I think it is okay for the authors to exaggerate a little bit, but not to the point where it completely changes readers opinions of the characters and evoke emotions of sympathy from readers for characters. I’m not sure about other readers, but I become somewhat attached to the characters in the story, and I suspend disbelief to try to put myself in their place.
After reading the expose essay by Keith Windschuttle, I was a little irked at Steinbeck for creating scenarios where I invested my false thoughts and sympathy for a fake family in a fake environment. When I read in his essay that “most of the migrants who did leave Oklahoma in the Depression were not farmers” (Windschuttle), it fueled my anger toward Steinbeck for making something seem true when it was false. I think farmers receive more pity than city folks do because they’re more “down to earth” (haha pun not intended) which is why I was more compassionate toward the Joads. However, if they were like the typical stuck-up city family trying to scamper into California, then I could understand the Californian’s point of view (plus I’m from California so there might be some bias).
To further add to my false sympathies for probably-city folk, the Joads, they were more informed than Steinbeck puts it. They weren’t going to this pseudo-Promised land on the assumption that it would be filled with opportunities of working and picking ripe golden oranges. They knew the risks of making the trek to California, and if they did it, which another error is made with the demographics of Okies that went to California, then that was a choice they made with enough information about the possibilities in California.
While he wrote about the Okies and convinced readers that they were helpless, cheated along the way, and treated like trash by the Californians, I don’t quite understand why he wrote this book from the perspective of the Okies, when he was born in Salinas, California, and raised there. He also makes the Californians, himself, seem like rotten arrogant people.
While it might be okay for authors to exaggerate a little in minor parts of history to make it more interesting, it is not okay for authors, like Steinbeck, to completely alter the minds of youths into thinking Californians were terrible people and the Okies were weak.