Now, a Literary Moment...
John Steinbecks' The Grapes of Wrath, was borne out of an assignment from the San Francisco News. Steinbeck had been sent to California's Central alley to report on camps of migrant farm workers. What he witnessed appalled him.
Scholar Susan Shillinglaw.
Susan Shillinglaw: He saw how people were living by the sides of the roads, he saw that they didn't have enough to eat, social services were incredibly inadequate. ... You know, he said at one point, everyone, you know, should open their eyes and ears to what's happening in the state.
Steinbeck left his newspaper job. He then spent years researching -- but only five months writing The Grapes of Wrath. This novel remains a searing indictment of America's unacknowledged class system.
Steinbeck's son, writer Thom Steinbeck.
Thom Steinbeck: I remember this when I was young and a journalist in Viet Nam, we all had this sense that…that we can write that one passage or take that one photograph that's going to stop the war, that's going to make everyone stop and look around and see what is really going on. I mean how can you look at these things and not want it to stop? And I think he had that driven enthusiasm of youth to say, 'if they can just see how strong these people are and how real these people are, they won't treat them like crap.'
This Literary Moment was created by the National Endowment for the Arts
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