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The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

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How does Steinbeck depict the bank as a monster in The Grapes of Wrath?

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In The Grapes of Wrath, do you remember the scene where Muley recalls getting kicked off of his own land?  Muley points a shotgun at the MAN who follows up the eviction notice.  The man uses the bank as a kind of red herring: a faceless, corporate scapegoat who is to blame.

MULEY You mean get off my own land?

THE MAN Now don't go blaming me. It ain't *my* fault.

SON Whose fault is it?

THE MAN You know who owns the land--the Shawnee Land and Cattle Company.

MULEY Who's the Shawnee Land and Cattle Comp'ny?

THE MAN It ain't nobody. It's a company.

SON They got a pres'dent, ain't they? They got somebody that knows what a shotgun's for, ain't they?

THE MAN But it ain't *his* fault, because the *bank* tells him what to do.

SON (angrily) All right. Where's the bank?

THE MAN (fretfully) Tulsa. But what's the use of picking on him? He ain't anything but the manager, and half crazy hisself, trying to keep up with his orders from the east!

MULEY (bewildered) Then who *do* we shoot? THE MAN (stepping on the starter) Brother, I don't know. If I did I'd tell you. But I just don't know *who's* to blame!

In this way, the bank is an abstract 3rd party entity like Big Brother in 1984, both guilty and blameless in the destruction and victimization of others.  It sends out its minions and underlings to do its dirty work and serve as buffers so that no one physically goes to the bank and complains.  Talk about "The Man" keepin' a brother down!

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