Diver and Bradshaw on The Grapes of Wrath: An Artful Jurisprudence? @alice_diver
Alice Diver, QUB School of Law, and Jules Bradshaw, Liverpool John Moores University Faculty of Law, have published The Grapes of Wrath: An artful jurisprudence? at 18 Steinbeck Review 162 (2021). Here is the abstract.
By documenting the harsh realities of the era, The Grapes of Wrath (‘GOW’) calls to mind those distressing UN Country Reports that both describe and denounce avoidable landscapes of poverty, hunger, homelessness, and dispossession. Steinbeck embeds the novel’s harrowing images within an unforgiving framework of human rights violations, most of which flow directly from human greed. The novel’s prescient yet timeless warnings speak not only to the various humanitarian crises brought about by climate change and unethical commercial practices, but also to many ongoing, perennial global atrocities: corrupt political regimes, gendered injustices, ethnic cleansing, and displacement of entire populations. It is landscapes such as these that still serve to both spark and underpin refugee existence: the need for a compassionate system of asylum-granting, firmly grounded in human rights law, clearly remains as urgent now as it was in Steinbeck’s time. As witnesses to such chronic disregard for human dignity, readers of the novel are not only tasked with judging those responsible: we must also evaluate the perennial failings of the various global and domestic systems that have enabled and perpetuated such egregious rights violations. The final scene, drenched in symbolism, still serves as a quasi-courtroom: before the bared breast of a Lady Justice figure we become jurists, and cannot help apportioning blame for all that has been witnessed over the course of the Joad’s journeying. A close reading now, almost a century later, serves as a timely reminder that similar atrocities continue: migrant and refugee populations remain especially vulnerable, not least where they have been displaced by poverty or political crises from all that was once familiar. This article argues that the novel’s central focus on “social realism” demands much in the way of “moral and emotional effort” (Benson, 9) from the reader: we should leave the book with nothing less than a highly “active compassion for the dispossessed” (Wyatt, 12).
Download the article from SSRN at the link.