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The Grapes of Wrath Allusion-Oversoul

Steinbeck and Nature's Self

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Steinbeck and Nature's Self
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In The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck renders his version of a second self in man and brings to mature development that cluster of themes and attitudes...the true source of man's freedom, remains forever an embryo in his pages.
                                                                     - John J. Conder

The interchapters of Steinbeck's novel create a network of interlocking determinisms, which create an emphasis on the operations of abstract, impersonal forces in the lives of Oklahomans. For example in Chapter 5, Steinbeck is effective in capturing the poignancy of human situation created by certain forces and pointing to the kind of deterministic force underlying the others in the novel.
 
The expulsion of Oklahomans is not the only inexorable consequence of the operation of economic force. These men, women, and children who "clustered like bugs near to shelter and to water" automatically create in their camps a society within the larger society, acting according to the same instinctual dictate that initially made the Joad family, seeking self-preservation, seem "a part of an organization of the unconscious." "Although no one told them," the families instinctively learned "what rights are monstrous and must be destroyed"- the "rights" of rape, adultery, and the like- and which must be perserved. Instinct welds the group "to one thing, one unit"; and the contempt, fear, and hostility they encounter as they traveled the highways "like ants and searched for work, for food" reinforce the bonds og group solidarity by releasing an anger whose ferment "changed them...united them" all the more. Here is the basis of that much-remarked-on shift in the novel from farmer to migrant, from "I" to "we", from family to group. This intertwines with the allusion to the oversoul, as the being of self becomes identified as a one.
 
"This emphasis upon the spontaneous development of a social group is not limited to the interchapters; but it is there that Steinbeck notes not only the inevitability of its development  but, more important, the concurrent emergence of a group consciousness. "
 
"The interchapters display the growth of a group consciousness controlled by instinct's response to the dynamic of economic forces. This emphasis is carried into the story in a variety of ways, most notably through Ma's insistence on keeping the family together. But in the story proper, instinct does not rule each person with equal power." For example, Muley Graves refuses to leave his land, when his family departs to California. Also, Noah leaves the family when the hardships of the journey become to much for him, and Connie leaves his wife, Rosasharn, when he becomes angry that he should of stayed at worked for the bank. All of them ultimately disrupt the oversoul spirit by leaving the group by becoming their own individuals. However, as they do that they step into a future that is unknown, and endanger their safety and security.
 
Steinbeck also represents the group as a living organism. It possess a life of its own independence from the individuals who comprise it. In Steinbeck's, Sea of Cortez, he explains the relationship of an individual to the group of which he is apart. He also stresses the individuality of the group and the uniqueness apart from its components.
 
Individual men have a dual nature, both a group identity and a personal one independent of it, but necessarily in conflict with it. In The Grapes of Wrath, the plot portrays members of the school in their rich individuality, whereas the interchapters show the formation of the larger animal that they compose, a formation that takes place both on a de facto level (by virtue of circumstance, a physcial group is formed) and on an instinctive one, which endows the animal with life. By virtue of the instinct for self-preservation, in the camps twenty families become one large family, sharing a single instinct.
 
"Steinbeck further stresses how the animal thatis the group achieves rational consciousness and (hence) freedom. Steinbeck harmonizes freedom and determinism in his most important way. The group determined by instinct and circumstance in the interchapters achieves both rational self-awareness and freedom in the person of a member who substitutes the consciousness of a group for a private consciousness and thus gives the group access to the faculty of human will. "
 
"The migrants' achievement of rational freedom speaks for more than freedom for the group. It tell the readers of a vital difference in kinds of freedom. Steinbeck has written,'I believe that man is a double thing-a group animal and at the same time an individual. And it occurs to me that he cannot successfully be the second until he has fulfilled the first.' Only the fulfilled group self can create a successful personal self; only freedom exercised by a personal self in harmony with a group self can be significant."