Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Plum Plum Pickers closely parallels the historical exploitation of California farmworkers, whether Mexican, Chicano, or Anglo. Both the fiction and the history testify to the paradox of abundance that buries the humanity of those who have the least and are exploited the most. Barrio strips the mask from the face of a ruthless capitalism that crushes the pickers and proclaims its own benevolence, convincing those businesspeople and politicians who are prone to believe in their own racial superiority that the agricultural corporate combines are the guardians of lesser human beings than themselves. The owners of plum and apricot orchards or of vast acres of tomatoes see only the green of profits, denying the reality of rotting human lives in deference to the appearance of a lush green paradise. They convince many of the pickers either that their lives are meant to end in futility or that their salvation rests in copying the corrupt success and fraudulent goodness of the rich.

What the greedy owners do not see is their psychological and spiritual self-destruction. Quill lives in suspended terror, never sure whether he is alive and dreaming of death or instead living death and dreaming of having a life that he can call his own. Despite his power and influence, Turner isolates himself in fantasies of his days as a Hollywood extra in cowboy roles, obsessively constructing his own false reality by turning the Western Grande compound into an absurdly...

(The entire section is 452 words.)