StudyBoss » The Grapes of Wrath a novel by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath a novel by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath is a novel by John Steinbeck that exposes the desperate conditions under which the migratory farming families of America during the 1930’s lived, through a personal approach and heavy symbolism. The novel tells of one family’s migration west to California through the great economic depression of the 1930’s. The bank took possession of their land because the owners could not pay off their loan. The novel shows how the Joad family deals with moving to California, and how they survive the cruelty of the landowners that took advantage of them, their poverty, and willingness to work.

The Grapes of Wrath combines Steinbecks adoration of the land, his passionate hatred for corruption; resulting from materialism (money), and his abiding faith in the common people to overcome the hostile environment. As it opens with a retaining picture of nature on rampage, the novel shows the men and women that are unbroken by nature. The theme is that of a man verses a hostile environment. His body may be destroyed, but his spirit is not broken. The method used to develop the theme of the novel is through the use of symbolism.

There are several uses of symbols in the novel from the turtle at the eginning to the rain at the end. As each symbol is presented, examples of the good and the bad things that exist within the novel are shown. The opening chapter paints a vivid picture of the situation facing the drought-stricken farmers of Oklahoma. Dust is described as covering everything, smothering the life out of anything that wants to grow. The dust is symbolic of the erosion of the lives of the people. The dust is synonymous with “deadness”, as Steinbeck puts it..

The land is a ruined way of life (farming), people Kearney 2 uprooted and forced to leave. Secondly, the dust stands for profiteering banks in the background that squeeze the life out the land as the people are actually forced from their land. The soil, or the people (farmers), have been drained of life and are exploited: The last rain fell on the red and gray country of Oklahoma in early May. The weeds became dark green to protect themselves from the sun’s unyielding rays. The wind grew stronger, uprooting the weakened corn, and the air became so filled with dust that the stars were not visible at night.

The book continues with a turtle, which appears and reappears several times arly on in the novel and which can be seen as standing for survival, a driving life force in all of mankind that cannot be conquered by nature or man. The turtle represents a hope that the trip to the west is survivable and accomplishable by the Joad family. The turtle further represents the migrants struggles against both nature and man by overcoming all obstacles he encounters: the red ant in his path, being captured in Tom Joad’s jacket, and lastly, as a light truck approached nearer and nearer, the driver saw the turtle and swerved to hit it.

The driver of the truck works for a large company, who try to stop the migrants rom going west. As the driver attempts to hit the turtle, it is yet another example of the large and powerful trying to extinguish or kill the small and weak. Steadily the turtle advances on, ironically to the southwest, the direction of the migration of people. The turtle is described as being lasting, ancient, old and wise: horny head, yellowed toenails, indestructible high dome of a shell, humorous old eyes.

The driver of the truck, red ant, and Tom Joad’s jacket are all symbolic of nature and man trying to stop the turtle from continuing his journey westward to the promise land. The turtle helps to develop the theme by showing its struggle against life, comparing it to the Joad struggle against man. The grapes seem to symbolize both copiousness and bitterness. Grandpa, the oldest member of the Joad family, talks of the grapes as symbols of plenty; all his descriptions of what he is going to do with the grapes in California suggest contentment, freedom, the goal for which the Joad family strive for.

The grapes that are talked about by Grandpa help to elaborate the theme by showing that no matter how nice everything seems in California, the truth is that their beauty is only kin deep, in their souls they are rotten. The willow tree that is located on the Joad’s farm represents the Joad family. The willow is described as being unmovable and never bending to the wind or dust. The Joad family does not want to move, they prefer to stay on the land they grew up on, much the same as the willow does. The willow contributes to the theme by showing the unwillingness of the people to be removed from their land by the banks.

The latter represents the force making them leave their homes. Both of these symbols help contribute to the theme by showing a struggle between each other. The rains that come at the conclusion of the novel symbolize several things. Rain in that it is excessive, in a certain way fulfills a cycle of the dust which is also excessive. In a way nature has restored a balance and has initiated a new growth cycle. This ties in with other examples of the rebirth idea in the ending, much in the way the Joad family will grow again.

The rain contributes to the theme by showing the cycle of nature that gives a conclusion to the novel by showing that life is a pattern of birth and death. The rain is another example of nature against man, the rain comes and floods the living uarters of the Joads. In opposite ways rain can be helpful to give life to plants that need Kearney 4 it to live. Depending on which extreme the rain is in, it can be harmful or helpful. This is true for man, man can become either extremes bad or good depending on his personal choices.

Steinbeck wrote this book for one reason; to make the plight and difficulties of the migrant workers known to all of America. He accomplished this by telling the story from the viewpoint of a particular family, rather then the migrant workers as a whole. Steinbeck showed what these people went through from their eviction from their home, o their eventually self-destruction and failure as a family. Once the appropriate focus on the Joad’s had been reached, it was then possible for Steinbeck to tie it all together by bringing the entire situation into view.

This was possible through the demonstration of the workers establishing a common ground with each other. Once the strength of the inner family had been established, a family of families could be constructed. It showed just what the life of a migrant worker was all about, the establishing of a common ground within one another. The migrant workers were a group of people who were looking out for each other and willing to work together, as survival during these periods proved tough and could not be accomplished without teamwork.

This is simply why the migrant workers found ways to successfully govern themselves throughout their tent cities which is why they looked to establish a common ground. Times were tough, and that constant harassment of police organizations only worsened the situation. It was clearly evident that the Joad’s like any of the migrant workers, were looking out for one other, and would do anything if one was Kearney 5 in need, and nothing exemplifies this ideal more then the closing scene of the novel.

Rose, surrounded by a family overshadowed by personal loss, lack of income and food, and in a period of emotionally and mental death, gives life to a dying stranger regardless of who he was, or where he came from. This is what true life to the migrant workers was all about, and this is what they had demonstrated time and time again. As each symbol is presented chronologically through the novel, they come together at the end to paint a clear picture of the conditions, treatment and feelings the Joads’ as they make there journey through the novel to the West.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of our country or of the Great Depression. It was quite a lengthy novel, but you could feel the story because Steinbeck was writing about his own time period, not his ancestors nor his children, but something he actually had lived through. The book stirs emotion from deep within. The powerfully thick description allowed me to picture the book in my mind’s eye. Overall it was a novel, worthy of the Pulitzer Prize it won.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Leave a Comment

StudyBoss » The Grapes of Wrath a novel by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath a novel by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath is a novel by John Steinbeck that exposes the desperate conditions under which the migratory farm families of America during the 1930’s lived. The novel tells of one family’s migration west to California through the great economic depression of the 1930’s. The bank took possession of their land because the owners could not pay off their loan. The novel shows how the Joad family deals with moving to California, and how they survive the cruelty of the landowners that took advantage of them, their poverty, and willingness to work.

The Grapes of Wrath combines Steinbeck adoration of the land, his simple hatred f corruption; resulting from materialism (money), and his abiding faith in the common people to overcome the hostile environment. The novel opens with a retaining picture of nature on rampage. The novel shows the men and women that are unbroken by nature. The theme is one of man verses a hostile environment. His body destroyed but his spirit is not broken. The method used to develop the theme of the novel is through the use of symbolism.

There are several uses of symbols in the novel from the turtle at the beginning to the rain at the end. As each symbol is presented through the novel they show examples of the good and he bad things that exist within the novel. The opening chapter paints a vivid picture of the situation facing the drought-stricken farmers of Oklahoma. Dust is described as covering everything, smothering the life out of anything that wants to grow. The dust is symbolic of the erosion of the lives of the people. The dust is synonymous with “deadness”.

The land is a ruined way of life (farming), people uprooted and forced to leave. Secondly, the dust stands for profiteering banks in the background that squeeze the life out the land by forcing the people off the land. The soil, the people (farmers), have been drained of life and are exploited: The last rain fell on the red and gray country of Oklahoma in early May. The weeds became a dark green to protect themselves from the sun’s unyielding rays… The wind grew stronger, uprooting the weakened corn, and the air became so filled with dust that the stars were not visible at night.

As the book continues a turtle, which appears and reappears several times early in the novel, can be seen as standing for survival, a driving life force in all of mankind that cannot be beaten by nature or man. The turtle represents a hope that the trip to the west is survivable by the Joad family. The turtle further represents the migrants struggles against nature/man by overcoming every obstacle he encounters: the red ant in his path, the truck driver who tries to run over him, being captured in Tom Joad’s jacket: And now a light truck approached, and as it came near, the driver saw the turtle and swerved to hit it.

The driver of the truck works for a large company, who try to stop the migrants from going west, when the driver attempts to hit the turtle it is another example of the big powerful guy trying to flatten or kill he little guy. Steadily the turtle advances on, ironically to the southwest, the direction of the migration of people. The turtle is described as being lasting, ancient, old and wise: horny head, yellowed toenails, indestructible high dome of a shell, humorous old eyes.

The driver of the truck, red ant, and Tom Joad’s jacket are all symbolic of nature and man trying to stop the turtle from continuing his journey westward to the promise land. The turtle helps to develop the theme by showing its struggle against life comparing it with the Joad struggle against man. The grapes seem to symbolize both bitterness and copiousness. Grandpa, the oldest member of the Joad family, talks of the grapes as symbols of plenty; all his descriptions of what he is going to do with the grapes in California suggest contentment, freedom, the goal for which the Joad family strive for.

The grapes that are talked about by Grandpa help to elaborate the theme by showing that no matter how nice everything seems in California, the truth is that their beauty is only skin deep, in their souls they are rotten. The willow tree that is located on the Joad’s farm represents the Joad family. The willow is described as being unmovable and never bending to the wind or dust. The Joad family does not want to move, they prefer to stay on the land they grew up on, much the same as the willow does.

The willow contributes to the theme by showing the unwillingness of the people to be removed from their land by the banks. The latter represents the force making them leave their homes. Both of these symbols help contribute to the theme by showing a struggle between each other. The tree struggles against nature in much the same way that the Joad amily struggles against the Bank and large companies. The rains that come at the end of the novel symbolize several things.

Rain in that is excessive, in a certain way fulfills a cycle of the dust which is also excessive- In a way nature has restored a balance and has initiated a new growth cycle. This ties in with other examples of the rebirth idea in the ending, much in the way the Joad family will grow again. The rain contributes to the theme by showing the cycle of nature that gives a conclusion to the novel by showing that life is a pattern of birth and death. The rain is another example of nature against man, the rain comes and floods the living quarters of the Joads.

In opposite ways rain can be helpful to give life to plants that need it to live. Depending on which extreme the rain is in, it can be harmful or helpful. This is true for man, man can become either extremes bad or good depending on his choosing. Throughout the novel there are several symbols used to develop the theme man verses a hostile environment. Each symbol used in the novel show examples of both extremes. Some represent man that struggles against the environment, others paint a clear icture of the feelings of the migrants.

As each symbol is presented chronologically through the novel, they come together at the end to paint a clear picture of the conditions, treatment and feelings the Joads’ as they make there journey through the novel to the West. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of our country and the Great Depression. It was a long novel, but you could feel the story because Steinbeck was writing about his own time period, not his ancestors or his children, but something he actually lived through.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Leave a Comment

StudyBoss » The Grapes of Wrath a novel by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath – a Novel by John Steinbeck

Young Goodman Brown Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne contains much symbolism. The symbols take many forms from the setting to the characters. The symbols can be viewed as just part of the story line, but upon further thought they represent many different things. Faith, Browns wife, is a symbol herself. When he says, My love and my Faith, he is using his wife as a symbol and is really referring to his love and faith in God. He goes on to say this one night I must tarry away from thee.

He means that he must part from his faith in God to carry on with his journey. He also says to the devil, Faith kept me back awhile and is making reference to a higher being that is trying to keep him from making his journey by delaying it. When Brown finds the pink ribbon that his wife was wearing lying in the forest he says, my Faith is gone and is referring to himself as losing his faith in God. Also, Goodman Browns errand symbolizes the Puritan voyage where they were to find the plan that God has set for them and let faith be their guidance.

As Goodman Brown continues his errand and thing begin to go array he grows weak and falls to the ground. He “begins to doubt whether there really was a Heaven above him” and this is a key point when Goodman Brown’s faith begins to wane. Goodman Brown in panic declares “With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil! ” This is similar to a Puritan putting his faith in God and following God Plan. The forest that Goodman Brown ventures to in itself is a symbol.

In the Puritan days the townspeople were barred from going into the forest because that is where evil lurked and even says, My father never went into the woodsnor his father before him. Hawthorne described the forest as a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest and even jokes of the evil lurking there when he says there may be a devilish Indian behind every tree and What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow! Hawthorne even uses the main character as a symbol. His name, Young Goodman Brown makes reference to him as being young and a good person.

Then Hawthorne gives him such a common last name that it relates him to any and everybody, just like he does in one of his other short stories, Everyman, when he uses this as a reference to all of society. Another symbol that is present in the story is the mysterious man in the forest. He symbolizes the devil or evil in the story and strangely bears a considerable resemblance to [Goodman Brown]. The Devil had with him a staff that “bore the likeness of a great black snake”. The staff, which looked like a snake, symbolizes the snake in the story of Adam and Eve.

The snake led Adam and Eve to their destruction by leading them to the Tree of Knowledge, just as Brown is being led to unfathomed knowledge by the devil, and in turn is being led to his destruction. Just like Adam and Eve, when Brown finds the fountain of all wicked arts his faith is exiled from him just as Adam and Eve were cast from the garden. The story as a whole symbolizes that the potential for evil resides in everybody. The rest of Browns life is destroyed because of his inability to face the truth of sin and live with it.

The story, which may have been a dream, and not a real life event, planted the seed of doubt in Brown’s mind, which him to lose his faith in his fellow man and leaves him alone and depressed. His life ends alone and miserable because he was never able to look at himself and realize that what he believed were everyone else’s faults were his as well, and this led to his isolation from the community. Brown was buried with “no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom. “

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Leave a Comment