Immigration in the 1990s and the Imagery of Bruce Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joad

Sarah Heavren, Providence College


Immigration is a heavily discussed political issue today, but it has roots in preceding decades as well as in American migration patterns. In the 1990s, Bruce Springsteen released his album The Ghost of Tom Joad to comment on the contemporary immigration issues by connecting the plight of the modern immigrants to the struggles of the Depression-era migrants. The album balances direct references to Mexican immigrants and U.S. Border Patrol officers with the ghosts of the past, particularly John Steinbeck’s character Tom Joad. To provide context to support the connection that Springsteen drew between current immigration issues and the westward migration during the Great Depression, I sought scholarly articles through JSTOR that discuss the roots of and influences on the immigration issue in the 1990s; Springsteen’s motivation for his unique take on the idea of the American West, which was growing popular in the music industry; the relevance of the character of Tom Joad in American culture; and the specific connections that Springsteen made between Tom Joad and Mexican migrants on the album.