Sweet Decay and Rotting Oranges

Sweet Decay and Rotting Oranges

A Story by LunalitSol

an essay for the prompt "In what way is oppression a developing theme in The Grapes of Wrath?"

Sweet Decay and Rotting Oranges
Downtrodden masses spread west after the Great Depression struck, leaving behind clouds of dust mingled resignation, the sweet tang of melancholia heavy in the air. It is the sweat of trying and failing, the shudders that wrack your form as you try to do what you must to survive- to breathe- but someone is pressing a pillow to your mouth, filling your throat with cotton, killing you with your most carnal needs. They take advantage of every attempt at inhale to thrust the cloying material further inwards, heedless of the damage they are wreaking. No, not heedless. They revel in it. Drink it in greedily. Avarice glows from their coal eyes as they press that pillow further, further…
From the start, the Joad family is out of luck. Their land has been seized by the higher-ups and with the bonds of economy straining tighter and tighter, thick cords wrapped around their necks, they look to what seems to be the only light in a dark tunnel: California. Propaganda is everywhere, fliers left and right hissing in the Joads’ ears that this is their hope, their chance. This is their ticket to survive. Yet this thought is as oppressing as it is liberating, presenting to them what seems a golden opportunity (literally) when in reality  the blue clouds on the horizon get darker with every westward step. 
If the economy and the lack of opportunities weren’t stifling enough, California joins in with an extra hand to press down on that pillow. The Joads of our novel are not the only ones who have seized this last glistening straw and, unfortunately for all of them, not all that glisters is gold. Apparently, to those who had made their home in California before this overwhelming migration (or towards the start of it) the families attempting to salvage their lives in this “glorious” state are really almost avaricious- they are taking up space and land and job opportunity and food. 
      “‘Well you ain’t in your country now. You’re in California, an’ we don’t                                                                                                                                                          want your goddamn Okies settlin’ down.’”
They are Okies and the world is pressing on that pillow and they can’t do a thing. This is oppression. They are helpless against their needs for survival, helpless against the surging masses of stinking zombies around them, helpless to where they come from and what that now means, helpless against the scales as they tip out of favor. They can struggle and writhe and put rocks in bags, but they are Okies and this pillow that oppresses them, that tightening of chest, that is the shriveling vine, the rotting corpse of slippery orange, untouchable and slathered in kerosene. 
“The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by-” “watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and 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.”
It is in this manner that the pillow grows, is thrust harder down. A sword is stabbed down the throats of the working men and the working women and the knobby-kneed children, harder and harder, hands piling on, so that it is hilt-deep and they are gutted, emaciated corpses swaying in the breeze. The workers are orange rinds covered in kerosene, one by one being set on fire. 
“There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success.”
These are the oppressed. 

© 2010 LunalitSol

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very nice job. When I read the name Joad, I thought I was reading Steinbeck for a moment. I found it interesting to read this, especially because I (oddly enough) am working on a book set in the same era, but the subject has another focus. Also, quite coincidental is the image of oranges, which another writer, who was writing of the same era, also uses.

In any event, it's nice to read something here on WC that has a nice aroma of intelligence!


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Added on October 10, 2010
Last Updated on October 10, 2010




Now a twenty-something mom, wife, employee, and student- still chasing that same dream. Still a writer from the inside out. more..

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