What is an example of paradox in Chapter 14 of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we are examining a paradox as "the juxtaposition of incongruous ideas," then I think we have to examine how the Western farmers view their Midwest and panhandle counterparts.  On one hand, the Western farmers recognize that there is destitution and a lack of fertile land for farmers.  Yet, rather than recognize the similarity in predicament, something that might actually help all of them succeed, the Western farmers become paranoid of the new migrants, seeing them as a potential threat for unification and one that can take away what is theirs.  This paranoia and fear is a paradox for one one hand it denies the collective consciousness of all of the farmers in a difficult time, while on the other it prevents the full cohesion of all farmers in a unified attempt to succeed.  The interesting aspect here is that "the West" had always been seen as a refuge for those who were displaced.  Individuals who did not feel as if they had a home or a place to call their own always felt that they were able to "Go West" and find a sense of belonging.  Yet, Steinbeck shows the West to be the home for the same antagonisms and exclusion practices that helped to found it in the first place.  In bringing out this paradox, Steinbeck helps to raise awareness to the idea that individuals who wish to overcome the social and economic problems that plague them, the sense of community and social solidarity with one another and away from paranoia and fear are the only possible answers.  It is a paradox that the Western farmers, knowing the struggle of their counterparts, cannot see this.

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The Grapes of Wrath

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