John Steinbeck

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How does Steinbeck's detached point of view in "The Harvest Gypsies" help you understand the plight of migrant farm workers living in California during the Great Depression?

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In John Steinbeck's series of articles for The San Francisco News, "The Harvest Gypsies," there is a tone of detachment that is also evident in his fiction. This tone of detachment shows that Steinbeck was a writer who believed in realism. Steinbeck's background in journalism shaped his writing style in fiction. One can interpret The Grapes of Wrath, one of Steinbeck's most well-known and critically-acclaimed novels, as a form of documentary about the lives of farmers in Depression-era Oklahoma and California.

However, "The Harvest Gypsies," is an actual journalist work and captured the socioeconomic issues of the time in great detail. In particular, the series documented the lives and issues of migrant workers in the Central Valley and Lower Colorado River Valley regions of California.

As a reporter, Steinbeck's tone and style in writing the series allows the readers to sympathize with the migrants' plight while also gaining then-new information about the effects of the Great Depression. Steinbeck did not write the series in a dramatic style—as it was a work of journalism—and did not portray the migrants as victims of economic crises.

Instead, he portrayed the migrants realistically, without embellishment, and allowed his subjects to tell the stories themselves. In this sense, Steinbeck is similar to an ethnographer or interpreter. He simply recorded their personal narratives, and it was up to the newspaper readers to come up with their own conclusions.

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