Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Committee Member

Murphy, Jonathan W.

Committee Member

Racine, Nathaniel, R.

Committee Member

Olivas, Aaron A.


This work begins by briefly exploring the historical, environmental, economic, and sociopolitical factors springing up from the Great Depression to the Dust Bowl migration. Although it is argued that John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath through a religious lens, Steinbeck alludes to the Bible only as a bridge to a social gospel. More importantly, my focus is mainly centered on Achille Mbembé’s concept of necropolitics (the sovereign right to decide who lives and who dies) and applying it to the first world country of the United States. Mbembé expands on Michel Foucault’s concept of biopolitics by including the state of siege, the state of exception, and the war machine. I am going to break down necropolitics into three categories to analyze the novel to a full extent; they are necrocapitalism, slow violence, and precarity. Looking at the novel through a necropolitical lens, it is evident that the Okies were victims of a system that categorized them as “disposable.” The experiences of the Joads are not an isolated family tragedy; it is a migrant issue and a class problem. Although it seems deterministic, Steinbeck’s social gospel (based off Transcendentalism) helps restore the novel as guidance and inspiration for humanity, proving that a different type of “freedom” does exist. It is important to revisit and update our classics with contemporary readings because they provide a panoramic view of the issues that still affect our world today.