Leituras do Cânon 3


Jonas Saldanha Professor Marcos Soares Leituras do Cânon 3 (FLM0587) July 2013

#6469060 FFLCH – USP Final paper

DLM – Department of English

“[...] [A]nd in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage” (pp. 477). (the underscoring is mine)

John Steinbeck, in The Grapes of Wrath (1939, edition read 1992), indignantly warns, against the consequences of the countryside people’s fury, those large farmers who egotistically and inconsequently “squirt[ed] kerosene on the oranges”, “[b]urn[t] coffee for fuel in the ships”, “burn[t] corn to keep warm”, “[d]ump[ed] potatoes in the river” and “slaughter[ed] the pigs and bur[ied] them” (Steinbeck pp. 476 – 477) in order not to lose profit on account of the excessive products that the crops had yielded. Steinbeck’s tone sounds like a yell of anger in defense of the pauper, miserable people from Oklahoma and the rest of the South. That shout echoes predictions in the Book of Jeremiah against enemy nations of the people of God:
25:15. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of the fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it. 25:16. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them. 25:17. Then took I the cup at the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations drink, unto whom the Lord had sent me. (King James translation 1611 pp. 460)

Steinbeck’s warn reverberates as well the prophecies of the Book of Revelation: “6:16. And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 6.17. For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (pp.715). Further in the book, another verse carries on:
“14.18. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. 14:19. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 14.20. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.” (pp. 718)


if you could know that Paine. wrath of God.’ he says. 206) [2] . xviii) Howe’s record. But that you cannot know. the chosen ones. Indeed.” (pp. in the Old Testament. The song. If you could separate causes from results. It is reasonable to say that Steinbeck considered a communist revolution as a possible answer for the suffering of the poor Americans: “An’ he says. terms that have traditionally conveyed the biblical concept that the Lord of the Christians someday will avenge his sons and destroy those who made them suffer. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into ‘I’. but also among civilians.’ […] This is the thing to bomb. you might survive. the powerful men that tyrannized the poverty-stricken portrayed in Steinbeck’s novel would eventually face the Lord’s vengeance. in the introduction to the 1992 edition of The Grapes of Wrath. This is the beginning – from ‘I’ to ‘we. not causes. what I am trying to do is to draw a comparison between Steinbeck’s warn and the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation: like the antagonists in the Bible. were results. was a phenomenally popular song among not only soldiers from the North who fought during Civil War. 455). There are two sides to this dispute. first released in 1862. the song is still one of the most popular American patriotic tunes. and. on September 2. Robert DeMott. perhaps inspired by her hearing of Pare Lorentz’s radio drama. the people of Israel. “’[…] I lost my land’ is changed […] ‘We lost our land. the side of the poor children of the Lord. Steinbeck in chapter twenty-five mentions (as I have underscored above) wrath. All figgerin’ how to git on relief. and cuts you off forever from the ‘we. Lenin. you might preserve yourself. vintage. one might say.Leituras do Cânon 3 Saldanha Those prophecies are a message to the adversaries of the people of God. fury. Jefferson.’” (pp. having received new version by famous artists and having been translated into other languages (even into Brazilian Portuguese). wine. in The Grapes of Wrath. which ends with a martial version of Howe’s song. Marx. being played in large political events. the economic system that inflicted oppression upon the helpless Southern citizens. ‘They hol’ red meetin’s in them gov’ment camps. reveals that “[i]n a brilliant broke. my view is that John Steinbeck was not talking about a punishment from supernatural powers but from. The story surrounding the choosing of the title of The Grapes of Wrath might give clues to the reason why certain excerpts of this work and its title itself resemble in such a similar fashion the texts from the Bible above transcribed. struggling to survive despite the cruelty of the other side: the enemy nations. Carol [Steinbeck’s wife] chose the novel’s title from [Julia Ward] Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic. that should be the Apocalypse.” (pp. Likewise the extract of the biblical text. a communist (red as Steinbecks put it) revolution he might have thought was underway. the Pharaoh and the sinful.’ […] If you who own the things people must have could understand this. also said to be inspired by a In fact. wicked nations. grape and ripe. the divine retributiona. Ecce Homo!. In other words.

the song verses with which I begin this paragraph are the very first stanza of Battle Hymn of the Republic. and ignore them. the exploited American white trash by the oppressors. The promise was that.heavily on the sorrow and rage of his people so as to crush. He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. in their turn. Now. edition read 2000 pp. buried. they – Perry and Dick are grown-ups. by reading Capote’s account of Perry and Dick. one gets confused. As a matter of fact. Yet my reading is that Capote wanted to show that that promise had never been fulfilled. Their parents. Steinbeck meant his novel to reach the rich. surprisingly enough. The awaited for punishment. Readers. “the winepress was trodden” . The repairing the [3] . But since. who are the ones to be punished and the ones to be avenged. the wicked. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. was one of Perry’s favorites. in Capote’s novel. would take some time to take place – if ever it would at all. here it is remarkable that the same prophetic words against the wicked. 151) Those are the verses that Truman Capote’s reader listens Perry Edward Smith and Richard Hickock sing along a highway. ultimately.” (Truman Capote 1966.Leituras do Cânon 3 Saldanha sections of the Bible that I transcribed earlier in this paper – though the sources I found might perhaps not be scientifically reliable. in defense of the poor. injure. are told by the narrator that the song. supposedly. were the generation depicted by John Steinbeck that saw the overabundant harvest being burnt. prophetically presages that the day of the Lord would in due course come and He would take vengeance for his chosen ones. the lives of those suffering would be restored. and that Dick had learnt it from the first verse to the last. Now it is difficult to tell who are the wicked and who are the children of the Lord. but never did the expected restoration come true to them. sinful ones. which came to be the criminals’ “marching music”. 151) after an attempt at escaping to Mexico. evil. as though the Lord were treading – as the Bible puts it. Also surprisingly enough. having come back to the “good ol’ USA” (pp. However. Perry and Dick are part of the generation that grew amidst the chaos and harsh circumstances of the Great Depression. and thrown away. evil. sinful are now being sung by those who are. Steinbeck concludes chapter twenty-five saying that the grapes of wrath are the accumulation of hatred and indignation of the poor. none the less. never did it come true to so many.

in Cora’s discourse: “[r]iches is nothing in the face of the Lord. However. the opportunity that they. Vardamans have to replace the toy train they want to buy for bananas. death. To mention some. that is to say. seems like. further in the chapter. 7). as consumers. for who He loveth. In the case of Perry and Dick. 111) By “now” he meant the moment subsequent to his wife’s. Winfields and Ruthies have no other choice but to have fried dough for breakfast. junks and money to get food. [4] .” (pp. been achieved.”. up to that point. Perries and Dicks go insane when they manage – whether by legal methods or not – to spend a holiday in Miami and buy or steal guitars. before that could happen.” But he. where they cant take their autos and such”. Addie Bundren. It’s because there is a reward for us above [in heaven]. protests: “It’s a long wait [till I get compensated]” and “[b]ut I be durn if He dont take some curious way to show it. Anses chew food for years of their lives without a single teeth in their mouths. for He can see into the heart. had to satisfy their desire for material goods. he was in fact more interested in buying dentures. For the reason that that socioeconomic and political system cannot let every individual into the group that receives the benefits it provides. That will be a comfort. the Battle Hymn of the Republic and The Grapes of Wrath had anticipated. he reveals with relief: “But now I can get them teeth. and he goes on to say: “[e]very man will be equal there and it will be taken from them that have and give to them that have not by the Lord. the majority of the population is put aside. slaughtering the evil. “Now” he would have the opportunity to buy what he needed. Along with the harsh circumstances in which the Bundrens lived. Through this process. had not. was when they plotted to burglar the Clutter’s house. It will. in fact. lunch and dinner for days instead of real food. “[…] I am the chosen of the Lord. and Anse’s: “[s]ometimes I wonder why we keep at it [working as farm owners].” Anse was expecting that one day the grapes of the ire of the children of the Lord got too heavy and would be “trampled out” – as Howe puts it in her hymn. edition read 1990). the theme of the “chosen people” appears in very episodes in As I Lay Dying (1930.Leituras do Cânon 3 Saldanha Bible. he was awaiting for the day on which he would witness the God of the preferred people take revenge. right after expressing willingness to bear the burden “the Lord” put on his shoulder. the “now” to them. so doeth He chastiseth. but a few.” (pp.

they never had comfort. a grey portable made by Zenith […] was gone” (Capote pp. Commercial goods were the fuel they had in order to carry on with their lives. The cats. the cats. Anse. had to yield and accept the fact that they did not have food to eat. here we come. It is also implied in the text that there might be a connection between Perry’s evil nature and the harshness of his past. However. Perry and Dick’s desire to be part of a group of Americans that had money to buy goods indeed led them to what they were. similarly to the criminals. a groundless crime. were left to face the harsh circumstances they were caught in: the cats. and how nobody had ever loved him.Leituras do Cânon 3 Saldanha Alvin Dewey arrives at the conclusion that “[…] the radio. one turns out to have a bad character. Cash. By no means during their unhappy lives did the strays ever have “warm rooms” nor “warm suppers” waiting for them like those who gathered at that square on that day. the police officers and a forthcoming death penalty they would face. pauper existence. they were not motiveless. the life Dick claimed he had lived was actually more similar to that of Perry. one might say. the snowstorm. like Perry and Dick. which brought birds from the highways they had been on.” (pp. he could not accept the fact that “the family had been slaughtered for paltry profit – a few dollars and a radio”. as it is possible to perceive by Dick’s words: “Then Florida. lived poor miserable lives and were not well treated domestic pets. Perry and Dick. How about it. 99). It was difficult for the detectives to understand that the murderers had killed the family for no reason other than the desire to possess something. the cats. The implied theory is that when one comes to life and has no choice but to live a miserable. Still the massacre took place for a reason. honey? Didn’t I promise you we’d spend Christmas in Miami? Just like all the millionaires?” (pp. like the Perry and Dick. Such is the untruthful story that Dick tells Nancy while Perry is busy downstairs during the robbery: “[…] said he’d been raised as orphan in an orphanage. and his only relative was a sister who lived with men without marrying them. Vardaman. Capote’s intention was to symbolize the two prisoners through the life of the cats. And neither did Perry. 236) As a matter of fact. The account of the two grey stray tomcats right at the end of the section The Answer is a representation of the lives of the criminals. so they had to pull out dead prey from under cars. There are a number of declarations throughout the novel about Perry’s severe and cruel raising and childhood. 189) This [5] .

239) All those events had made him.” (pp. he asked himself. In fact. and it was a trait in his nature that many times led him to be cruel towards others.” (pp. anywhere that seemed promising for the criminal duo would be enough for them to dream about. those conventionalist. spell out in detail the things he was capable of doing to people like her. “[j]ust like the millionaires”. 43). might it be Mexico or Brazil: “Brazil! That’s where they’re building a whole new capital city.Leituras do Cânon 3 Saldanha is precisely. In a similar vein. basic merchandises. The result of not having the basics while others had much more. if he had the chance. teeth. let her know just how dangerous he could be. Right from scratch. puritan and decent people that might cross his way. religious. advertise his abilities. not all poor individuals in the novels ended up as criminals. Perry had an inclination to think he was inferior to “good decent” people inasmuch as he had always been treated as undeserving by his family. one might claim. leisure. he thinks to himself “I wish she’d been in b Needless to say.” And fortune was all that they wanted. and Dick adds: “[a]ny fool could make a fortune. what he was: a man who was always most ready to harm. Alvin Dewey synthesis Perry’s path: “for Smith’s life had been no bed of roses but pitiful. Yes. Imagine getting in on ground floor of something like that!”. That is exactly what he reveals in certain episodes such as the one when he swears to take revenge on his sister for not helping him as he wanted she to: “[o]ne fine day he’d pay her back. 193 – 194) Dick was someone who regarded himself as inferior to people. [6] . and this is a remarkably essential part to understand Perry’s nature: “respectable people. 187 – 188) Additionally. food. “Who had ever given a damn about him?” (pp. mainly his mother and other women he encountered all through his life. when Perry is told by the police officers that his sister did not wish her address be revealed to him. what these characters longed for: comfort. an ugly and lonely progress towards one mirage and then another. and watch her eyes. Perry was a traumatized individual. and even too much. The fact that one is in need does not explain totally delinquency. In an episode when Dick’s character is described. having been through many painful and strict phased in his life.” (pp. was evident in the behavior of the characters of Perry and Dickb.”. have a little fun – talk to her. Perry tells the reader “[e]nvy was constantly with him. thus. tools to work. safe and smug people exactly like Bobo. the Enemy was anyone who was someone he wanted to be or who had anything he wanted to have. Like Dick.

Steinbeck makes evident in his novel a need for not only the family. a physical entity to blame for what Perry missed in life for the system he was trapped in would let no one to be caught as responsible. You got to keep clear. someone was in his way and in Dick’s. even those who had been recently admitted to the circle. such community though existent cannot let everyone in. they would accept other into the “fambly.Leituras do Cânon 3 Saldanha that house [Clutter’s] that night [the night of the crime]. happy. To him. Perries and Dicks have to be left to fan for themselves. Steinbeck’s design here is thus thwarted. must be left aside. all right”: Connie. the starving children around Ma as she prepared the meal. 32) while American Christian town. not everyone could community. 282). people who are tied by blood. Perry explained to the detectives. for the Joads. Eventually. people who belonged somewhere and were accepted into a group. And it is by trying to fan for themselves that some Perries and some Dicks sooner or later disrupt the peace of that community that once shut them out – but not for too long. Whereas the members provid[ed] [with] a living in a perfect be included in that of the small Holcomb in Garden city were “[…] sense of roots and contentment” (Capote pp. 381) Such is the way in which Ma Joads tells her son she is seeing the familiar nucleus come apart as the go along their journey to the promised land of California. decent. Rarely did Perry experience it in his life. What a sweet scene!” (pp. The socioeconomic and political system itself takes such a shape that does not allow a perfect community such as Holcomb to embrace people like Perry and Dick. Maybe the thing isn’t men at all. “’I’m a-praying’. The fambly’s breakin’ up. On the other hand. The system prevents it from so doing. 52) A feeling of belonging. You got to keep clear.” (Steinbeck pp. unavoidably. But the fact is that there was really no one. 251) Those instances prove how severely traumatized his mind was. puritan and religious. the Clutters: “Maybe it’s just that the Clutters were the one who had to pay for it” (pp. that is to say. share whatever they had. In the other end of the scale.” (Steinbeck pp. Ma Joads supports each family member. [7] . belonging was a very familiar feeling. She is the one who fights in order to keep the family together. a person. I might say. but also the community to come together and battle against injustice. the two. Further. Casy. However. even if it was but little. like a farmer realizes in chapter six of The Grapes of Wrath: “Maybe there’s nobody to shoot. is Capote. people who fitted into the profile they most hated. Tom.

” (Capote pp. virtually an impersonal act. it seems that those who received the divine – or not so divine. of the vintage. And even so we’re two pairs short!” (pp. Alvin concludes in awe “the confessions[…] failed to satisfy his sense of meaningful design. REFERENCES: The King James Version of the Holy Bible. strutty little man” who told reporters in front of the police facilities while waiting for the arrival of the recently arrested prisoners: “It’s like in the Bible. Modern Classics. [8] . In Cold Blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences. 2000. 2004. 241) Yet the question that remains without answer is how many pairs of eyes would be enough to get both sides even. The murder of the Clutters could not be logically explained – if. Retaliation was echoed by a “tough. and of the vengeance.Leituras do Cânon 3 Saldanha A deeper moral reflection upon the crimes committed by Perry and Dick in In Cold Blood is not exactly what matters here. an eye for an eye. The Grapes of Wrath. FAULKNER. In the end. New York. how many of those shut out from the “decent. Vintage International. they decided to wait no more for the Lord’s coming. The crime was a psychological accident. Penguin Books. Some Perries and some Dicks seemed to have decided to play the Lord’s role and “trample out” – as Howe’s lyrics read – the grapes of the ire of men. STEINBECK. could a murder be explained. cultural and political structure that makes room for the birth of people capable of deeds such as those narrated by Truman Capote. Penguin Books. As I Lay Dying. CAPOTE. at all. but communist – promise that theirs would be the earth and the wealth eventually resolved to take back what was theirs in retaliation. honorable and Christian American family” had starved to death and waited for the day of the harvest. but a discussion on the outcomes of a socioeconomic. William. John. Uncristianly. 1990. 239). the victims might as well have been killed by lightning. 1992. Truman.

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