On the way into work today, I heard an NPR piece by Lynn Neary that The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was published 75 years ago today. I read Grapes of Wrath relatively close in time to when I read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. If those books don’t make you skeptical about the way the free market values labor, probably nothing will.
Tom: I been thinking about us, too, about our people living like pigs and good rich land layin’ fallow. Or maybe one guy with a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers starvin’. And I been wonderin’ if all our folks got together and yelled…
Ma: Oh, Tommy, they’d drag you out and cut you down just like they done to Casey.
Tom: They’d drag me anyways. Sooner or later they’d get me for one thing if not for another. Until then…
Ma: Tommy, you’re not aimin’ to kill nobody.
Tom: No, Ma, not that. That ain’t it. It’s just, well as long as I’m an outlaw anyways… maybe I can do somethin’… maybe I can just find out somethin’, just scrounge around and maybe find out what it is that’s wrong and see if they ain’t somethin’ that can be done about it. I ain’t thought it out all clear, Ma. I can’t. I don’t know enough.
Ma: How am I gonna know about ya, Tommy? Why they could kill ya and I’d never know. They could hurt ya. How am I gonna know?
Tom: Well, maybe it’s like Casy says. A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody, then…
Ma: Then what, Tom?
Tom: Then it don’t matter. I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.