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In The Grapes of Wrath what are Californian resident concerns regarding the migrant...

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marquels | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted February 29, 2012 at 7:45 AM via web

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In The Grapes of Wrath what are Californian resident concerns regarding the migrant workers?

This is for a debate in class which has 5 other parts/questions to it.  I'm almost done with it but curious if there is any aspect to this that I'm missing besides the obvious that jobs would be taken.

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 29, 2012 at 8:34 AM (Answer #1)

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Migrant workers taking local jobs is the most obvious answer, but the text has some other interesting possibilities. For example, since the Californian residents were not experiencing the Dust Bowl or Depression as badly as the mid-west, they could not have anticipated the numbers of people traveling to their state. The sheer influx of desperate people would be unnerving even in a time of prosperity. This paragraph in Chapter 21 sums their fears up:

In the West there was panic when the migrants multiplied on the highways. Men of property were terrified for their property. Men who had never been hungry saw the eyes of the hungry. Men who had never wanted anything very much saw the flare of want in the eyes of the migrants. And the men of the towns and of the soft suburban country gathered to defend themselves; and they reassured themselves that they were  good and the invaders bad, as a man must  do before he fights. They said, These goddamned Okies are dirty and ignorant. They're degenerate, sexual maniacs. Those goddamned Okies are thieves. They'll steal anything. They've got no sense of property rights.
(Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Google Books)

It wasn't only economic concerns that had Californians worried. They were scared of the people themselves, with the prejudiced notion that Mid-Westerners were uncultured, backwards, inbred, greedy, and malicious. Since they were disconnected from the worst of the Dust Bowl, they had no empathy for the poverty and desperation of people entering the state. The Californians were scared that their homes would be robbed, that their people would be raped and murdered, and their towns would be overrun by low-class people who weren't really looking for jobs, but handouts.

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