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The Grapes Of Wrath: Symbolism

Term Paper Title: The Grapes Of Wrath: Symbolism
Word Count: 1138
Page Count: 4.55 (250 words per page double spaced)

The Grapes of Wrath: Symbolism

February  28, 1997


     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 loans. 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's 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 s 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 begging to the rain at the end. As
each symbol is presented through the novel they show examples of the good and
the 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 ruined, way of life (farming) gone, people uprooted an forced to
leave. Secondly, the dust stands for profiteering banks in the background that
squeeze the life out of 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 county 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. (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.
The driver of the truck works for a large company, who tries 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 tries it's best to stop the turtle from
making its westerly journey. Steadily the turtle advances on, ironically to the
southwest, the direction of the migration of peopl...

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