Why does the Grapes of Wrath have such a wide spread appeal?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of the reason why Steinbeck's work had such a wide appeal was because it spoke to a predicament that was not publicized in a broad manner.  In the wake of the Great Depression, the nation's attention fell to the banking sector, the individuals who typified the mass consumption and Jazz Age of the 1920s, and failed to examine the backbone of the Depression's effect on the farmers.  The novel's focus on how rural America was impacted by the collapse of the real estate market as well as natural conditions highlighted how the diaspora of American thought encompasses both rural and urban reality.  The urbanization that was seen in the late 19th century and the early 20th century had to be balanced with the rural predicament.  In a larger sense, Steinbeck's novel had much to do with voicing the other end of capitalism.  The economic order whose success largely defined American visions of the good had an equally painful countervailing force that told the story of incredibly hard times and the difficultly living in a world where the growing acquisition of material conditions defined success.  Through Steinbeck's rendering, the plight of those who were not directly benefiting from capitalism's view of the world had to be addressed through some form and government became the force that could help to mitigate some of the difficult aspects of capitalism, for which "the invisible hand" truly was invisible.

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The Grapes of Wrath

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