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How can the song "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" connect to Steinbeck's The Grapes of...

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hermanfung05 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted April 3, 2012 at 2:55 PM via web

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How can the song "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" connect to Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath?

 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 3, 2012 at 6:52 PM (Answer #1)

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Harburg's song links to the ideas brought out in Steinbeck's work in a couple of ways.  The first is that it speaks of the pain of the dispossessed in much the same way that Steinbeck does.  Steinbeck's fundamental premise in the novel is to articulate the condition of those who have been maligned or forgotten by the social and economic configuration.  The song does the same, in its basic idea of the title, a plea from someone who used to be successful from an economic point of view to someone who no longer is.  Another connection between both the song and novel is the idea of class conflict.  There is an antagonism that exists between those in the position of economic and social power and those who lie outside of it.  The novel depicts this reality and the song captures this, as well.  The speaker in the song participated in economic ventures and military ones, and now exists in a reality where there is a demand for acknowledgement, an insistence on being heard.  This is seen in Steinbeck's novel, in that those who are marginalized still believe in the idea of dignity and the idea of being validated.  The element of desperation and a sense of pain within what it means to live is also evident in both the song and the novel, as characters in both find themselves in an extremely painful condition of being in the world.  Both works of art speak to this reality of hurt.

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