This Land is Our Land

American Studies

Period 3-5

April 2, 2001

Thomas Jefferson was a great man. He was the United State’s third president, writer of the Declaration of Independence, optimistic, intelligent, and fair. He valued equality, true labor, and the power of nature. Jefferson’s philosophy is repeatedly supported in John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Like Jefferson, the characters in the novel believe in the symbolic value of land. Muley Graves, although kicked off his land by the bank could not leave for California with his family because of his tie to the land. This land meant more to him than money because it is full of the memories that made his life real and whole. As Muley said, the “(p)lace where folks live is them folks. They ain’t whole, out lonely on the road in a piled-up car. They ain’t alive no more” (Steinbeck 67). Without land, a farmer’s life does not exist. Farmers and laborers in general also have a symbolic value in The Grapes of Wrath. Like Jefferson, the characters believe that work should be a labor of love. As farmers, they were a part of the land, and all of their hopes, dreams, and fears rode on the productivity of their land.

They could not understand how someone could work the land without caring about it, as the driver of a tractor did. The tractor separated the driver from the land and “(h)e did not know or own or trust or beseech the land. If a seed dropped and did not germinate, it was nothing. If a young thrusting plant withered in a drought or drowned in a flood of rain, it was no more to the driver than to the tractor” (Steinbeck 46). This outraged and destroyed the farmers, and left them looking for a new life. Another thing that Jefferson believed in was democracy, and this is also supported by the novel. Steinbeck clearly identifies the two types of government and how each affected the people. One government worked against the migrants, forcing them to work for ridiculously low wages, and to move constantly from place to place. In this government, the police actually caused more problems than they prevented. In the other type of government, democracy, the people govern themselves with a much better result. There were hardly any problems because the rules were reasonable and set by the people themselves. For the Joads, who were accustomed to the first type of government, a true democracy was unbelievable. ““You mean to say the fellas that runs the camp is jus’ fellas—camping here?” “Sure. And it works…Central Committee keeps order an’ makes rules”” (Steinbeck 369). A government that works with the people will always be the most successful. These Jeffersonian philosophies, as well as others in The Grapes of Wrath are guiding forces throughout the novel, and prove that the ideas of a great man can never die.