Activities

The Harvest Gypsies:  Activities  

 

 

Farm Security Administration photo taken in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, during the "Dust Bowl" years (1930s).

 

 

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Journal of Key Terms

Difficulty: Easy
Time: Moderate
Learning Type: Visual and Hands On
Materials:

o            Journal/Pieces of blank paper
o            Writing Instrument

o            Dictionary/Encyclopedia/Internet Access

Keeping a journal of Key Terms is one of the easiest ways to make the text interactive.  Anytime that you encounter a word, phrase, or organization title that you are not familiar with, jot it down in your journal.  Right after you have written down the word, you have the option of either looking up the word/phrase at that moment, or after you've finished the chapter. 

Write down the definition or explanation of the word/phrase in your journal so that you have it as a reference throughout the rest of the text.

 

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Compare and Contrast

Difficulty: Moderate
Time: Lengthy
Learning Type: Visual
Materials:

o            Copy of The Grapes of Wrath

Read The Grapes of Wrath and try to identify the key ideas, events, locations, etc. from The Harvest Gypsies which Steinbeck has fictionalized in his novel.  Keep a list of those elements as you read.  When you have finished the novel, explain what you think the effect of fictionalizing those elements has on your reaction to them.  How does Steinbeck alter or expand upon those elements in fiction?  Which version of the events do you think best conveys the "truth" of the situation?  Why?

 

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Understanding a Contemporary Diaspora Part I

Difficulty: Moderate
Time: Moderate
Learning Type: Visual
Materials:

o            Internet Access

Nicolaus Mills, professor of American Studies at Sarah Lawrence College, expresses the following in an article entitled "John Steinbeck's Hurricane Katrina Lesson," which he wrote for Dissent magazine: "Today, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stumbles its way through the Katrina aftermath, failing to supply even enough trailers where they are needed, it is easy to wish that we had a Steinbeck documenting the lives of the New Orleans refugees. It might improve the government's response to them, might let us enter more deeply into their lives than television coverage has." Read Mills article at: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=706  and research and read other article on the people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Write a profile of those who were left homeless. Compare and contrast these individuals with the Dust Bowl immigrants that Steinbeck writes about.  In what ways are they the same? In what ways are they different?

A migrant family photographed by famed Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange.

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Understanding a Contemporary Diaspora Part II

Difficulty: Moderate
Time: Moderate
Learning Type: Visual and Hands On
Materials:

o            Internet Access

Propose a course of action to address the problems of those left homeless by Hurricane Katrina (just as Steinbeck does at the end of The Harvest Gypsies).

 

 

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Understanding Propaganda

Difficulty: Moderate
Time: Moderate
Learning Type: Visual
Materials:

o            Internet Access

Propaganda is communication that presents the facts surrounding an issue very selectively in order to sway an audience's emotions.  Propaganda is considered inaccurate and subjective since it often omits other perspectives about the issue that would call the truth of its position into question.  Steinbeck has often been accused of being a propagandist, usually by the conservative right, which is historically skeptical of his liberal democratic point of view.  Read the critique published by the Center for Capital Flow Analysis located at:  http://www.capital-flow-analysis.com/investment-essays/migrant_mother.html.  The argument characterizes The Harvest Gypsies and Dorothea Lange's photography as "liberal propaganda," calling into question the "truth" of Steinbeck's presentation of migrant life.  Explain whether or not the argument succeeds in characterizing The Harvest Gypsies and "Migrant Mother" as propaganda.  What parts of The Harvest Gypsies do you think seem true and what parts do you think might be propaganda?  What part of the whole story do you think may be left out of The Harvest Gypsies?

 

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Analysis of a Photograph

Difficulty: Moderate
Time: Moderate
Learning Type: Visual and Hands On
Materials:

o Copy of The Harvest Gypsies or Internet Access

Select one of the photographs from The Harvest Gypsies, or another Depression-era photograph of migrants (see Suggestions for Further Reading for links to photographs).  Analyze the photograph paying particular attention to its compositional features.  Explain how you think the photograph works to illustrate a particular idea or theme in The Harvest Gypsies.  How well do you think the photograph captures the migrant experience?

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Examining Literary Journalism

Difficulty: Moderate
Time: Moderate
Learning Type: Visual and Hands On
Materials:

o            Internet Access

In 1999, the Journalism faculty of New York University listed The Harvest Gypsies as #31 on its Top 100 List of the Century's Best American Journalism. You can access the list at: http://www.nyu.edu/classes/stephens/Top%20100%20page.htm. Compare Steinbeck's text to one of the other well known works of journalism on the list.  What qualities do you think make the two works exceptional works of journalism?  What features do the works have in common?  What would you say are the most important characteristics of good journalism based on your comparison of the two works?

 

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Contemporary Harvest Gypsies

Difficulty: Moderate
Time: Moderate
Learning Type: Visual and Hands On
Materials:

o            Internet Access

Research the current political issues concerning Mexican immigrants and agricultural labor in California today. After conducting your research, compare the current issues to the labor issues discussed in The Harvest Gypsies.  How have things changed?  What seems the same? What are the biggest challenges faced by contemporary agricultural labor versus those faced by the Dust Bowl migrants in the 1930?  Create a report based on your findings.