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Playwright Arthur Miller wrote of Steinbeck, ''I can't think of another American writer, with the possible exception of Mark Twain, who so deeply penetrated the political life of the country.'' Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath ignited a heated debate against left-wing and right-wing critics.Leftists, or Democrats and Liberals, supported the novel's themes of labor unionization and government support for the poor.
Granville writes that ''Steinbeck's insight into capitalism illuminates every chapter of the book.'' But, right-wing readers reacted negatively to the portrayal of the 'Oakie' migrant workers, thinking that Steinbeck was paying them too much credit.
In California especially, the scene had grown dismal.
So many people were migrating west in the hope of finding work.
As a result, the state of California was becoming overwhelmed with hungry, destitute migrants.
But industrialists and right-wing politicians declared The Grapes of Wrath a revolutionary call to arms.
They feared the novel would cause unrest and drive even more of the unemployed poor out west.In his 1939 New York Times review, Peter Munro Jack notes the similarity between Steinbeck's 'revolutionary' story and those of Hemingway, Caldwell, and Faulkner.Jack calls the novel 'superb' and also 'angry.' Jack writes diplomatically, ''It may be an exaggeration, but it is the exaggeration of an honest and splendid writer.'' This New York Times critic prophecies that ''Californians are not going to like this angry novel.'' And, he was right.The novel ruffled feathers among California farmers, politicians, parents, and librarians.They banned the novel in Kern County, burned a copy in a symbolic gesture and even petitioned Congress to have the novel formally removed.At first, the struggle of the Joad family to attain a healthy lifestyle seems like a noble pursuit.But, when juxtaposing Steinbeck's representation of migrant farmer rubs against the needs of landowners and politicians, it becomes clear how each side determines a political argument.The migration of workers from east to west merely aggravated a problem that was already outpaced by labor conditions.Let's take a look at the economic and political ramifications of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.Then, we'll explore the novel's critique of capitalism.How can a novel that exposes the strife of migrant farmers ruffle so many feathers?