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Special Issue Articles

Vol. 3 No. 1 (2021): Im/Mobilities in American Culture

Mobility, Car Culture, and the Environment in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

May 21, 2019


Set during the Great Depression, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1939) focuses on an American family who are forced to leave their home in Oklahoma and travel to California in search for a better life. Apart from its authentic representations of the economic instability in the U.S. in the 1930s, industrial transformations that took place throughout the country, as well as the severe draught, the novel also comments on the issue of (auto)mobility that this articles analyzes from an eco-critical perspective. The major part of the novel takes place on the road, as the reader witnesses the family traveling west on Route 66. While the road turns into a symbol of freedom and, in a way, a means to pursue the American Dream, the truck that the family travels by makes one ponder the meaning of U.S. mobility and the nation's fascination with, and dependence on, cars. Through its focus on the highway and car, The Grapes of Wrath also touches upon the issue of environment. Providing meticulous descriptions of the vehicle, commenting on its enormous size and the large amount of smoke that it exhausts, the novel introduces automobility as menacing to ecology and the environment.   


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