Analysis of the book “The Grapes of Wrath”


The Grapes of Wrath is an American novel authored by John Steinbeck in 1939. It was a prominent book that featured in many awards one of them being the Nobel Prize in 1962. It was set in the Great Depression and focuses on a low-income family that was forced to move out of Oklahoma due to economic hardships, bank foreclosures, agricultural industry, and drought among others. The Joads family experience some hardships that drive them out of their home. The author mainly strives to elucidate on life during the Great Depression. As such, this paper will seek to provide an in-depth analysis of the book and all elements entailed in it. While analyzing the novel, it is vital to comprehend the plot.

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Plot Summary

After being released from prison, Tom Joad returns home only to find that his family had migrated to California in search of better lives. Their journey to California was compounded by various challenges including Grandpa Joad’s death. Though California was viewed to be the suitable place, many people flooded the place to the extent that jobs were scarce. The Joad family faced numerous challenges and consequently breaks down. Noah who is the eldest son and Connie abandon their family to pursue their own agendas. The hostility is also propelled by the landowners who want to keep the migrants poor and dependent. The challenges encountered by the Joad family is a typical representation of the Great Depression period.

Analysis of the Novel

The Grapes of Wrath utilizes various interesting mechanisms to relay its central message as well as develop emotion in the story. The narrator constantly intersperses the main story with trivial narratives that illustrate the condition during this period. Some of the intervals are utilized to foreshadow or create a particular mood. For instance, chapter three is primarily dedicated to a land turtle. It struggles to cross the highway and is almost killed by a truck. Even with the numerous challenges, the turtle struggles on (Loncar mirjana 320).

The novel uses poetic and stylized language to dwell on the historical, social, and economic aspects that mandated the great migration. Steinbeck’s first portrayal of the land is virtually scriptural in its grandeur, repetition, and simplicity: “The surface of the earth crusted, a thin hard crust, and as the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red country and white in the gray country.” The parts focused on Joad’s family are quite realistic. The author demonstrates his naturalistic and rich narration (Loncar mirjana 322).

Steinbeck devotes chapter one and three of this novel to the historical exemplification of the Dust Bowl disaster. Chapter one depicts the situation compounding the Oklahoma farms as they weaken and die. On the other hand, chapter three represents the farmer’s challenges in the turtle, which struggles to cross the road. The two chapters depict the world in a dark manner. They represent the world full of barriers that make life hard and dangerous. Just like the turtle marches across the highway, the Joad family would be forced to fight malicious forces including industry, drought, fear, and human jealousy that strives to upend it (Loncar mirjana 324).

The author also utilizes an exciting method in chapter seven that portrays a salesperson selling his old wrecks to the anxious migrants. The short and meaningful phrases are utilized to capture the car dealer’s urgency to sell his broken jalopies and the migrant to purchase a vehicle that will carry them to California. The excerpt “Used Cars. Good Used Cars” is repeatedly used in this passage. It has two important functions. One, the phrase ties the whole passage together under a common theme. Furthermore, although the continuous harping of the term is almost sarcastic irony, it exposes the used vehicle dealer’s deceitful scheme to exploit the desperate migrants. The writer also tends to utilize repetition in many instances within The Grapes of Wrath. For example, he starts chapter 12 with an explanation of Route 66, the “main migrant path.” He then shifts to a continuous informal flow from the migrants’ perspectives. The group was arguing on what to anticipate in California. They also seemed worried by their vehicle i.e. whether it will reach California before it breaks down. In the meantime, a kid in the back seat continues to complain about thirstiness. Steinbeck promptly interrupts his depiction of the trip four times with the sentiment, “Danny wants a cup of water.” He continually repeats the statement to create the impact of the kid’s complaints. The child seems to complain to the reader who cannot assist just like the fictional parents. It is an exciting literary device that is utilized to deliver a particular message (Loncar mirjana 325).

All through the novel, Steinbeck attempts to display that good still occurs among evil. This can be typified by one of the most moving scenes, where Rosasharn breastfeeds a dying man. Despite her losses, she strived to assist another being in surviving and avoiding death. The characters represented in this novel can be divided into two i.e. those who are willing to help themselves and others, while the other group strives to help themselves without consideration of other individuals. Such characters are evident even in the current society, where one group values individualism while others prefer communalism. For instance, the greedy crop growers and bank owners exploit the migrants. The author tries to implore people to work in harmony in order to offset adverse circumstances like evil (Loncar mirjana 321).

Steinbeck utilizes chapter 19 to communicate his Socialistic notions to the readers. He amenably supports the Marxist popular revolt in reaction to the unreasonable economic situations that he blamed on capitalism. Ultimately, some of the casts in The Grapes of Wrath realized that they were in pursuit of a dream. The Joads were experiencing a problematic period. It can be concluded that when taking the family to an unknown destination, they are bound to face numerous challenges. This is typified by the Joad family who undergo various challenges. The Joads opted to trade the hope of an unachievable dream for the existing reality of life. For instance, Connie decides to abandon the family and pursue his own opportunities in the city. However, he realized that going after the American Dream was impossible and decided to leave his wife and child due to the actualities of financial insecurity. Though the Joad family continued to pursue the American Dream, they did not find occupations that matched their hope of a frugal lifestyle (Loncar mirjana 329).

In conclusion, Steinbeck knew the significance of his readers understanding the general social communication entailed in The Grapes of Wrath. The challenges experienced by these wandering families were unfair. They were oppressed by powerful forces in the social issues of extensive scale. Perhaps, he thought readers would not understand this impersonal point unless they sympathized with a particular family. Nonetheless, the author did not want to perceive the challenges faced by the Joad family as isolated cases for a certain family. Utilization of the intercalary chapters offers balance, permitting Steinbeck to identify the definitive creative goal i.e. weaving together precise societal facts and poetic rudiments to generate a peculiar tale, which articulates universal truths about the human situation. In general, by writing this novel, Steinbeck creates a touching and well-articulated art. It is very descriptive with interesting techniques giving the novel a unique feel. Nevertheless, a reader must always comprehend that Steinbeck’s main aim was to relay his socialist standpoint.


Works Cited

Loncar mirjana, and Аndrejevic. “Theme and Symbolism in Steinbeck’s The Grapes o Wrath.” (2012): 311-330.