Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 385
- In Dubious Battle (1936) is John Steinbeck’s first book of a trilogy by the author that looks at the migrant labor problem in the 1930s. The novel focuses on labor organizers and a strike in California’s apple fields. The book caused controversy when it was published.
- Of Mice and Men (1937) is the second book in Steinbeck’s trilogy of migrant farmers. It is about two migrants, one who is mentally handicapped, and how their dreams of a better life can never be realized because of the oppressive social system.
- Emile Zola’s Germinal (1885) is set in a French mining town. The main character in the novel, Etienne Lantier, witnesses how the families of the working class are destroyed by a social environment that sees people only as disposable resources. It is a fate that Etienne is unable to change.
- The Octopus (1901) by Frank Norris is the first in Norris’s “Trilogy of the Wheat.” It is set in the San Joaquin Valley of California and addresses the abuses of railroad companies on the local wheat farmers. Norris was concerned with the question of how a Judeo-Christian ethic can exist in a harsh and uncaring world.
- In the nonfiction book Factories in the Field: The Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California (1939) by Carey McWilliams, the author takes a look at the migrant labor problem in his study published the same year as The Grapes of Wrath.
- Justin Kaplan’s Lincoln Steffens: A Biography (1974) is a look at one of the most famous muckrakers of American journalism. Steffens wrote a series of articles in 1902-1903 that exposed corruption in various city governments. He was one of America’s renowned social critics and a great voice for reform. As an old man living in Carmel, California, in the 1930s, he and John Steinbeck became friends, and Steffens was the link who provided Steinbeck with his knowledge of migrant labor and contacts with union organizers that eventually led to his assignment to cover the migrants for the San Francisco Chronicle. Kaplan’s book won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
- James N. Gregory’s American Exodus: The Dust Bowl and Okie Culture in California (1989) is an account of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and the migration to California depicted in The Grapes of Wrath.