In what ways was The Grapes of Wrath countercultural, insights into the migrant workers or more subtle, underlying issues (perhaps racism and religious fervor)?
Counterculture can be defined as a group of people of reject the values and morals of the larger society. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is countercultural in the attitudes and actions of its characters. In some sense, we always have countercultural groups in society, as people are not always going to be satisfied with the way things are going. Specifically, the characters in Grapes of Wrath have become disillusioned with America’s economic system. This is hardly surprising, considering that it is set among migrant workers and sharecroppers during the depression. These people have lost everything and have been taken advantage of by the rich. In the second half of the story we see them embrace a socialistic or possibly even communistic attitude as they join labor unions and look to the government for help. They also question the value of organized religion, which was an unpopular thing to do at that time. Steinbeck’s novel is brutally realistic, and it does not attempt to put a happy face on the fate of those who suffered the most during America’s economic collapse. He was one of the few successful writers of his time to give a voice to such countercultural ideas.