When John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath the United States was amidst the Great Depression. Life was hard for the average American during the 1930s. The Depression was the worst and longest period of high unemployment and low business activity in modern times. An ecological terror, known as the Dust Bowl, further complicated matters for small farmers. These two phenomena allowed Steinbeck to create his best selling and most influential book, The Grapes of Wrath. To appeal to these victims of the Depression, Steinbeck contained highly socialistic characters and themes that are frequently revealed throughout the novel. To illustrate these principles, it is clear that the Bible is the novelist's main point of reference. Using his pen, he manipulated the social and economic problems of the 1930s to convert his readers to socialism and Christianity. Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is not merely a novel concerning the Great Depression and the evils of capitalism, but rather propaganda for the Christian religion.
In his novel, Steinbeck records the plight of sufferers of the Great Depression. The Depression began in October 1929, when stock values in the United States dropped rapidly. The downward spiraling economy soon had its effect on the farmer. Farmer's did not even prosper during the "Roaring Twenties," and thus suffered a great deal more than their urban counterparts. As a result, some farmers, lost so much money that they could not pay the mortgage on their farm. These farmers were forced to either rent their land or move, as the Joads do in Grapes. When the Joads lose their tenant farm in Oklahoma, they join thousands of others, traveling the narrow concrete highways toward California and the dream of a piece of land to call their own. As if the plunging economy was not enough, farmers of the Midwest and southwest were hit with a serious drought coined the Dust Bowl by a reporter in 1935.