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Cultural References in the Grapes of Wrath

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Gabe Mollot-hill

on 31 October 2013

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Transcript of Cultural References in the Grapes of Wrath

Cultural References in "The Grapes Of Wrath"
Overview
Background - 1920's
Background - 1920's
1930's culture overview
1930's
The Winning of Barbara Worth
Why Steinbeck included these cultural references
Background (20's culture)
20's and 30s culture
Clarification of specific references
Steinbeck's intention
Specific References
coca cola
"The walls decorated with posters, bathing girls, blondes with big breasts and slender hips and waxen faces, in white bathing suits, and holding a bottle of Coca-Cola and smiling--see what you get with a Coca-Cola"
The 1920's were known for their decadence and opulence, at least in the upper classes
"The Roaring Twenties"
This was the image shown in the popular media
A new sense of prosperity and freedom emerged out of the post WW1 America
New technology was everywhere
Radio
Cars
Electrical Appliances
Money flowed freely; so did alcohol
Speakeasies (shhh), Jazz clubs
The 1920's were also marked by considerable social change
Younger people rebelled against the strict social system that had been in place
Women gained more independence - got the vote in 1920
Black culture grew and changed, with the "Harlem Renaissance" being the centre
Jazz changed and evolved
Numerous authors came to prominence
Important to note that these changes did not always extend past the cities - many rural areas had not "roared" in the 20's
-the company boomed in the 1930s due to the prohibition

-with the invention of the six pack 'carry-home case' consumers could bring home more coca cola at a time

-Coca cola becomes iconic of the american way of life
In the 1930s
Draws attention to the stark contrast between the life that the posters depict and the reality of the migrant workers who can barely afford to eat
Thanks for the memory
"The other man puts a nickel in the phonograph, watches the disk slip free and the turntable rise up under it. Bing Crosby's voice, golden. "Thanks for the memory, of sunburn at the shore You might have been a
headache, but you never were a bore"
Another example where Steinbeck contrasts the life of the migrant workers and the luxurious life depicted in the songs lyrics
To set the scene
To illustrate the class difference
The comparison between the 'American Dream' way of life and the reality
Steinbeck's view on the american dream as something unattainable
In the 1930s
A popular song at the time, and the soundtrack to a popular movie starring Bob Hope and Shirley Ross, "The Big Broadcast of 1938"
Won the academy award for best original soundtrack that year
The lyrics recall the ups and downs of the main characters' relationship
In the 1930s
A novel by Harold Bell Wright that was adapted into a Western silent film in 1926

Tells the story of an engineer from the east who competes with a local cowboy for the affection of a rancher's daughter while building an irrigation system for a Southwestern desert community
Draws many parallels with the Grapes of Wrath including the struggles with capitalism, and the optimism for the future
Dr. Miles Almanac
a calendar of eclipses, tides, church festivals and the movements of the sun and moon
Produced by Miles Laboratories a pharmaceutical maker
Contained lots of advertisements for products produced by Miles Laboratories
In the 1930s
The 1930's continued the popular obsession with the rich affluent lifestyle
There was also a strong push in the other direction:
People grew more interested in folk culture
Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger grew popular
The Library of Congress began a project to collect folk songs and catalog them
This was directly related to the Depression and the huge income disparity between rich and poor
Movies became popular as a way to escape the realities of the depression (60-80 million attended movies each week)
They were also with recorded dialog (a new thing) and eventually in colour
Cars
Continued...
Continued...
Your Pa's pa, he quoted Scripture all the time. He got it all roiled up, too. It was the Dr. Miles' Almanac he got mixed up. pg.67

"I never could keep Scripture straight sence
I read a book name' The Winning of Barbara Worth"
Discussion questions
Is the way society idolizes the rich and famous healthy?
Does a nation's culture influence its people or do its people influence its
culture?
These references gave contemporary readers something to relate to
Give modern readers a better understanding of the culture and lifestyle of the time
To illustrate the difference between rich and poor
“See that La Salle? Me for that. I ain’t a hog. I go for a La Salle.
‘F ya goin’ big, what’s the matter with a Cad’? Jus’ a little bigger, little faster.
I’d take a Zephyr myself. You ain’t ridin’ no fortune, but you got class and speed. Give me a Zephyr.” (pg. 198)

Cars
Cars bring out the true nature of characters in the book
“Jesus, Joe, that was a hot one! What’d we give for that jalopy? Thirty bucks--thirty-five wasn’t it? I got that team, an’ if I can’t get seventy-five for that team, I ain’t a business man. An’ I got fifty cash an’ a contract for forty more. Oh, I know they’re not all honest, but it’ll surprise you how many kick through with the rest. One guy come through with a hundred two years after I wrote him off. I bet you this guy sends the money.” (pg. 83)
“Al wiped his hands on his trousers. “We ain’t et today,” he said to Floyd. “I’ll come give you a han’ when I eat.”
“No need ‘less you want ta.”
“Sure, I’ll do it.” (pg. 330)
To show the way people interacted

Steinbeck used cultural references to bring out the true personalities of different characters
Showed how the challenging times affected how people interacted
Many of these cultural references continue to influence out culture today.
Did the culture of affluence and fame of the '20s cause the depression of
the '30s?
...and so...
If we still value the same things today, then could we fall into another depression?
Full transcript