Duality In The Grapes Of Wrath

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Humankind has a dual nature when it comes to the weak; they will either offer assistance or crush them to gain strength. Theologian Albert Schweitzer said, “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” While he does not support the other half of man’s nature, it can not go neglected. John Steinbeck uses this duality in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath. The plot follows the Joad family making their way to California in search of work outside of Dust Bowl afflicted Oklahoma. Once they get there, they encounter numerous other trials, such as finding a job and keeping the family together. These test what side of nature they need to embrace to survive. As the Joads experience more of the world and the people in it, they come to understand that, though selfishness will help them succeed, being willing to help others is necessary for their survival.
Steinbeck focuses on the transformation of empathy throughout his novel. He particularly highlights the actions of those willing to help others compared to the selfish. His tactic to execute this is through an individual’s personal belief that extends to the other characters. In the online article, 500 Classics Reviewed, the author summarizes, “...a central theme, voiced by Casy,
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When three men are caught trying to start a fight at the Weedpatch dance, they protest,“‘...a fella got to eat’...’No fight, no pay’” (Steinbeck 344). This mentality followed many people in that time. The Great Depression was a point when being selfish meant surviving. Throughout the story of the Joads, Steinbeck is trying to negate the belief that that way of living is perfectly okay. He argues that while it is important to eat and it is important to protect one’s family, mankind must not allow our human nature to become entirely self-centered. Jim Casy, the alleged God-like figure, spends the novel getting this across to the

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