Tom Joad

"Grapes of Wrath"


Work during the Great Depression was scarce. Even the government wasn't a major factor in helping people from starving and getting some money. Migrant Workers who came to California were treated especially poor by natives. Any work found was for little pay since there was high demand for jobs. People made money picking cotton and peaches and doing work projects. People could also fight for better conditions and wages with the Union.

"Lookin' for work?" he said. "So you're lookin' for work. What ya think ever'body else is lookin' for? Di'monds? What you think I wore my ass down to a nub lookin' for?"

(Steinbeck 244)


Any recreation besides looking for work during the 1940's included unionizing, dancing, helping family with food preparation and making car repairs. Dancing was quite popular during this time as it allowed a momentary escape from troubles. People could get lost in the music and have a good time.

"Dance nights? Jesus Christ!"

"We got the best dance in the county every Saturday night" (Steinbeck 288)


[No Job = No Money = No Food]

People took whatever money they made and bought cheap food. Often times a meal would include a small portion of meat, a small potato, coffee and anything that could be stolen or picked off a tree. Since peaches were common in California, people would eat as many as they could till they got sick (literately).

"In the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage" (Steinbeck 349)


Nothing beats traveling around California everyday looking for work (Said Nobody). Gas during the 1940's was affordable for most people, so driving a car was a good way of traveling around. If you couldn't afford to drive people learned to Hitch Hike by catching a ride from a passing car or jumping into an empty boxcar on a train. By stopping to work from time to time people made money wherever they could and then moved on.

"Didn' you see the No Riders sticker on the win'shield?"

"Sure- I seen it. But sometimes a guy'll be a good guy even if some rich bastard makes him carry a sticker."

(Steinbeck 7)

Work Cited

Loc. "Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives."-

About This Collection - Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (Library of Congress)., 2014. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.

Steinbeck, John, and Robert J. DeMott. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.

Work Union. Domestic Work Union. Digital image. NWHM Exhibit: A History of Women in Industry. N.p., 2007. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.