Intrinsic Value of Work and What Defines People:Steinbeck

I have said before that I loved the book The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I love how he uses words….such richness of language and turns of phrases. Such deep renderings of the human condition. When I was in high school I was somewhat of a political activist. We read this book my junior year and I loved it so much that when I finished reading it, I immediately [right at that moment] opened the book and began reading it again. I don’t have time to read it again this week. But I found my copy that I had in high school and it has all my cute little underlinings and highlightings in it. I wanted to share a part of it because I think it still resonates today. It resonates even more for me today, since I read it from an adult’s perspective rather than a high schooler’s. Here it is (it is from Chapter 13-page 164).

“The causes lie deep and simple–the causes are a hunger in a stomach, multiplied a million times; a hunger in a single soul, hunger for joy and some security, multiplied a million times; mucles and mind aching to grow, to work, to create, multiplied a million times. The last clear definite function of man–muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond a single need–this is man. To build a wall, to build a house, a dan, and in the wall and house and dam to put something of Manself, and to Manself take something back something of the wall, the house, the dam; to take hard muscles from the lifting, to take the clear lines and form from conceiving. For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man–when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back”. A teensy bit later he says “And this you can know–fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe”.

I know it is a really long quote. But it struck a chord with me because of the universality of it and it gave me some hope. Why? Oh yes, I fully know of the difficulties and ravages of the economy. I know full well about the exchange of freedoms for things less valuable than freedoms. Yet I know we are struggling to keep our heads up, maintain our Faith and our Courage…That gives me hope. Concepts in and of themselves have value when they are true to our Creator.

Oddly enough, it is essential to cling to our beliefs and values even when things are a mess. Especially when things are a mess. Churchill said never give up. never. never. never. never. And so I shall not give up. But I can no longer fully commit to a system that has disenfranchised and devalued my beliefs and values. I do not mean I will be an anarchist. It means that I will continue to commit to and believe in what I know to be true and right.

I have Steinbeck to thank for his wordsmith ways when describing commitment, courage, and dedication.




About Kate Kresse

I love to write, I love to talk, I love to uplift people when I can. I am a woman in love with life. I am a wife, mom, tutor, writer, and I am a perennial optimist. (OK not every single minute but you get the point! :-)
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