33 pages 1 hour read

John Steinbeck

The Harvest Gypsies: On the Road to the Grapes of Wrath

Nonfiction | Essay Collection | Adult | Published in 1936

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Important Quotes

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“‘I shall be very careful to do some good and no harm’ to the farm workers’ cause.” 

(Introduction , Page ix)

Steinbeck made this promise to Collins prior to publishing the articles that make up The Harvest Gypsies. Collins had the zeal of a liberal reformer who wanted to improve the condition of the workers, and Steinbeck felt similarly, which gave him an added sense of responsibility to accurately report on the injustices facing these workers. 

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“‘We couldn’t speak to one another because we were too tired,’ Collins remembered, ‘yet we worked together as cogs in an intricate piece of machinery.’” 

(Introduction , Page xiv)

Although Steinbeck did not mention Collins directly in his articles, Collins was clearly essential to Steinbeck’s writing during this time period. Collins provided Steinbeck with information and access to the migrant workers who would feature directly in The Harvest Gypsies; the two went beyond the normal roles of reporter and source by assisting the migrants that they interviewed and traveling in close proximity for long periods of time.

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“At this season of the year, when California’s great crops are coming into harvest, the heavy grapes, the prunes, the apples and lettuce and the rapidly maturing cotton, our highways swarm with the migrant workers, that shifting group of nomadic, poverty-stricken harvesters driven by hunger and the threat of hunger from crop to crop, from harvest to harvest, up and down the state […].”

(Article 1, Page 19)

Steinbeck used simple language and description to depict crisis conditions. Amidst the beauty of the agricultural harvest, desperate workers were toiling away. Steinbeck captured the contradiction between the lush bounty of crops and the starving workers who harvested them.