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Stereotyping and Its Effects
Stereotyping, brought on by the existence of a class system, has many positive effects in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. This class system, made up of migrants and affluent people, is present due to the fact that many of the affluent people stereotype the migrants as poor, uneducated, and easily agitated human beings. Thus, this sets a boundary between the educated individuals and migrants. At first, most migrants ignore the effects stereotyping has on them. But towards the end of their journeys to California, the migrants’ rage that had been gradually building up inside lets out and the migrants take action. The effects are more positive as the migrants strive for an education, receive sympathy, and calmly deal with conflicts.
Farm owners, successful businessmen, and generally all inhabitants of the Mid-West have a sense that all migrants are dumb, uneducated people in 1939. They lower wages for fruit-picking at farms which were the only jobs offered to the migrants because of their proposed lack of intelligence. But migrants do not necessarily choose not to educate themselves. Ma Joad announces to her family that she will send her two youngest children to school once they are settled. Connie, Rose of Sharon’s husband, also plans out his goals with Rose of Sharon saying, “An’ he’s [Connie] gonna study at home, maybe radio, so he can git to be an expert . . . ” The migrants have their mind already set on education and chose not to be ignorant all of their lives.
Often in Grapes of Wrath, the affluent people stereotype the migrants as poor and penniless. As the Joads pull into the gas station, the attendant immediately asks, “Got any money?” He views the Joads as one of many poor, migrant families arriving to beg for some gas. But not all people who view migrants as poverty-stricken, hungry people see them in such a way. Mae, a waitress at one of the restaurants pities a family asking for bread and shows her compassion by letting the children have candy for much less than its worth. Instead of the anticipated let-down, the migrants receive pity from those with compassion and sympathy.
Not only do affluent individuals see the migrants as uneducated and penniless, but also as easily agitated human beings. Because farm workers are afraid that these migrants may someday take over their farms, they try to make the migrants’ stay more unwelcoming.
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Stereotyping, brought on by the existence of a class system, has many positive effects in Grapes of Wrath. The migrants do intend to acquire an education, receive sympathy from the compassionate, and react intelligently to tempting situations. Steinbeck portrays society in its truest form. Even with the negative influence of the affluent people, the migrants receive just as many positive results as there are negative under such harsh circumstances.