One method utilized by Steinbeck to convey his message to readers is his use of vocabulary (diction/word choice). Quite
often these words are repeated for emphasis, occurring throughout the story. While some of these words are created by Steinbeck
himself ("Manself") and others are relatively common ("phalanx"), they are all used to the same end; to convey a specific
message or allusion to an audience.
"Manself": First appearing on page 204, the word "Manself" has several important connotations. While the word itself its
not in the dictionary (Steinbeck created it himself to describe the singular entity of the human spirit), the meaning of "Manself"
is relatively easy to comprehend. "Self" refers to the individual; a singular person with their own desires, fears, and agenda.
The first portion of the word, "Man," refers to the human spirit and humanity as a whole. Together, the connotation of these
terms is that the individual has a place in collective humanity; each person is their own being while at the same time is
a component of collective human soul. The "Manself" is the communal human spirit that all individuals contribute too. Steinbeck
holds this idea in an almost reverent manner, evident in how he always capitalizes the word "Manself" as if it were of equal
stature as the word "God". The idea of the "Manself" culminates in the transformation from "I" to "we," when the individuals
are united by a common need, as is done when it is said "For here ‘I lost my land’ is changed; a cell is split
and from its splitting grows the thing you hate-‘We lost our land,’" (206). It is from this collective need that
the human spirit emerges, composing the second important facet of the "Manself;" the human drive for advancement. Steinbeck
wrote, "Fear the time when the bombs stop falling while the bombers live- for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not
died," (205). Steinbeck feared the time when violence ceased to exist as this would signify the dissolve of the human sprit
and therefore the "Manself."
Phalanx: Communicated through the medium of a land tortoise, the idea of a phalanx is used by Steinbeck to describe the
collective strength of cooperative humanity. The phalanx described both a Greek battle formation in which shields were systematically
placed to protect the entire formation as well as describing a turtle shell, which gains its strength from numerous interlocking
plates. By definition a phalanx is "1. a group of similar people or things. 2 a body of troops or police officers
in close formation." (Oxford English Dictionary). Steinbeck uses the image of phalanx to convey that people are stronger if
they work cooperatively, such as how the Wilsons and Joads are more successful in The Grapes of Wrath by assisting
Oversoul: An idea originally conceived by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the oversoul is the collective soul of humanity. This concept
is advocated in The Grapes of Wrath by Jim Casy, who believes in a love of humanity and the holiness of the human spirit,
which drives society. Casy said, "Maybe,’ I figgered, ‘maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe
that’s the Holy Spirit-the human spirit- the who shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s o a
part of." (33). This idea of every individual being part of a collective soul relates back to the idea of "Manself," in which
everyone is an individual and part of society at the same time.
I: By definition the subject ‘I’ refers to "The self; the ego." This subject is used by Steinbeck to describe
the singular individuals prior to the unification of the migrant Okies. Before becoming on collective group of people (We),
the Okies were struggling as individuals (I). This can be seen in the statement, "For here ‘I lost my land’ is
changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate-‘We lost our land,’" (Steinbeck 206).
My- My is the possessive form of "I" and is used in the same manner; to demonstrate the singular nature of the individual
We- By definition we refers to "the plural nominative case of the pronoun of the first person; the word with which a person
in speaking or writing denotes a number or company of which he is one, as the subject of an action expressed by a verb." (Oxford
English Dictionary). The word we implies cooperation or a collective body, which is how Steinbeck believes that humanity can
become a truly significant force. This applies to The Grapes of Wrath in the instance of describing the unification
of the Okie families. By coming together, the Wilsons and Joads were able to help each other continue west. They are united
by their loss and the need to reestablish themselves. "For here ‘I lost my land’ is changed; a cell is split and
from its splitting grows the thing you hate-‘We lost our land,’" (206).
Our- Our is the possessive form of "we" and is used in the same manner; to demonstrate the unification of the Okies against
Okie- This term was the label applied to the destitute farmers who migrated to California, like the Joads. Previously it
had referred to someone from Oklahoma, but gained a distasteful connotation during the mass movement of poor farmers to California.
"Offensive Slang. A migrant farm worker from the south-central United States, especially one seeking work in
the West or Southwest during the 1930s and 1940s. Slang. A native or inhabitant of Oklahoma." (Oxford English
Dictionary). The Joads were called this repeatedly upon their arrival in California.
The Communist Manifesto- Written by Karl Marx, the Manifesto served to critique capitalist society. Because
Marx died before he was able to suggest a complete plan for government, the Manifesto is often misinterpreted to be
just that. For more information visit the link for "Introduction to the Communist Manifesto" on the navigation toolbar.