Valley. There was a great caravan of desperate families travelling West in broken-down cars, heading for the "promised land" of California. They were referred to contemptuously as "Okies", since most of them were from Northern Oklahoma, although many were also from Kansas, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. In the even chapters, Steinbeck deals with the fortunes of a typical Okie family, the Joads, three generations of an Oklahoma family who make the epic journey across America and Rom their experiences come to understand the importance of solidarity if they are to survive.