restricted access Steinbeck's Migrants: Families on the Move and the Politics of Resource Management


This essay departs from recent work on John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath—which has focused largely on its problematic racial politics—by framing the text's portrayal of migrancy around the question of state governance. Steinbeck's novel and The Harvest Gypsies, its nonfiction predecessor, refigure vagrancy into a fantasy involving a mobile class of workers. In doing so, Steinbeck offers an explicit roadmap for a government desperate to move families across the country to where their labor is needed. Ultimately, this reading puts the novel into dialogue with state policies that extend beyond New Deal era.