The Fall of Jeffersonian Philosphy in "The Grapes of Wrath" versus the Fall of Jacksonian philosphy in the Modern Day


If you look back through world history, you will find many periods of great social and political upheaval and these periods are rarely ever come out of the blue, almost always there are significant events which trigger the shift. The Great Depression is a perfect example of just such an event.

“The timing and severity of the Great Depression varied substantially across countries. The Depression was particularly long and severe in the United States and Europe; it was milder in Japan and much of Latin America. Perhaps not surprisingly, the worst depression ever experienced stemmed from a multitude of causes. Declines in consumer demand, financial panics, and misguided government policies caused economic output to fall in the United States…The Great Depression brought about fundamental changes in economic institutions, macroeconomic policy, and economic theory” (Romer Great Depression 1).

Many different events coincided to bring about the economic crash of the Great Depression, but probably one of the biggest causes in the US was the massive drought that hit during the period, a drought that was only surpassed by the drought that hit in 2011-2012. This drought decimated the crops and destroyed much of the country’s farmland. This drought was one of the reasons why the Great Depression was so difficult for the US to overcome and this period is chronicled in one of the US’s greatest classics, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck.

In Chapter 1 of the book, Steinbeck describes how the drought effects the crops and how the lack of rains transforms the land:

“The sun flared down on the growing corn day after day until a line of brown spread along the edge of each green bayonet. The clouds appeared, and went away, and in a while they did not try any more. The weeds grew darker green to protect themselves, and they did not spread any more. The surface of the earth crusted, a thing hard crust, and as the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red country and white in the grey country” (1).

It is the drought and the economic crash which triggered massive shifts in the socioideological world, one being the rise of the socialist movement and another being the collapse of the Jeffersonian agrarian philosophy and the rise of the Jacksonian capitalist ideology. As the agriculture industry fell, the idea of the Jacksonian philosophy of efficient and making as much profit as possible took over from the collectivist, agrarian view of the Jeffersonian ideology and what we are seeing now after the collapse of 2008 is a reversal of these viewpoints.

Now that the banking industry has gone into freefall, the dominant gearing of the economy and the social viewpoint has begun to shift, just as it did back during the Great Depression, but now the Jacksonian ideal is the one that is falling and the Jeffersonian philosophy is the one which is starting to gain momentum once again and both of these philosophies have imprinted themselves on Steinbeck’s novel, so it will be used in order to help in illustrating these conflicting and opposing viewpoints.

Works Cited:

-Romer, Christina D. Great Depression. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 20 Dec. 2003. Retrieved 24 Nov. 2012. Online.


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