Harvest Gypsies - Essay Questions

  1. Compare and contrast life in the squatters camps as Steinbeck describes them to life in a Federal Government camp. What are some of the most significant differences? What amenities does the government camp offer to greatly increase the migrants' standard of living?
  2. Steinbeck explains that the migrants have more traditional views of land use that differ greatly from the system of industrialized agriculture with which they are confronted in California. Examine the differences in their views of farming and land ownership and consider whether they are impossible to reconcile with the agricultural practices that exist in California.
  3. The majority of farm laborers in California history have been imported from foreign countries. According to Steinbeck, how do foreign laborers' circumstances differ from the Dust Bowl migrants? Explain the unique circumstances of the Dust Bowl migrants and why Steinbeck believes they will demand different treatment. What do you think of his incorrect prediction about the new farm laborers in California being predominantly white Americans?
  4. Explain Steinbeck's multifaceted approach for improving the migrants living conditions and social position in California. Do you suppose his recommendations would have been successful? What do you think might have happened to the migrants had WW II not so drastically changed the nation's economic circumstances?