John Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath, justifies its title within the tale. This novel is the description of a migrant farming family during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression of the 1930s. It is the all too typical event of a farm repossession ultimately leading to the need for the family to leave. The Joads, our main characters, are the people through which the story is conveyed. They have been fed false hopes toward the “Promised Land” of California, convincing them to make the journey even further west than their Oklahoma home.
The Grapes of Wrath is the description of this pilgrimage and the snags they face along the way. The Joads become extremely impoverished, and destitute, and the only hope for survival is the hold they have to each other. The book also includes many alternating intercalary chapters, to make the hardships seem more generic. These chapters generally describe life for migrant farmers and midwesterners of this time period. The title, The Grapes of Wrath holds high significance in the actual telling of the story.
It is representative of the ideals that these people held and the ultimate realization of their prevarication. Grapes, in this novel are very metaphorical. When the Joad family originally decides to make the long journey to California, Grampa sets a significant scene. “Know what Im a-gonna do? Im gonna pick me a wash tub full of grapes, an Im gonna set in em, and scrooge aroun, an let the juice run down my pants” (119). He describes what he will do when he gets there, which involves grapes. His description of this act is jovial and demonstrates the “Promised Land” aspect of California.
This is when the family is full of hope, and grapes are the symbol for their new and better life. Grapes, being a fruit, which is traditionally stately, represents rebirth and renewal. It also shows a higher social standing by making the implication that they will be able to enjoy such simple pleasures and most likely drink of the expensive wines of the California vineyards. At this point in the story, the grape is solely representative of all that is good, new and pure in their journey, and the hope that lies ahead.
Before their dreams are lost, this is their stronghold and what keeps them pressing on in their trip. Because of the destitute trip involved in getting to California, the “Wrath” aspect of the title is also accurate. This, however is different from the grapes. Wrath represents the actuality of the journey, not the dream, as the grapes do. Wrath, definitively means “Violent, resentful anger; rage; fury” (American Heritage 1477). This definition relates to the struggle in the story well. The grapes, which represent the dreams of the characters, end up being what hurts them the most.
They have endearing wills to carry on because of their hopes, which ultimately, because they end up apart, hurt, or desolate, is what has hurt them the most. Because of their need for success and the will to gain it, they will not give in to the fact that they have failed. Ma constantly attempts to keep the family together, even when it might be too late. “Familys falling apartI dont know. Seems like I cant think no more. I jus cant think. Theys too much” (278). Because it is their dreams (the grapes) that have scorned them with wrath (ultimate demise), the title, The Grapes of Wrath, is very fitting.
Although dreaming of the “Promised Land” can be helpful, because of the nature of this particular story, these dreams ended up hurting the Joads more than improving their livelihood. The Grapes of Wrath was titled very deliberately by John Steinbeck. The comparison and metaphor of the grapes with dreaming and promise make it accurate. The ultimate breaking of the family, and desperate measures they have to take very well represent the “Wrath” portion of the title. This title was well chosen, and very significant to the plot.