In what ways was The Grapes of Wrath countercultural, insights into the migrant workers or more subtle, underlying issues (perhaps racism and religious fervor)?
If we understand the dominant point of view in the 1930s to be individualist, grounded in the ideal that all people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, the collectivist theme of this novel is countercultural.
Then and now, the dominant cultural ideology in the United States depicts this as a land of opportunity, where anyone willing to work hard can get ahead. According to this view, failure is the result of an individual's flaws or shortcomings. Steinbeck, on the contrary, is at pains to show that individualism is at the root of the Joads' troubles. From the sense of individual competition that causes farming families like them to overcultivate their land and ignore ecology, leading to the Dust Bowl, to a cruel, capitalist system that takes advantage of desperate individuals by offering them starvation wages, the issue of people being prevented from joining together for the common good becomes society's chief culprit.
Instead of blaming the Joads for their problems,...
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