The All-American snack, Cracker Jack, proved to be a treat for adults and children alike with its irresistible sweetness and prize hidden inside. After erupting onto the scene in the States in the late 1800s, Rueckheim proved to be a story of an immigrant seeing through the possibility of living out the American Dream through hard work and sacrifice. In connection to The Grapes of Wrath, the trope of the hardworking migrant who is rewarded with sanctuary and financial security seems to fall flat as they bounce from camp to camp with no hope of refuge.
For the Joad children, who continue to traverse their chilldhood imagination despite an impoverished lifestyle, food outside the norm of mush and bacon grease was a rarity. Hard work and contributions were an expectation out in the fields, no matter how young, and Pa Joad's allowance of one box of Cracker Jack for Ruthie and Winfield proves to be enough for the children as far as wages and happiness go. Ruthie's attack by another girl and her fight to hold onto her treat gives insight into the ways in which she longs to hold onto her childhood, as well as the benefits of her own hard work at such a young age.
This exhibit will aim to explore the beginnings of Cracker Jack and the connection it bears to the novel, and in particular the scenes involving Ruthie and Winfield. It will also speak to the economic undertones that the snack, and those who consume it, speaks out about.