Wednesday, May 13, 2009

in the eyes of the people

On the road with her family one month from South Dakota. Tulelake, Siskiyou County, California, September 1939. Photograph by Dorothea Lange.


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. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificates--died of malnutrition--because the food must rot, must be forced to rot.

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, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, 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, growing heavy for the vintage.

~ John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

Ruby from Tennessee, daughter of migrant worker living in American River camp near Sacramento, November 1936. Photograph by Dorothea Lange.
 

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