I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad: Grapes of Wrath Turns 75

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.


  1. Freedom says

    I’m kind of a populist guy, so this post seems like as good a place as any to proffer a solution to a condition that has me hopping mad.

    In the last 30 years, we’ve seen a profound switch from on-the-job training, operated and paid for by employers, to prospective employees taking out student loans to pay for education that gives them the training the corporation purportedly wants.

    This condition is infuriating. A person so trained may not ever land a job in the educated field. A person may not like the job or the work, but he or she will be saddled with thousands of dollars in undischargeable student loans for years beyond deciding against working in an undesired occupation, though it’s just as awful to think that a person should even have to consider bankruptcy just because he didn’t like a job.

    I therefore propose the following draft addition to the Indiana Code:

    a. It is unlawful for any employer, contractor, or any person seeking to obtain the services of another for more than a day, irrespective of the size of the employer or the total number of employer’s employees or contracted persons, who advertises or seeks by any means to obtain an applicant or applicants for any job paying less than $50,000, exclusive of health insurance, benefits and other enhancements to compensation, to require, state, list, or prefer any applicant who holds any educational degree, certificate, qualification or course of study beyond a high school diploma.

    b. Include language to prevent serial single-day hires by temporary agencies.

    c. Any employer who violates Section a will have the hiring decision for the unlawfully hired position overturned; the unlawfully hired position will be canceled, and the hiring process for the position will begin anew. The candidate unlawfully hired is ineligible to apply for the relisted position.

    d. Any person, regardless of whether aggrieved by an unlawful employment practice, can bring an action in the Marion County Superior Court or the Superior Court of the County in which the position was listed or will be the site of work, to enjoin or overturn an unlawful employment practice. Given that time is of the essence in ceasing and voiding an unlawful employment practice, the Courts will hear such actions promptly and may issue all necessary orders to stop any unlawful employment practice.

    e. Include language assigning costs against a violative employer.

    Let’s write this up and find a sponsor. if we’re unsuccessful, we’ll at least generate some attention and perhaps impel another state to take action.

    • says

      A related concern is the notion of a “skills gap” as being a significant reason for the disconnect between employees wanting to work and employers wanting to hire. If this is a real thing, in part it’s because employers are not willing to foot the bill for training employees.

      • Freedom says

        Absolutely. There used to be many highly skilled jobs where a fresh Polish immigrant or an American farmboy worked alongside a craftsman and learned the trade. Of course, there’s a “skills gap.” Nobody wakes up at 18 with the innate ability to perform bookkeeping or turn a lathe.

  2. Paddy says

    I was thumbing through my IBJ tonight and saw a story on the wage gap in Indiana compared to the rest of the nation. Kevin Brinnegar from the Chamber of Commerce stated that this was simply because Indiana workers didn’t have the skills to compete. This is also the guy who has helped dismantle public school funding, vocational school funding and state assisted worker training funding to employers. He has also been a huge proponent and the continued slashing of taxes that encourage only low wage/low skill jobs coming to Indiana.

    Chickens roosting indeed.

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