Literature allows the reader to discover more about the world in which we live in and can contribute to the ethics and morals of a person. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939) gives insight to the struggles of the migrant workers in California and the difficulty to maintain their morality during the hardships they faced. Set in the contextual backdrop of the Great Depression era, the text explores the inhumanity of man towards another man as a result of greed whilst still emphasising compassion and humans’ innate ability to be kind to one another.
Similarly, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (2014) provides insight on the challenges faced by children experiencing World War Two and how these challenges cause a person to lose sight or question what is morally right. The text also draws attention to a persons’ humanity through the senseless killing of people and the horror of a world war. Both texts highlight the importance of an individual’s environment in shaping their moral view.
The Grapes of Wrath and All the Light We Cannot see both examine the environments effect on a person’s sense of morality and how that morality can be molded by the challenges presented by an individual’s environment. Steinbeck’s novel explores the adversity faced by migrant workers and their struggle to sustain their moral view. Through the use of characterisation, Steinbeck tells the story of the Joad Family who migrate from dustbowl Oklahoma to California while also addressing multiple differing perspectives to give a broader view of the life and times.
The Joad Family is depicted as proud and honourable and remain so throughout the novel regardless of the challenges faced. Despite the discrimination and hatred towards the family in California, they still maintain their sense of morality. The fearful tone in the quotes “Ma – I got to get away from ’em. I’m scairt I’ll kill one. ” and “Yeah, an’ after a while | won’t have no decency lef’. ” shows the difficulty to maintain one’s decency and moral view in the face of adversity. The honest confession stated by Tom Joad to his mother emphasises the effect of a prejudice and hostile environment on a person’s sense of morality.
Steinbeck also depicts the broader community of migrant workers that struggle to sustain their moral view. As a result of the tribulations they have encountered in a foreign environment many have been forced to break their moral views in order to survive. This is shown through the quote “to beg for food, to cringe and beg for food, to beg for relief, to try to steal, to lie. ” The repetition of the word ‘to’ places emphasis on the desperation of the people and how they must give up their integrity and pride.
This draws attention to how morality is shaped as a result of the challenges presented in a certain environment. (It is arguable that a person cannot be forced to break their moral view but it is choice as some choose to retain their morality such as the Joad Family. However, some circumstances offer the choice of maintaining their morals and integrity or death and that is not much of a choice. Ultimately the text shows that an environment shapes an individual’s moral view and the importance of the effect of the environment on an individual.
The Grapes of Wrath examines the challenges in maintaining a person’s sense of morality whilst facing adversity. As well as giving insight into the effect a hostile environment has on a person’s moral view. Similarly, All the Light We Cannot see explores how a person’s morality can be influenced and shaped by the environment and the challenges presented in this environment. Doerr portrays the difficulties encountered by children during World War Two and how those difficulties cause one to lose sight or question their moral view. Set in the two opposing sides of Germany and
France, Doerr uses an oscillating perspective to tell two different stories of two children growing up during the war. The characterisation of Werner, a German boy highlights the effect that the environment has on the shaping of one’s morality. Raised in an orphanage, Werner grows up surrounded by German propaganda which then in turn shaped his moral view. Through the use of sympathetic tone, the quote “Don’t tell lies. Lie to yourself, Werner, but don’t lie to me. ” draws attention to how the political environment can shape a person’s sense of morality.
This is an attempt by his sister to address that Werner will change if he goes to a selective German school in Schulpforta due to the influence of German militaristic views. This becomes true as Werner is lead to believe the propaganda and is conscripted at the age of 16. Through Werner, Doerr is able to highlight the effects of a war environment on children with the use of characterisation of the other children that Werner meets. In the quote “Dead girl in the sky, dead girl out the window, dead girl three inches away” highlights the guilt that Werner feels over witnessing the death of a girl.
The repetition of ‘dead girl’ shows that Werner is haunted by this death which then prompts him to question what he fought for. As well as causing him to reevaluate whether what he believed in was morally correct. Doerr’s novel gives insight on how the environment can cause one to doubt or lose sight of their moral view. Likewise, Steinbeck’s novel explores the struggles to sustain one’s morality as a result of the environment in which they are in. Both texts address the significance an individual’s environment is in shaping their moral view.
The Grapes of Wrath and All the Light We Cannot See also both explore an individual’s humanity and how that humanity is influenced by a person’s environment. In The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck examines man’s inhumanity towards another man as a result of greed as well as highlighting humans’ innate kindness and compassion. Set in the 1930s depression era, the novel looks at the cruel inhumanity men can inflict on one another. The Joad Family along with many other migrant workers were shocked to find the harsh treatment and discrimination in California caused by greed and fear.
The use of hyperbole in the quote “Them goddam Okies got no sense and no feeling. They aint human. ” reveals the opinion of the locals towards the migrants and the inhumanity caused by social change in the local’s environment. The word ‘Okies’ was a derogative term that referred to the migrant workers from the east. The satisfied tone in the quote “Why, I feel like people again” emphasises the inhumanity and cruelty endured and highlights there was a time when they didn’t feel human. The inhumanity was a result of fear from the locals as they were worried about their jobs and livelihoods.
This fear accompanied with greed for the land and resources spurred a hatred. This hatred and greed imbedded within the environment is drawn attention to in the quotes “Dump potatoes in the rivers” and “Burn corn to keep warm”. The locals have an excess amount of food but instead of giving it to the thousands of starving migrants, they choose to throw it away leaving people to starve. This inhumanity is contrasted by the compassion and good will demonstrated by the Joad Family and many other migrant families.
Steinbeck draws attention to the innate kindness of human beings through the characterisation of the Joad family who remain compassionate despite the adversity faced in a new environment. This is shown in the novel when Rose of Sharon still finds the kindness to save a starving stranger by giving him her breastmilk despite suffering a miscarriage. This act is a symbol of hope for mankind. The Grapes of Wrath examines the inhumanity man can bestow on fellow man whilst still demonstrating a person’s innate kindness.
All the Light We Cannot See also demonstrates a person’s humanity and how the humanity is shaped by the environment. Doerr explores this through the horrors of World War Two and the senseless killing that occurred. Throughout the novel, the tragedies of war are highlighted through the detached 3rd person narration as shown in the quote “Nine are killed instantly”. This emphasises the war environment’s effect on an individual’s humanity, as the Americans killed the nine French people despite them being allies. The people lose sight of their morality as their humanity is molded by the influence of the environment.
The horrors of war effect a person’s humanity as the inhumane actions and senseless killings cause a person to question their own humanity and in turn their morality. The repetition of the word grey in the quote “Now her world has turned grey. Grey faces and grey quiet and grey nervous terror” draws attention to the hopelessness that occurs as a result of the inhumanity bred by the hostile war environment. Doerr’s novel gives insight to the effect the environment of war has on molding an individuals humanity and how that leads to the questioning of one’s own moral view.
Likewise, The Grapes of Wrath explores the inhumanity of mankind to one another as well as demonstrating hope for the humanity of mankind due to the kindness that is within their nature. Both text examine the effect of the environment in shaping an individual’s humanity which in turn influences that individuals moral view. Both novels explore different environment’s effect on shaping an individual’s sense of morality. The Grapes of Wrath demonstrates the struggle to maintain one’s moral view through the perspective of migrant workers and the challenges that they face.
It also draws attention to man’s ability to treat another with cruel inhumanity and at the same time emphasises an innate kindness within human beings. Similarly, All the Light We Cannot See explores how an individual can lose sight of their morality as a result of their environment as well as highlighting the inhumanity of a person during the surroundings of war. Both texts show the importance the environment has on the molding of one’s moral view and share insights into how literature is able to further develop our understanding of the world.