The silenced women of John Steinbeck's dustbowl trilogy

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University of Fort Hare


The primary aim of this project is to examine selected works by John Steinbeck, a significant American writer. Through a close contextual and textual analysis of Steinbeck’s Dustbowl Trilogy, which consists of the novels In Dubious Battle, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath, this project will interrogate Steinbeck’s contribution to the silencing of women and their inferior placement in their society and determine the extent to which Steinbeck promotes patriarchal ideology through his literature. A close examination of the modernist era in which these novels were written will provide the method of interrogating Steinbeck’s portrayal of women’s situation during the Depression and determine whether it is a reflection of the reality of women’s situation at that time given the political and environmental factors of the 1930s.The theories of various feminist critics, including Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Gayle Rubin, Luce Irigaray, Sherry Ortner, and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar will be explored in order to elucidate the author’s treatment of the female characters and determine the extent to which patriarchal ideology is embedded in his writing. A brief examination of some of his contemporaries, namely F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, will reveal the general treatment of women in male authored modernist literature and determine the extent to which Steinbeck’s female subjugation is representative.



Women in literature