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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Journalism as a Tool for Advocacy

Steinbeck and Collins believed the migrant farmworkers deserved their own land because they had been farmers back in the Midwest. Both men were extraordinarily sympathetic to the migrant farm workers’ situation and wanted to wake up America to the laborers’ plight. In writing the articles that make up The Harvest Gypsies, Steinbeck went beyond his role as an objective reporter and inserted his own policy recommendations for helping migrant farmworkers.


Such a blend of reportage with opinions is known today as “advocacy journalism,” or journalism that uses reporting to raise awareness and urge action on a particular issue. However, there were limits to Steinbeck’s advocacy journalism. He helped draw attention to the plight of migrant laborers, but decades later, millions of migrant laborers—largely immigrant workers from Latin America—still toil under similarly difficult working conditions and low pay in California.  

Living in Dignity and the Rise of Organized Labor

Steinbeck depicted examples of migrant workers and families who maintained some semblance of pride, but the migrants could only suffer so much before they lost even that: “A man herded about, surrounded by armed guards, starved and forced to live in filth loses his dignity” (39).


Both Steinbeck and Collins supported the right of workers to organize for humane working conditions.