Grapes Of Wrath Facts

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The point of the authors in this essay is to show that the facts (ie. statistics) do not always confirm the popular impression in history. In this case, specifically, that Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is a story about the unusual -- not the usual. Do you think our popular culture (books, TV, movies, even the news media) tends in this direction -- toward the unusual? Support your opinion. Finally, does ‘The Grapes of Wrath’s’ narrow, rather than broad, vision, diminish the story it tells? The story begins with dust — not the thin coating on the shelf or the little balls in the corner, but huge dark clouds of it. When the winds blew, they sucked the dust into the sky to create blizzards. The dust storms began in earnest on May 9, 1934.…show more content…
To understand the great migration of the depression decade, historians must place the Joads in a statistical context. What links them to the million people who reached California between 1930 and 1940? Unfortunately, the mere mention of numbers — statistics or columns of figures — is enough to make the eyes of many readers glaze over. It is only natural to prefer Steinbeck's way of personifying the Dust Bowl refugees. Yet the numbers cannot be avoided if we are to paint an accurate picture. The challenge for the historian lies in bringing statistics to life so they tell a story with some of the human qualities that Lange and Steinbeck invested in their subjects. In looking at the 1930s in particular, historians are lucky because social scientists and government officials tried hard to quantify the human circumstances of the era. In particular, historians of the Dust Bowl era have been able to benefit from the federal population count of 1940, which was the first modern census. The federal census had been taken every decade since 1790, because its data was needed to apportion each state's seats in the House of Representatives, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. For the first fifty years federal marshals did the actual counting, by locating households within their districts and recording the number of people living there. Over time the nature of the information collected became broader and more detailed; it included social statistics about taxes collected, real estate values, wages, education, and crime. In 1880 Congress shifted responsibility for the census from the marshals to specially appointed experts trained to collect not only population statistics but also data on manufacturing and other economic activities. By 1890, punch cards were being used to record data and an electric tabulating machine was used to process those cards. Mechanization,
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