John Steinbeck

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To what extent did John Steinbeck succed in denouncing capitalism? this thesis is about identifying the causes of Steinbeck's wrath against harsh capitalism  

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that Steinbeck did a very admirable job in raising questions about capitalism and its presence in American Society.  He understood that removing it and overthrowing it would be naive.  Rather, he sought to give voice to those who suffer under it.  In works like "Of Mice and Men" and "The Grapes of Wrath," one does not leave with the feeling that capitalism needs to be abolished, but rather it has to account for all individuals in its path.  There has to be some level of understanding and economic and political redress for those who are trapped underneath it, pinned under its weight.  He seeks to bring a voice to those who are silenced in the capitalist system.  In the process, he is able to bring forth a strong criticism of capitalism in the hopes of making it more accountable for all individuals.

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Stopping capitalism is like trying to stop a glacier.  Steinbeck was not naive enough to think he could stop it.  But he wanted to stop the exploitation of the "little guy": farmers, migrant workers, and local "mom and pop shops."  So, he denounced capitalism's predatory practices as a means of social protest in his fiction.

Steinbeck saw his idyllic Salinas River Valley in California overrun with corporations during his writing career.  Like the pragmatism (scientific determinism) of which he infuses in his fiction, Steinbeck knew that man was a victim of socio-economic forces.  Though I wouldn't call him explictly socialist, there is certainly an undercurrent of anti-capitalism in his Dust Bowl fiction.

Steinbeck's populist writings about the Dust Bowl Oakies and migrant farmers did show the exploitation of the working class without unions and labor laws.  The Joads and Lennie and George, in particular, had little protection under the current laissez faire system of hiring and firing practices.

In The Grapes of Wrath , bosses would send out handbills...

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