The Great Depression shattered the lives and dreams of many Americans in the 1920-30s. Those that were hurt the most included the farmers who were faced with not only circumstances due to depression, but also industrialization of the markets and mechanization of farming itself. The numerous property foreclosures forced the families to relocate out west. These families were seeking jobs that never existed in the first place, or were quickly snatched. Except for a fortunate few, the only things most people found were hardships, violence, and disillusionment. Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath captured all of these dismal events in the story of Tom Joad and his family, which were summarized in Woody Gutherie's ballad "Tom Joad". .
Joad's father was a tenant farmer working on land that had been in his family for fifty years. When Tom returned to Oklahoma on probation he found that his father's and neighboring farms had been foreclosed upon. Muley Grays, a deranged man determined to have his land back, led Tom to uncle John's house where we found his family preparing to head west. Within a day the new caterpillar machines were coming through the land tearing down everything in sight. A sharecropping family was no match for the corporations, banks, and machines hungry for their land. The ideal of the Jeffersonian yeo-men was no longer tangible. Few farmers were able to independently own their own farm and sell their crops for profit. Times were changing, meaning lifestyles must too. .
Often times, as shown in Grapes of Wrath, new companies and corporate farms out west would send out paper bills advertising for workers. This caused a huge influx of hopeful families in the west. To the dismay of the desperate families these flyers were sent out to significantly more people than they had jobs for. The flyers also promised high wages. Not listening to the warning of the man at the rest stop, the Joads decided to test their luck out west.