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Grapes Of Wrath Essay

grapes of wrath essay

Example #1

John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath is one of the most influential books in American History and is considered to be his best work by many. It tells the story of one family’s hardship during the Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

The Joads were a hard-working family with a strong sense of togetherness and morals; they farmed their land and went about their business without bothering anyone. When the big drought came it forced them to sell the land they had lived on since before anyone can remember. Their oldest son, Tom, has been in jail for the past four years and returns to find his childhood home abandoned.

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He learns his family has moved in with his uncle John and decides to travel a short distance to see them. He arrives only to learn they are packing up their belongings and moving to California, someplace where there is a promise of work and food. This sets the Joad family off on a long and arduous journey with one goal: to survive.

In this novel, Steinbeck set forth with the intention of raising awareness to the general public of the difficulties and injustices these migrants faced during this period in time. It exposed the methods of the California farmer to use the migrants in order to lower their costs and make their profit margin higher.

How they starved and cheated the poor, working man, in order to keep him desperate for food and too weak to protest. Above all, it showed everyone that these “damn Okies” were all simply men, women, and children, no different from anyone else, just poorer.

They were human beings with feelings and not the uncivilized beasts they were portrayed at the time. Steinbeck portrays the “Okies” in a way no one before he had, and also managed to keep their story true to life. He did this by mainly using dialect, and wrote the “Okie” dialect just as it was spoken, breaking the lines of proper grammar and spelling.

If he was concerned with such things it would have ruined the personality of the characters. His unique writing style to capture the atmosphere of these people and the era is evident in this excerpt from his book: Borror-2 “Duck,” said Muley.

The bar of cold white light swung over their heads and crisscrossed the field. The hiding men could not see any movement, but they heard a car door slam and they heard voices. “Scairt to get in the light,” Muley whispered. “Once-twice I’ve taken a shot at the headlights.

That keeps Willy careful. He got somebody with ‘im tonight.” They heard footsteps on wood, and then from inside the house, they saw the glow of a flashlight. “Shall I shoot through the house?” Muley whispered. “They couldn’t see where it come from. Give ‘em sompin to think about.”

The Grapes of Wrath are two intertwined stories. One of the Joad family and their personal struggles, and the other of the greater effect of the Dust Bowl and depression on the massive amounts of people like the Joads. He trades off each chapter, one chapter telling the story of the Joads and the next talking about the migrants. He uses the Joads to bring the story home to the reader, defeating the myth about the Okies. That myth being, as put by a service station attendant, “They ain’t human.”

Throughout the novel, Steinbeck goes to prove that the Joads are perhaps the most humane people out there. As the story progresses the Joads progress as well, from only being concerned with their own personal welfare and living to being aware of injustice towards everyone like them. This is accompanied by the disintegration of the smaller family unit, which is replaced by the larger world family of the migrant people.

The character that shows this change most dramatically is Tom Joad. When he first is released from prison his only concern is going home, returning to his old lifestyle, catching up on lost time, and having some fun. As he learns about the journey west his first priority becomes his family, and

he puts them and their welfare before everything else. Finally, at the end of the book, he decides to take it upon himself to be a voice for all of the “Okies” and fight against the unfairness they all faced on a daily basis. This change is best put by Ma at the end of the book when she says to Mrs. Wainwright, “Use’ ta be the fambly that was fust. It ain’t so now. It’s anybody.

Worse off we get, the more we got to do.” Barror-3 Throughout the novel, the acts of kindness by poor people are contrasted to the greed and meanness of the rich. One of the ironies of the book was that, as Ma Joad said, “If you’re in trouble or hurt or need — go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help — the only ones.”

The irony is that if you need something you have to go to the people who have nothing. The first example of this is at the truck station in Chapter 15 when the restaurant owner and waitress give the family bread at a discounted rate, and candy two for a penny when it is actually nickel candy.

The truck drivers then leave large tips to the waitress. Neither the truck driver nor the restaurant owner and waitress are very rich but they are generous anyway. In Chapter seventeen Tom and Al receive car parts from a worker at a run-down auto shop at a great discount. Ma Joad is also an example of this. The Joads are poor and yet they give what little they have to the children who need it.

In contrast, the business class people are shown as ruthless bloodthirsty demons. All they care about is their own personal wealth and to them, the poor are simply walking signs reading “take what little money I have, I am poor and desperate”. Chapter seven shows how the car dealers rip the people off by selling them pieces of junk for high prices.

They use cheap tricks such as pouring sawdust into the gears or transmission to cut down the noise of the car and hide problems. They take advantage of the tenant farmers’ ignorance of cars and interest rates to make a profit. This pattern is repeated many times throughout the book. Chapter nine shows junk dealers taking advantage of the fact that they knew the farmers had to sell all of their possessions and could pay them dirt-cheap prices for them.

They watch the pain and despair in the farmer’s faces as they try to argue for a higher price with a grin, knowing they will take whatever is offered. They simply can’t afford to, they must sell their things, and they can’t take them west and desperately need the money.

“Well, take it-all junk-and to give me five dollars. You’re not buying only junk, you’re buying junked lives. And more- you’ll see- you’re buying bitterness. Buying a plow to plow your own children under, buying the arms and spirits that might have saved you. Five dollars, not four. I can’t haul ‘em back- Well, take ‘em for four. But I warn you, you’re buying what will plow you. Barror-4 own children under. And you won’t see it.

You can’t see it. Take ‘em for four. Now, what’ll you give for the team and wagon? Those fine bays, matched they are, matched in color, matched the way they walk, stride to stride. In the stiff pull – straining hams and buttocks, split-second timed together. And in the morning the light on them, bay light. They look over the fence sniffing for us, and the stiff ears swivel to hear us, and the black forelocks! I’ve got a girl.

She likes to braid the manes and forelocks, puts little red bows on them. Likes to do it. Not any more. I could tell you a funny story about that girl and that of the bay. Would make you laugh. The off horse is eight, near is ten, but might have been twin colts the way they work together. See? The teeth. Sound all over. Deep lungs. Feet fair and clean. How much? Ten dollars? For both? And the wagon- Oh, Jesus Christ! I’d shoot ‘em for dog feed first. Oh, take ‘em!

Take ‘em quick, mister. You’re buying a little girl plaiting the forelocks, taking off her hair ribbon to make bows, standing back, head cocked, rubbing the soft noses with her cheek. You’re buying years of work, toil in the sun; you’re buying a sorrow that can’t talk. But watch it, mister.

There’s a premium goes with this pile of junk and the bay horses – so beautiful – a packet of bitterness to grow in your house and to flower, someday. We could have saved you, but you cut us down, and soon you will be cut down and there’ll be none of us to save you.”

There is a lot of symbolism throughout The Grapes of Wrath, in the form of events or even in the characters themselves. The first noticeable use of this is in chapter three, with a turtle who is simply trying to get to the end of a road. He slowly plods along in the heat, never stopping in his journey, although he is faced with many obstacles.

A car whizzes by, barely nicking him and sending him skidding across the road with his shell overturned. Once the danger is passed he emerges from his shell and continues on, only to be picked up by Tom Joad, who carries him for a distance with the intention of giving him to Winfield as a present.

Naturally, this is not in the turtle’s plans, but he tolerates it and once set down by Tom, works his way free of the jacket that restrained him and slowly makes his way back towards his goal. This is symbolic of the Joad’s journey to California, with all the hardships they faced.

Yet they never faltered on their path, each and every member of the family knew where they wanted to go and didn’t allow minor setbacks to stop them. It has been questioned by some as to whether Jim Casy is meant to symbolize Jesus Christ in this story. I believe that he is, there are many small hints pointing to it, such as his initials (J.C.), along with many broader indications.

His lifestyle of preaching. Barror-5 and leading people in revolt, as well as sacrificing himself for Tom and the Joad family support this belief well. He also had a follower, or disciple in Tom, who after Casy’s death decides to leave the family to carry on his message.

“Tom laughed uneasily, “well maybe like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but only a piece of a big one- an’ then—“ “Then what, Tom?” “Then it does matter. Then I’ll be all-around’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’ where—wherever you look. Wherever they’re a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’re a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there.

If Casy knew, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’- I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build- why, I’ll be there. See? God, I’m talkin’ like Casy. Comes of thinkin’ about him so much. Seems like I can see him sometimes.”

The last major point of symbolism in the book is shown in Rosasharn’s baby. The baby comes to symbolize death, but at the same time, life. It is stillborn, never once took a breath to live, which was the hardest death for the family to deal with, the one that never lived. At the same time, it is a blessing in disguise. Shortly after this occurs there is a great and steady rain, which the Joads seek shelter from in an abandoned barn.

Upon entering they discover a young boy and his father in the corner, the boy informs them that his father is starving to death and cannot keep food down. He is desperate for milk and wonders if they had any money to spare in which to buy some. Upon hearing this Ma and Rosasharn exchange a knowing look. Ma takes the rest of the family out to a tool shed and leaves Rosasharn with the old man.

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Rosasharn proceeds to give the man the life-giving milk that he so desperately needs and her baby did not live to put use to. In doing this her baby unknowingly gave its life in return for saving that of another.

Steinbeck uses this novel as a warning to large landowners as well as the government during the depression. There was a great injustice being done to these people and it wouldn’t be long before they did something about it. You cannot suppress a large group of society for an extended amount of time without there being an uprising against it.

He states this in chapter nineteen, and for once doesn’t use Barror-6 any sort of symbolism to mask the meanings behind his words. He comes right out and states the events that have led up to this point and says there will be a revolt eventually, the question is simply when.

They were hungry, and they were fierce. And they had hoped to find a home, and they found only hatred. Okies—the owners hated them because the owners knew they were soft and the Okies strong, that they were fed and the Okies hungry; and perhaps they had heard from their grandfathers how easy it is to steal land from a soft man if you are fierce and hungry and armed.

The owners hated them. And in the towns, the storekeepers hated them because they had no money to spend. There is no shorter path to a storekeeper’s contempt, and all his admirations are exactly the opposite. The town men, little bankers, hated the Okies because there was nothing to gain from them. They had nothing. And the laboring people hated the Okies because a hungry man must work, if he has to work, the wage payer automatically gives him less for his work; and then no one can get more.


Example #2

In John Steinbeck’s epic, The Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family is the example of the working-class family during the 1930s. The novel depicts the Joad family as they are struggling to move from an infertile farm in Oklahoma to the gold coast of California. They are driven off of their farm by not only the “dust-bowl”, but because they can’t pay the mortgage to the banks, despite their hard work.

Work is a very important theme in the book. Steinbeck is describing a family whose livelihood comes from working on the land. This has two meanings. The first describe their jobs as farmers who are literally working on the land to make it produce crops.

The second meaning however is much deeper; it describes the actual process that farmers such as the Joads go through on the farm. They “work” the land by cultivating it and treating the soil the right way. They put their own blood, sweat, and tears into the land. In return the land sprouts crops, which they would then sell for money.

The land however is destroyed by the dust bowl and the Joads have no place to work. They are skilled only for the farm. This is the first idea that Steinbeck gives about work. He shows a family with skill, but in a place where the skill had no worth. Al seems to be knowledgeable about fixing cars, but for the most part, the only way that the Joads have, or can survive is as farmers.

This is a direct statement on what the Industrial revolution was doing to America in the time period. The jobs on the farm that were done by hand were becoming machine tasks. Steinbeck makes a very blatant statement against the machines that came about and blamed them for much of what happens to the Joads that force them to leave the land.

Steinbeck doesn’t only use the machines as the machine that literally forces the Joads off of their farms, but also incorporates the ideas that the big businesses are using the machine to do the jobs of the actual farm families. Work is what the driver of the tractor had to do when he comes to remove the Joads from the land in Chapter Five.

He was working for the bank and to him, work was simply following orders that were given by a faceless corporation. The tractor and its workers are described as a monster, when in fact it is not the machine that is the monster, but the job that it is actually doing that is monstrous.

In Chapter Fourteen the phrase “results and not causes” is repeated numerous times to try to explain the rationalization that was being made about what had happened on almost all of the farms in Oklahoma.

The cause was not the fact that these people were bad workers, but the fact that there was a natural disaster. However, the fact that the machine was quickly becoming the tool of choice would have eventually uprooted many farmers who might have stayed had there not been a dust bowl.

Work is a very noble task that all of the characters in the book know a lot about. Pa Joad and John who know what it is like to cultivate the land and produce food for the family. Ma Joad, who has worked hard at rearing children and bringing them up as best as she can, knows what work is. Tom understands what work is based on his experience in prison and growing up on the farm.

Even Jim Casey knows what work is. He worked as a servant of God for much of his life. When we meet him in the book, however, he is redefining what his God wants from him as a servant. Even the tractor drivers know what it is to work. The tractor drivers are not doing a “good” thing in relation to the characters in the book, but the fact that they are working is honorable. Steinbeck always has them say something to the affect of “It’s my job,” and “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

Jobs are forever changing and I think Steinbeck captures a period of change where change is brought on faster than people can handle it. Nature and Technology displace an entire occupation much more rapidly than the occupants expect. His view on work seems to be that not all work is honorable, but the ethic of working, no matter what the job is, is.


Example #3

As Tom Joad hitchhiked his way home after a four-year stay in prison for killing a man in a fight, he met up with Jim Casy, a former preacher who was returning from a sojourn in the “wilderness,” where he had been soul-searching. Tom invited Jim to walk with him on the dusty road to the Joad family farm and to stay for dinner. Arriving there, he saw that “the small unpainted house was mashed at one corner, and it had been pushed off its foundations so that it slumped at an angle.”

The farm was deserted. Muley Graves, a near-by tenant farmer, told Tom that his family had moved to their Uncle john’s house: ” . . . They were going to stick it out when the bank come to tractorin’ off the place.” A long drought was making barren ground out of what had once been fertile farmland.

Early the following morning Tom and Casy walked the eight miles to Uncle John’s farm. As they approached, Tom saw his Pa working on a truck in the yard. Pa’s “eyes looked at Tom’s face, and then gradually his brain became aware of what he saw.”

With Tom’s homecoming, the Joad family unit was complete. Now Ma and Pa, the pregnant oldest daughter Rose of Sharon, and her husband Connie, Grampa, Gramma, and all the rest started packing: they were all “goin’ to California” to start over as fruit pickers.

Like thousands of other displaced tenant farmers, the Joads spurred on by the promise of good wages and sunshine, sold what they could, bought a used car, and headed out on Highway 66, “a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership.”

After the supplies and tools were loaded into the old Hudson, which teen-aged Al load had converted into a truck, the Joad family and Casy (twelve people in all) squeezed into what little space was left and started west. During the first overnight stop, Gramma suddenly was hit by a stroke and died. They buried him on the roadside.

Soon the loads met up with the Wilsons, a married couple with a broken-down car. After Al had fixed the vehicle, Ma and Pa Joad invited the Wilsons to travel with them. “You won’t be no burden. Each’Il helps each, an’ we’ll all get to California,” Ma said.

The two groups “crawled westward as a unit”, suffering along the way from too little money, not enough food, dilapidated vehicles, profiteering junk dealers, and overpriced replacement parts. Eastward-bound migrants warned the travelers that working conditions in California were bad, but they still pressed on toward the “promised land.”

Crossing the border into California, the family camped next to a river that ran parallel to the town of Needles. They’d wait until nightfall to cross the desert. As Tom, Noah, and Pa sat down in the shallow river water to wash off the road grime, they were joined by an itinerant father and his son who apprised them of the treatment they could expect in California: “Okie use mean you was from Oklahoma. Now it means you’re a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you’re scum.”

Later that day, Tom’s aloof and backward brother Noah notified him that he was staying to live by the river, and then wandered away. That evening, after saying good-bye to the Wilsons, the Joads began the last leg of their journey. Early during the desert crossing, Gramma quietly died, but Ma waited until they reached Bakersfield before she told anyone.

After another roadside burial, the family drove on into a “Hooverville” – one of many designated migrant camps opened during the Depression. Like other Hoovervilles, it was a chaotic community; “little gray tents, shacks, and c cars were scattered about at random.” But the Joads elected to stay.

On their first evening in the camp, two men in a shiny sedan drove up, a labor contractor and a local sheriff. The contractor had come out to offer jobs to the migrants, but when he declined to reveal the actual wage he was prepared to pay, a fight ensued.

Tom and Casy got in the middle of things and managed to knock the sheriff out cold. since Tom was on parole and couldn’t afford any more trouble, Casy ordered him to hide while he stayed behind to give himself up in Tom’s place.

That night, before the family drove away, 1″ose of Sharon’s husband sneaked off, abandoning his wife and soon-to-be-born child. From the Hooverville, sounds of shouts and screams could be heard as the clattering old Hudson crept away in the night.

The loads headed south toward Weedpatch, where they had heard a government camp was located. Once there, they were immediately struck by how different this camp was from the Hooverville. Clean showers with hot water greeted them; indoor toilets and the best Saturday night dances in the county. The camp’s inhabitants had the right to make their own rules and elect their own leaders.

Unfortunately, though, there was no work in any of the surrounding areas. The children began having dizzy spells from hunger, and with Rose of Sharon near to giving birth, they had to make a decision: they left the camp on their last tank of gas.

As the worn-out vehicle beaded north, the loads met a man who pointed them to possible work on the Hooper ranch near Pixley. When they finally reached the ranch, however, they found themselves in the middle of a heated dispute. A row of policemen held back picketing strikers, who shouted and cursed at the “scab” peach pickers crossing their lines. But the Joads didn’t care they were hungry.

Everyone except Ma and Rose of Sharon, who stayed behind to clean their filthy new home, straightway went to work. Before nightfall, the men and children had earned one dollar among them, and Ma took their note of credit to the company store, where she was able to buy a little hamburger, bread, potatoes, and coffee’ After eating his scanty dinner, Tom ambled down through the brush along the highway to investigate what all the commotion was about.

He came upon a tent. To his surprise, he discovered that Casy the preacher was one of the main agitators. Casy gave Tom the lowdown: “We come to work there. They say it’s gonna be fi’ cents …. We got there and they say they’re payin’two an a half cents …. Now they’re payin’ you five. When they bust this here strike – ya think they’ll pay you five?”

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Tom was about to return to the ranch when suddenly he beards “guys comin’ from ever’ which way.” Everyone scattered for cover, but Tom and Casy were intercepted by two deputies. “You fel]as don know what you’re doin’,” protested Casy. “You’re helpin’ to starve kids.” The nearest deputy snatched up a pick handle and cracked Casy’s skull, killing him. in a fit of passion, Tom wrenched the club free and clubbed the deputy to the ground.

As he bolted from the confusion, he received a deep gash on his face but managed to make it back to the ranch, where he hid out. As the family worked on, the strike was broken, and just as Casy had predicted, the pay for peaches dropped to two-and-a-half cents a box.

Soon, all the peaches were picked, and once again the loads set out. Luckily, they happened on some work picking cotton. While they camped with other migrants in abandoned boxcars along a stream, Tom, still hunted by the law, stayed a few miles down the road in a clump of trees. At last, the joads were making enough money to eat properly.

Then the littlest girl, Ruthie, made a mistake: during a fight with another girl, she threatened to get her big brother, who had “already kilt two fellas. . . ” That evening, Ma took Tom his dinner, told him about Ruthie’s words, slipped him seven dollars that she had saved, and urged him to leave – for his own and the family’s sake. Tom hugged Ma and promised he would carry on Casy’s work of improving the worker’s plight.


Example #4

The Grapes of Wrath is a perfect example of a political novel that narrates the experience of the Joad family after being evicted from their farm in Oklahoma and their discouraging journey to California.

In the first few chapters, the author gives the reader an opportunity to participate in the story of the Joads by exploring their experience in their traditional life and their newfound life, but in the last sixteen chapters; the author takes a broader look at the experience of displaced migrants in America as a whole. As a result, the novel portrays the issue of land ownership in California and America at large, the conflicts between the Haves and the Have-nots, people’s reactions to injustices, and the strength of a woman (Steinbeck ix).

It also delves into the impact of the Great Depression and the nature of parity and fairness in a larger context regarding America. Thus, this essay presents an in-depth analysis of The Grapes of Wrath, which reveals that the novel develops upon a wide range of themes including hope, class conflict, fanaticism, and commitment as described in the preceding discussions.

The theme of hope develops through the character of Ma Joad who struggles to keep her family together despite that the Joads have encountered many deaths, hardships, and deprivations. In fact, at the end of the narrative, the author describes the family as barely surviving (Steinbeck 455).

Conversely, the Joads display an optimistic mood because as the family expands, the family members get to recognize the need to identify with the group, and thus, they begin to realize the importance of group consciousness. Hope is also derived from the family’s long and challenging journey, whose experience enlightens some family members such as Ma Joad, Pa Joad, Tom, Jim Casy, John, and Rose of Sharon.

Actually, the family members are optimistic that the end of their long journey will come after realizing the American dream (Steinbeck 65). As a result, the desire to have a good life coupled with other motives encourages some family members to fight harder as opposed to those who are unable to see the end result of the journey including Al, Connie, and Noah.

Moreover, the family is determined to experience a different way of life, which gives them a broader perceptive of the world compared to their traditional life. In the end, it is obvious that the family has succeeded in terms of understanding and exploring lifetime experiences in the face of different challenges.

Another major theme in The Grapes of Wrath entails class conflict. A conflict exists between the poor migrants, native Californians, and the powerful businesspeople (Steinbeck 23). This conflict presents a clear picture of the characteristics of economic injustices in America during that time.

From a social perspective, the novel describes the economic disasters that arise after the migrants are forced to forgo their agricultural activities not only because of the natural disasters, but also because of the establishment of larger farms by the landowners, business people, and the banks.

Actually, in the beginning, the author notes that the landowners and banks evicted the tenants from the farms thereby making them move to California in large numbers (Steinbeck 13). Thus, it is apparent that the business people and landowners are insecure in some way because they understand that the presence of migrants in their farms is a threat to their business and financial establishments.

Here, the migrants symbolize increased government interference, labor unions activism, and increased taxes on the privately-held property. This form of class conflict is the cause of the violence observed between the two groups and even the torching of government camps by state residents in California who are of the idea that the presence of migrants in their land is a threat to their financial interests (Steinbeck 305).

Moreover, class conflict can also occur when hardships, materialistic interests, and problems within the family are personalized. For instance, within the Joad family, Rose of Sharon is obsessed with her pregnancy and the future dreams instead of helping in the journey while her husband, Connie is still angry that they left Oklahoma, and thus he prefers to disappear rather than help in the family hardships (Steinbeck 45).

Fanaticism is also a major theme developed in The Grapes of Wrath. From both the religious and the social perspectives, it is obvious that fanaticism should be condemned because it is a trick used by a certain class of people to deny life, happiness, and advance economic deprivation in the society.

For instance, the former preacher, Jim Casy tells Tom that religion denies different aspects of life such as sexuality. Furthermore, in the camp, a fanatic religious woman claims that dancing is sinful, and thus, poor people should not dance but instead they should wail and moan because they are sinners (Steinbeck 55). On the other hand, religious fanatics claim that religion allows for economic classes within the society including the poor class.

Additionally, the experience of the Joads and their American counterparts shows that social fanaticism and prejudice cause fear and lack of faith among the migrants. As a result, this phenomenon led to instances of violence between the migrants and the native Californians, homelessness, starvation, and malnutrition among other shameful events. Therefore, it is certain that fanaticism, be it religious or social, is not a good thing after all.

Lastly, the novel develops on the theme of commitment in an extensive manner. Here, we note that the members of the Joad family were committed to certain goals and values, which kept them going and finally led to their success.

For instance, Tom and Jim Casy were committed to making Christ-like sacrifices for the rest of the family. As a result, Jim decided to surrender to the authorities to replace Tom and Floyd in order to show his commitment to loving all. Additionally, Jim becomes a labor activist and he dies while fighting for the rights of laborers.

Conversely, despite that at the beginning of the Journey, Tom does not want to identify with the group, his experience, and friendship with Jim makes him realize the need to fight for social justice and the significance of group consciousness within the family and in the society (Steinbeck 445). Therefore, commitment is a virtue that should be emulated by each member of the society if at all collective tasks and goals are to be accomplished.


Example #5

The Grapes of Wrath is set in the horrible stage of our American history, the Depression. Economic, social, and historical surroundings separate the common man of America into basically the rich and poor. A basic theme is that man turns against one another in a selfish pride to only protect themselves. For example, the landowners create a system in which migrants are treated like animals and pushed along from one roadside camp to the next.

They are denied decent wages and forced to turn against their fellow scramblers to simply survive. The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of two types of ‘families’ in that the Joads are a factual one and the body of migrant workers as the other.

Tom, though, is a very complicated individual who turns out to be a tremendous asset and burden to the family. His parole causes the family an unneeded worry but does get work that helps the family. He is the main protagonist for his family and the main follower of Jim Casy’s philosophy on human nature. Jim is much more of a talker and idealist, and he actually puts what he preached into action.

Jim Casy is frequently compared with Jesus Christ and his lifestyle of preaching and leading people. As well as sacrificing himself for Tom and the Joad family which upholds his common held belief. Tom carries Jim’s message after his death and aids others with it. The Joad family, along with Jim Casy, shows the benefit of people uniting in order to accomplish goals and this is a lesson that the reader can take away from this novel.

The setting is so important to the novel because it sets the role and background of the characters. View of the Depression then comes from a man just off of parole or a grandfather who is getting old and to weak to be the backbone of the family. The Depression that has hit nailed the common man and jobs are scarce. This is the binding factor between everyone in the novel – that most people are ‘down in the dumps.’ The main theme of the book is the ‘character’ of people at that time. How people bonded and rejected one another in a time of such hardship and demoralization.


Example #6 – The Grapes of Wrath: Why the 25th Chapter is Essential?

Chapter Twenty-Five is central to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Besides containing the title of the book, this chapter clearly, forcefully, and elegantly drives home Steinbeck’s central message the injustice of life in the Depression-era American west. Without a doubt, one of Steinbeck’s strongest attributes as a writer is the way he makes the reader feel his words.

Chapter Twenty-Five is an excellent example of this technique. Through his overall structure, graphic appeal to the senses, and approachable, rhythmic sentences, Steinbeck allows the reader to experience chapter Twenty-Five, and in doing so gives the reader no choice but to connect with his theme.

Steinbeck presents the reader with two main contrasting sections joined by a third transitional one. The first, which portrays the verdant bounty of nature, is juxtaposed with the second, which portrays human suffering. Steinbeck’s point is simple and ironic; “men who have created new fruits in the world cannot create a system whereby their fruits can be eaten”.

How Steinbeck chooses to structure his point is likewise uncomplicated, yet incredibly effective. He simply gives the reader the first section verdant crops and contrasts it with the second section, hungry humans. This manner of presenting the information is strong because it allows the reader to discover the point for himself or herself by implying the question “what is wrong with this picture?”

Chapter Twenty-Five is alive with vivid adjectives that bring the reader into the picture Steinbeck paints. It is accurate to say “paints” because Steinbeck uses color quite liberally. The pallate is initially dominated by light pastels, white, pink, yellow, and particularly green. These are the colors of spring; they suggest growth and fertility. One can almost taste the “pale green lettuce” (445), or the “gray-green artichoke plants” (446). Later, when the chapter turns to the less pleasant subject matter, Steinbeck employs harsher colors primarily black and red.

The reader is disgusted by the “red cherries” into which “yellowjackets buzz”, leaving nothing but “black shreds” (447). Other adjectives have a similar animating effect. Steinbeck describes the crops and land with such words as “fragrant,” “soft,” “level,” “fertile,” “sweet,” “tender,” and “round” (445-446).

Paralleling the above change in color, Steinbeck switches to adjectives like “canned,” “hot,” “hungry,” “dumped,” and “heavy” (447-449) to match his shift in subject. All these descriptive words create a stark and tangible image for the reader, allowing him or her to feel the difference between the two sections.

Steinbeck further makes the chapter felt by means of his powerful images. The dominant image is that of crops. Fruits and vegetables are mentioned forty-five times in the chapter, with ten references to grapes alone. Whether it be the “fragrant pink and white waters in a shallow sea” (445) that are the fruit blossoms, or the “grapes of wrath growing heavy for the vintage” (449) in the souls of the people, the plants and the land on which they grow are described again and again.

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Besides providing a powerful unifying element to the chapter, Steinbeck’s use of the land and its products as the chief image connects with the reader. Steinbeck realizes that humans are able to relate to nature; by setting down some of the most poignant natural imagery ever written Steinbeck takes advantage of this characteristic.

For example, Steinbeck states that “the decay [of human suffering] spreads over the State, and the sweet smell is a great sorrow on the land” (448). Who can argue against Steinbeck’s thesis of social inequality when Nature herself seems to be in support?

In addition to his masterful manipulation of the senses, Steinbeck uses deceptively simple sentences and rhythmic constructions to further draw the reader into his idea. Typically, Steinbeck does nothing to confuse the reader. His sentences, like his subject matter, are nobly ordinary. The ease with which the chapter may be read does much to enhance the reader’s connection to Steinbeck’s theme.

But the craftsman does not stop there. To help the reader move his or her eyes across the page Steinbeck utilizes poetic devices such as alliteration, consonance, and repetition: “five dollars for forty fifty-pound boxes” (447), “trees pruned and sprayed, orchards cultivated” (447), “the food must rot; must be forced to rot” (449). This “running” effect is echoed in Steinbeck’s sentence structure. The sentences flow into one another, pulling the reader with them.

To accomplish this the author uses the word “and” prolifically, often at the beginning of a sentence, and connects many phrases with commas or semicolons. The reader cannot help but be swept through this chapter, which can almost be described as a journey down Steinbeck’s fast-moving stream of consciousness. However, Steinbeck draws the reader subtly, all under the illusion, perhaps pretense, of objective social realism. The following passage exemplifies his technique well.

“The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the hungry, there is growing wrath”.

The last sentence is worth mentioning as a linguistic device in, and of, itself. By the time the reader arrives at it, he or she if the reader is at all human is hopelessly under Steinbeck’s spell. The reader has seen, felt, and smelled the bounty of the land and empathized with the suffering people, essentially seeing reality as Steinbeck wants him or her to see it.

Steinbeck has slipped the hook deep into the reader’s proverbial gullet; now with the final sentence, he sets it: “in the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage”.

Using almost every device he has employed throughout the chapter, crop imagery, poetic constructions, and forward momentum, Steinbeck sums up the chapter by revealing how he wants the reader to feel. What does the irony of verdant crops plus human suffering equal Wrath? Growing, heavy wrath.


Example #7

The Grapes of Wrath is set in the horrible stage of our American history, the Depression. Economic, social, and historical surroundings separate the common man of America into basically the rich and poor. A basic theme is that man turns against one another in a selfish pride to only protect themselves.

For example, the landowners create a system in which migrants are treated like animals and pushed along from one roadside camp to the next. They are denied decent wages and forced to turn against their fellow scramblers to simply survive. The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of two types of ‘families’ in that the Joads are a factual one and the body of migrant workers as the other. 

Tom, though, is a very complicated individual who turns out to be a tremendous asset and burden to the family. His parole causes the family an unneeded worry but does get work that helps the family. He is the main protagonist for his family and the main follower of Jim Casy’s philosophy on human nature. Jim is much more of a talker and idealist, and he actually puts what he preached into action.

Jim Casy is frequently compared with Jesus Christ and his lifestyle of preaching and leading people. As well as sacrificing himself for Tom and the Joad family which upholds his common held belief. Tom carries Jim’s message after his death and aids others with it. The Joad family, along with Jim Casy, shows the benefit of people uniting in order to accomplish goals and this is a lesson that the reader can take away from this novel.

The setting is so important to the novel because it sets the role and background of the characters. View of the Depression then comes from a man just off of parole or a grandfather who is getting old and to weak to be the backbone of the family. The Depression that has hit nailed the common man and jobs are scarce.

This is the binding factor between everyone in the novel – that most people are ‘down in the dumps.’ The main theme of the book is the ‘character’ of people at that time. How people bonded and rejected one another in a time of such hardship and demoralization.


Example #8 – interesting ideas

Supporting Quotes for Grapes of Wrath Essay?

Topic Tracking: Humanity

Chapter 2

Humanity 1: Truck owners do not want their drivers to pick up hitchhikers. This truck driver risks his job to give Tom Joad a lift.

Chapter 6

Humanity 2: Muley Graves shares his hard-won dinner with Tom and Jim Casy. Even though he lives the life of a refugee, he will not be greedy in the face of need. He says he cannot let another man starve will he has food to share. Casy notes the larger importance of even a single act of generosity.

Chapter 10

Humanity 3: When the family convenes to discuss whether to ask Casy to join them on the trip to California, Pa expresses a doubt as to whether they will be able to feed him. Ma says that is not a question of ability but of willingness. She says the Joad family has never turned down a man in need before. She is willing to help a man at the expense of her own family.

Chapter 15

Humanity 4: A waitress at a roadside restaurant sells a loaf of bread and some candy at a reduced price to a poor migrant father to feed his family. The two truck drivers in the restaurant witness her act of kindness and leave her giant tips. One act of kindness begets another.

Chapter 18

Humanity 5: When the Joads part from the Wilsons they offer them two dollars from their meager savings and a meal of pork and potatoes. Mr. Wilson refuses their charity but they leave the gift outside the Wilsons’ tent and leave.

Chapter 20

Humanity 6: Al offers to help Floyd fix his car and Ma after serving her own family members meager dinner portions she gives the leftovers to a group of hungry children.

Chapter 22

Humanity 7: The Wallaces, neighbors of the Joads at the government camp, offer to get Tom a job even though it will shorten the length of their own work. Thomas, their employer, warns them about a plot to start a riot in the government camp. This is the first and only humanitarian act to come from a non-migrant in the novel.

Humanity 8: Ezra Huston, the manager of the government camp, treats Ma like an equal. He is the only person in a position of authority to do so in the novel.

Chapter 24

Humanity 9: The entertainment committee averts pandemonium by identifying and removing three troublemakers from the dance floor at one of the government camp’s parties. Instead of punishing them they simply reprimand them and escort them out of the camp.

Chapter 26

Humanity 10: Ma goes to buy dinner at the ranch store with the money the family has made picking peaches during the day. She realizes that the prices at the store are higher than at other stores and that she cannot afford to get everything she needs for dinner. The cashier lends her ten cents to buy sugar for Tom’s coffee, and she comments that only the poor help the poor.

Chapter 30

Humanity 11: Mrs. Wainwright and Ma talk about helping each other out. Ma explains that her generosity used to extend to helping her family, but now she must help everyone in need.

Grapes of Wrath was a brilliant book. It is about working-class families in the depression era having their farmlands foreclosed. They take everything they own and move west because there is work in California. But when they get there the employers continue to reduce wages because there is so much demand for work.

And people strike but there are many more to take their places so the cycle is endless. The hire reduces wages then higher again at a higher wage once they have those people the reduce the wages on the new employees.

I think that Steinbeck was protesting the inequality of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ there is no protection for those in the working class and they must endure everything unjustly laid on their shoulders. In an ideal America, you could do honest days work for an honest wage. On a side note, things like this (which this book is about a fictional family it is accurate in its historical representation) are why Labor Unions began. So that the worker would have someone to protect themselves.

The Grapes of Wrath Writing Style. Journalistic, Stream-of-Consciousness, Detail-loving, Cinematic.

Steinbeck loves details, and he doesn’t deprive us of them as he describes the Joads’ daily lifestyle and routine. We know everything, from where Ma Joad keeps her letters, news clippings, and trinkets, to the exact part that is needed to fix Wilson’s touring car.

In fact, Steinbeck is so good at being precise that by the time we finish The Grapes of Wrath, we’ve earned our PhDs in the art of auto mechanic repair. His chapters that treat the Joad family are full of the lively, colorful dialogue that closely approximates the sound and rhythms of the Oklahoma speech patterns. We feel like we are right there, traveling alongside the Joads.

Steinbeck intersperses his chapters about the Joads with chapters that explore the life and times of the Dust Bowl through a broad, historical lens. These chapters tend to assume a stream-of-consciousness, as it depicts banks evicting tenant farmers, corrupt car salesmen selling broken-down cars for too much money, and even the very dust storms that ruin the land. In these instances, Steinbeck uses lots of repetition, making the language seem almost dreamlike and emphasizing the desperate times of the Dust Bowl era. Take a gander:

Listen to the motor. Listen to the wheels. Listen with your ears and with your hands on the steering wheel; listen with the palm of your hand on the gear-shift lever; listen with your feet on the floorboards. Listen to the pounding old jalopy with all your senses, for a change of tone, a variation of rhythm may mean – a week here? (12.6)

The repetition of “listen” creates a rhythmic quality, creates a sense of movement at this moment, and we get the sense that we are witnessing a kind of heightened reality. The narrator speaks in the second person, addressing a “you,” and, suddenly, we are among the Joads and the thousands of other families who have spent their savings on buying a used car. Steinbeck makes us feel like we are part of the story.

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