Abstract

The interrelationships among nature, humans, and technology in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath reveal the characters' responsibility for the destruction of nature in the novel. The critique of technology is explicit: throughout the narrative, technology is portrayed as possessive of monstrous qualities, emphasized as something “uncanny” disrupting the familiar landscape. Implicitly, however, the novel criticizes the tenants' attitudes toward the land. By exposing the migrants' contradictory behavior toward nature, the novel lays bare the irony behind the tenants' pastoral discourse. The incoherence of the pastoral ideal preached by the tenants emerges in several passages that show, for instance, that despite the discourse of love and respect for the land, they regard the earth as something to be used and exploited as well. Drawing from a number of scholars that have looked into the environmental aspects of Steinbeck's work, Sigmund Freud's theories on the “Uncanny,” and Leo Marx's concept of “pastoralism,” my discussion suggests that the novel presents a critique of both technological and human interactions with the environment, showing both driven by a self-protective capitalist instinct, however differently manifested they might be.

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