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The Grapes of Wrath

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 live under.The novel tells of one families
migration west to California through the great economic depression of
the 1930’s. The Joad family had to abandon their home and their
livelihoods. They had to uproot and set adrift because tractors were
rapidly industrializing their farms. 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. How they survive
the cruelty of the land owners that take advantage of them, their
poverty and willingness to work.
The Grapes of Wrath combines Steinbeck adoration of the land, his
simple hatred of 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 sevestronger, uprooting the
weakened corn, and the air became so filled with dust that the stars
were not visible at night. (Chp 1)
As the chapter continues a turtle, which appears and reappears several
times early in the novel, can be seen to stand 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 farmer migrants (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 the
little guy. Everything the turtle encounters trys its best to stop the
turtle from making its westerly journey. Steadily the turtle advances
on, ironically to the southwest, the direction of the mirgration 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. (Chp 1)The driver of the truckow 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 family struggles against the
Bank and large companies.

The rains that comes at the end of the novel symbolize several things.
Rain in which 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 give 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.
The Joads try to stop the flood of their home by yet again are forced
back when nature drops a tree causing a flood of water to ruin their
home forcing them to move. In opposite way rain can 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 both extremes bad or good depending on his choosing.

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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 picture 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 people (migrants) as they make
there journey through the novel to the West.


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