Word Count: 295In the 1930s, drought and horrific dust storms turned the
once-fertile agricultural lands of mid-America into virtual
dust bowls and wastelands. Thousands of destitute farmers
packed their families and belongings into and onto their cars
and left their homes in search of agricultural work in central
California. Their plight and the politics of that day are told in
the novel "The Grapes of Wrath." Published in 1939 by
California writer John Steinbeck, the book won the 1940
Pulitzer Prize. In his book, Steinbeck champions the
downtrodden migrants, as he follows the Joad family from
Oklahoma to California. Tom Joad, eldest son, is the book's
protagonist and his efforts to save his family are the core of
the book's story. As Steinbeck writes in his book, "The
moving, questing people were migrants now. Those families
which had lived on a little piece of land, who had lived and
died on forty acres, had now the whole West to rove in.

And they scampered about, looking for work; and the
highways were streams of people, and the ditch banks were
lines of people." Often known as "Okies," a derogatory
term, Dust Bowl immigrants like the fictional Joads did not
get a warm welcome from California's farmers and
politicians. The newcomers were herded into slum-like
migrant camps, given low wages for back-breaking work,
and treated like criminals. Much of this was an effort by
local farmers to take advantage of a cheap labor pool and to
prevent labor organizing that would raise wages. Much of it
was the result of fear on the part of Californians who were
faced with a huge influx of ragged families. Whatever the
cause, the result wasn't pretty. It shaped the development of
the Midwest, which lost thousands of people and farms, and
of California, which had to develop a new social order to
handle the transplants. The problems faced by those from
Oklahoma are not unlike those faced today by migrant
workers from Mexico.

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