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Slide 1: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Severe drought and dust storms exacerbated the Great Depression because it dried out farmlands
and forced families to leave their farms. On May 9, 1934, a dust storm carried an estimated 350
million tons of dirt 2,000 miles east ward and dumped four million tons of prairie dirt in
Chicago. The drought and dust killed tens of thousands of animals. Between 1930 and 1935,
nearly 750,000 farms were lost through bankruptcy or sheriff sales. In 1932, half of all workers
in Cleveland, Ohio, were jobless. And in Toledo, Ohio, four out of five were jobless. During the
Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of families traveled west on Route 66 to California,
following what John Steinbeck in his famous novel The Grapes of Wrath called “The Mother
Road.” People who lost their homes often lived in what were called “Hoovervilles,” or shanty
towns, that were named after President Herbert Hoover. There was also “Hoover Stew” (food
dished out in soup kitchens), “Hoover Blankets” (newspapers that served as blankets), “Hoover
Hogs” (jack rabbits used as food), and “Hoover Wagons” (broken cars that were pulled by
mules).c Californians tried to stop migrants from moving into their state by creating checkpoints
on main highways called “bum blockades.” California even instated an “anti-Okie” law which
punished anyone bringing in “indigents” with jail time. The Great Depression changed the family
in several ways. Many couples delayed marriage, and divorce rates and birth rates dropped.
Some men also abandoned their families; a 1940 poll revealed that 1.5 million married women
were abandoned by their husbands. By the 1930s, thousands of schools were operating on
reduced hours or were closed down entirely. Some three million children had left school, and at
least 200,000 took to riding the rails.

Slide 2: James N. Rosenberg, Oct 29 “Dies Irae”, 1929

Our group was able to relate this particular painting to Intercalary Chapter five because both the
painting and the chapter incorporate the themes of chaos, destruction, and man’s humanity to
man.

Based on the above photo, (assuming you don’t know Latin poetry) what do you think Dies Irae
means?

What types of similarities are there in relation to the Grapes of Wrath?

What types of emotions are portrayed in this picture?

In the artwork, the artist focuses on chaos, destruction, and man’s inhumanity to man. The
inanimate objects are in complete disorder, and nothing about the picture is as it should be.
Buildings are tilted, and everything is at an angle. The artist works with different shades of the
same color, and the faces of the people on the very bottom are all similar to one another. This
implies that even though situations may vary slightly, everyone is experiencing the same misery
and terror. In Intercalary Chapter five, Steinbeck uses a lack of quotes to illustrate that the
situation applies to everyone, not merely one person or one event. Steinbeck also uses inanimate
objects, such as tractors, to demonstrate that the conditions of the migrants were slowly
deteriorating. When the tractors arrived, everything was quickly torn down and destroyed.



Slide 3: Arthur Durston, Industry (1934)

This painting, Industry, is closely linked with Intercalary Chapter 25. Both incorporate the loss
of hope and desperation.

Why do you think the artist chose to make women the object of this painting?

What is the significance of the background?

This is the only painting that we have that’s in color. Arthur Durston paints using definite shapes
and similar colors so again, there isn’t much contrast. Each woman was painted to be a replica
of the very first one, each with a look of repressed emotion and resignation. Durston placed the
women within a setting of productivity, but each is without possessions. This painting can best
be related to intercalary chapter 25 because it employs the same element of contrast. Chapter 25
is a highly colorful chapter, filled with flowers in full blossom and ripe fruit. Again, Steinbeck
uses no quotes to illustrate that this happened to most of the migrant population. Steinbeck uses
contrast in this chapter, for the migrants are in a land of abundance and richness, yet they can
have none of it, and remain as poor as they were to begin with. The end of the chapter
foreshadows the anger of the migrants, just as the women’s faces hint at their emotions. Both
represent hopelessness because they see no way out, nor do they see any way to fix their
situation.



Slide 4:   Mabel Dwight, In the Crowd (1931)

The Painting In the Crowd relates to all intercalary chapters relating to monetary values,
especially chapter 7 because they both have the themes of melancholy, and dignity.

What kinds of emotions are expressed in the emotions of these people?

Do you think this picture would be more or less powerful if children were included?

Mabel Dwight uses well defined shapes and washed out colors in her painting. It also seems to
be that those who may have wealth and affluence have their eyes shaded, so they can’t actually
see the conditions of the migrant workers. The idea that the affluent cannot see the true state of
the migrants is reflected in Steinbeck’s chapter because even though businessmen and salesmen
and other types of industrialists interacted with the migrant workers, they refused to
acknowledge the fact that the migrants were living like animals. By “hiding their eyes,” the
affluent were able to sympathize with the migrants without actually witnessing the horrid
conditions. The washed out colors represent the dignity and attitudes of the migrants. They
were completely washed out, and possessed hardly any means of bettering their lives. However,
instead of admitting defeat, they used sheer will power to keep themselves going.

Slide 5: Farmer and sons, dust storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936. Photographer:
Arthur Rothstein

In this photo, the artist and author use techniques to portray the themes of resignation and
despair.

how are shadows used to invoke emotions in the viewer?

what chapter does this picture remind you of?

Arthur Rothstein’s photo isn’t at all clear cut. Instead, the outlines are blurred and the faces are
hidden. The photograph consists of mostly the sky, dust, and ground instead of an object, such as
people or a house. Rothstein took a picture of the backs of the people to portray a tone of
resignation. This was most similar to Intercalary chapter 1 because it also put great emphasis
upon the dust and the emptiness of the environment. Like the photo, the chapter does not specify
to a certain individual. Instead, it applies to most of the population. Similar to the photo, not
much color is used in describing the environment. Instead, many grays and reds are used; the
image of plants and other living things wilting under the sun was common. Steinbeck uses a
tone of resignation within the chapter, emphasizing on how the farmers were going to stay on the
land, even though there was nothing left to offer.

Slide 6: Migrant pea pickers camp in the rain. California, February, 1936. Photographer:
Dorothea Lange.

This photograph addresses the sense of family and unity.

what kinds of themes are present in this picture?

what chapter in the book can this picture be related to?

In the photo, the background is blurred, and almost everything else except the family. The
photograph gives of a sense of mist and wetness, hinting at dismal conditions and misery. The
entire photo is created of different shades of gray. This photo could relate to both chapter 29 and
chapter 14. It could relate to chapter 29 in that chapter 29 was all about how the migrants
became one unit, one giant monster thinking, eating, and sleeping together. The emotions of the
towns changed as one. In intercalary chapter 14, the tone changes from “I” to “We,” and
demonstrates the sense of unity the migrants feel with one another. They had been through so
much together, that they realized the strength of numbers and started to form an unwillingness to
separate into more than one union. The conditions were shared by all, the food was shared by
all, and the water was shared by all. This demonstrated a shift of thought from individuals to
groups; people got rid of their sense of self.

Slide 7:   Joe Jones, Wasteland (1937)

This last picture focuses on the universal theme of isolation, and lifelessness.

Why did the artist use sweeping strokes to draw the sky and barren fields?

Why do you think there are no people in the photo?

The artist uses two colors, so there’s not much contrast. However, most of the painting is
covered in shadows, and the only things that have legitimate structure are the objects themselves.
He uses long brush strokes to create his painting, and in turn the background is presented as
turbulent and unsettled. Like most of the other pictures, this photo has no life in it whatsoever.
This can relate to chapter 11 because both the artwork and the chapter are focused on the theme
of vacancy and barrenness. In chapter 11, there’s no mention of people whatsoever, and the only
mention of life is when the tractors are in use. Steinbeck uses vivid imagery to describe the
environment, and the environment is portrayed as vacant, lonely, and lifeless.

								
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