Perhaps the most curious response to The Grapes of Wrath was the literary rebuttal offered by author, Ruth Comfort Mitchell. Her 1940 novel, Of Human Kindness, provides a fictional counterpoint to Steinbeck by offering the "ranchers' side" of the story.
"Mitchell's California farmers are the perfect yeomen who treat their hired help with the upmost care and respect." As Douglas Sackman notes in his book, Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden (2005), both novels feature rain storms that flood the fields, a direct contrast to the droughts that produced the Dust Bowl migrations. In our book the floods set the stage for the climatic conclusion. In Mitchell's book a farmer on a tractor drives in to save the flood victims. (Compare this scene with Steinbeck's views of tractors in Chapter 5. Steinbeck's "instrument of alienation--becomes a vehicle of kindness.")
Cary McWilliams, author or the 1939 landmark study Factories in the Field: The Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California, later wrote:
Now that the briefs have been filed, so to speak, for both sides, the public should be able to render a verdict. But Of Human Kindness and The Grapes of Wrath should not be read alone. There is still another document that should be studied, the transcript of the LaFollette Committee Hearings in California....They give the facts without the fiction, and the facts support Mr. Steinbeck.
Of Human Kindness never became a best seller and is now largely forgotten. Curiously, by coincidence, both Ruth Comfort Mitchell and John Steinbeck lived in Los Gatos, California.