The Grapes of Wrath
The Theme of Finding Meaning Through Adversity in Black Boy by Richard Wright and the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
America: It’s Always Darkest before the Dawn’s Early Light
“Anything seemed possible, likely, feasible, because I wanted everything to be possible” (Wright 72). Richard, the protagonist in Richard Wright’s Black Boy, always thinks optimistically. Likewise, an air of faith and hope drives John Steinbeck’s Joad family through their problems on the way to California in his renowned novel titled The Grapes of Wrath. Both the Wrights and the Joads endeavor to find meaning through adversity while struggling to find economic stability, surviving, and searching for hope in a hopeless situation.
In both books, difficulty arises when attempting to obtain a consistent income. Because of this extended length of time without money, poverty devastates many lives. To temporarily escape the monster of destitution, Richard “decided to try to sell [his] dog Betsy and buy some food” (Wright 69). The fact that he was willing to sell “a man’s best friend” for only a dollar shows his desperation for cash. When the dog dies only a week later, Richard’s mother, unhappy that her son had passed up an opportunity to gain some money, reminds him, “You could have had a dollar. But you can’t eat a dead dog, can you?” (Wright 71). Richard is notorious among his friends for his inability to keep a job, as his friend Griggs tells him, “You’ve been trying to hold a job all summer, and you can’t” (Wright 183). Similarly, poverty affects the Joads, along with all migrants journeying west. They too are anxious, but any job opportunity has “five pairs of arms extended” (Steinbeck 238). The poverty found in California occurs simply because few jobs exist for the newcomers, “for wages went down and prices went up. The great owners were glad and they sent out more handbills” (Steinbeck 283). Because the wealthy farmers attract more potential workers than they can employ, the migrants face the possibilities of reduced wages or no work at all. In desperation, they turn to religion, as they “pray God some day kind people won’t all be poor. Pray God some day a kid can eat” (Steinbeck 239). In both the works of Steinbeck and Wright, characters are willing to take drastic measures to ensure the gain of land and money. Through the struggle required to meet these goals, they learn to be diligent workers that depend on each other in times of adversity.
The economic quest for jobs plays a key role in The Grapes of Wrath and Black Boy. As a young man Richard constantly searches for work, “[inquiring] among the students about jobs” (White 145). Along with food supply, work is one of the most common uncertainties in Richard’s life. Granny had already thrown out hints that it was time for me to be on my own. But what had I learned so far that would help me to make a living? Nothing” (Wright 164). Richard’s grandma slowly pushes him out of the house; however, he still does not grasp the concept of living as a black man in the south. Even when he obtains work, the southern whites place him in lose-lose situations: “If I had said: No, sir, Mr. Pease, I never called you Pease, I would by inference have been calling Reynolds a liar; and if I had said: Yes, sir, Mr. Pease, I called you Pease, I would have been pleading guilty to the worst insult that a Negro can offer…” (Wright 189). Likewise, the Joads focus solely on employment upon arriving in California because the family needs food. Luckily, Tom Joad meets people in a government camp the first morning, and they invite him to work with them: “We’re layin’ some pipe. ‘F you want to walk over with us, maybe we could get you on” (Steinbeck 291). When the Joads first arrive in California, they have “’Bout forty dollars” (Steinbeck 230). For this reason, they begin searching for work as soon as possible to replenish their funds. However, “the laboring people hated Okies because a hungry man must work, and if he must work…the wage payer automatically gives him less…and then no one can get more” (Steinbeck 233). The natives fear the migrants because they work for less money, as they are determined to buy food. Richard and the Joad family are like planets orbiting around the sun of job opportunities. Their unending search for work rewards them with vigilance, observance, and the poise to snatch a job at a moment’s notice.
Both Steinbeck and Wright place their characters in a harsh environment that requires grit and determination to survive. The Joads and the Wrights endure heartbreaking deaths and prolonged illnesses along their journeys. During a prayer, Richard hears his grandma state that her “poor old husband lies sick this beautiful morning” (Wright 138). Richard “[is] mortally afraid” of his grandfather (Wright 43), but he respectfully retracts his hostility as Grandpa mumbles his final words: “Rejoice, for God has picked out my s-s-e…in-in h-heaven…” (Wright 141). Also, Richard is forced to work harder for the family when his mother succumbs to a series of paralyzing strokes. This sudden gain of responsibility places Richard in a difficult predicament, which he describes as being “suddenly thrown emotionally upon my own” (Wright 86). Likewise, the Joads struggle through turmoil, as they lose two family members while fleeing from the ruins of their Oklahoma farm. Granpa Joad, a lively spirit, becomes sick soon after leaving his home. Casy believes that Granpa “died the minute [they] took ‘im off the place” because leaving detaches him from his land (Steinbeck 146). Soon, a “good, quick stroke” seizes his soul, and the Joads face the rest of the journey without the honorary head of the family (Steinbeck 138). Granma cannot handle the news of her husband’s passing, and she falls into a state of shock. She remains bedridden for the rest of the trip, and Mama reveals that “Granma’s dead” upon reaching California (Steinbeck 228). These two families avoid desperation, even when they seem to fall apart. Although the losses in these books are tragic, the mourning families learn to persevere.
Because poverty triggers frustration and anger within people, the characters in both Black Boy and The Grapes of Wrath fight to survive. In fact, Richard engages in combat to be accepted by his classmates at each school he attends. Any boy that bumped into him he “stood [his] ground” and “shoved him away violently” (Wright 91). While this is an ordinary schoolyard brawl, people are innocently killed in other situations. Richard’s Uncle Hoskins is “killed by whites who had long coveted his flourishing liquor business” (Wright 54). Correspondingly, the Joads are forced to deal with murder. Tom Joad keeps his record clean, as he cannot afford to return to prison: “I killed a guy. Seven years [in prison]. I’m sprung in four for keepin’ my nose clean” (Steinbeck 13). However, watching his friend Casy as “the heavy club crashed into the side of his head with a dull crunch of bone” made his blood boil (Steinbeck 386). Unable to resist the urge, he avenges the preacher, as “his crushing blow found the head” of the guilty police officer (Steinbeck 386). In both the cases of the Joads and the Wrights, difficulty equals ferocity, and ferocity equals bloodshed. These moments teach to keep a level head in times of trouble and despair.
In their darkest moments, the Wrights and the Joads look for faith in every nook and cranny, even when it seems lost. Some people take advantage of this by providing them with a false sense of hope and security. For example, when Richard’s bike gets a flat tire, white men offer him a ride, and he temporarily believes that tolerant whites exist in the south. However, when he relaxes and accidentally addresses a man casually, he feels “something hard and cold smash [him] between the eyes. It was an empty whisky bottle” (Wright 180-181). Richard eventually heads to the north, where African Americans appear to lead freer lives. “There lay a deep, emotional safety in knowing that the white girl who was now leaning carelessly against me was not thinking of me, had no deep, vague, irrational fright…” (Wright 270). While segregation rarely appears in the north, Richard finds that Negroes “must restrict [themselves]—when not engaged upon some task—to the basement corridors so that they would not mingle with white nurses, doctors, or visitors” (Wright 303). The search for hope theme in Black Boy reappears in The Grapes of Wrath. When sharecroppers are kicked off their land, they travel west, and car salesmen use a multitude of lies to make a profit: “Goin’ to California? Here’s jus’ what you need. Looks shot, but they’s thousan’s of miles in her” (Steinbeck 66). In fact, most of these jalopies break down well before reaching The Golden State. When the Joads prepare for their trek westward, “some fellas come through with han’bills—orange ones. Says they need lots a people out here to work the crops” (Steinbeck 245). However, Tom learns from a young man in Hooverville that “ever’ dam’ fam’ly seen them han’bills” (Steinbeck 245). Essentially, the farmers release handbills for more workers than they could possibly pay. In this way, they cheat the migrants, and the excess of workers allows the farmers to pay less. The Joads and the Wrights, two flustered families, fall victim to the manipulations of their opponents. These tribulations help them to avoid deception in the future.
The Wright and Joad families maintain a remarkable level of optimism, even after countless mishaps and misfortunes. As a young boy, Richard amuses himself with the fascination of superstition in times of trouble: “If I had a cold and tied a worn, dirty sock about my throat before I went to bed, the cold would be gone the next morning” (Wright 72). When he departs for the north, Richard suspects that it is too good to be true, “half expecting someone to call me back and tell me that it was all a dream” (Wright 257). Although he lies to his boss to make it appear that his behavior will remain the same, he “wanted to tell him that [he] was going north precisely to change…” (Wright 256). Similarly, the Joads sustain this positive mindset, even after being informed of the lack of work in California. Tom eradicates his mother’s worries about California by saying, “Don’t roust your faith bird-high an’ you won’t do no crawlin’ with the worms” (Steinbeck 91). Even after reaching Hooverville and being told that jobs are scarce, Tom is “jus’ gay as a toad in spring rain” (Steinbeck 249). The Joad family never fails to stay optimistic, even in their most depressing moments. After Granma’s death, they kept their focus, saying that they “got to find a place to stay. [They] got to get work an’ settle down” (Steinbeck 241). Both the Joads and the Wrights endure hazardous situations and disturbing deaths. However, both remain optimistic through these trials; therefore, they have a good mentality to assist them in overcoming difficulties.
The Joads and the Wrights become tougher and find meaning through adversity. Through their economic quest, survival, and reliance on faith, they live optimistically and are strengthened through their troubles. Both families recognize the challenge to be physically, mentally, and emotionally strong. “Goddamn it, a fella got to eat” (Steinbeck 344). These words from one of the troublemakers at the California government camp should have been Richard’s motto in Black Boy. Both the Wrights and the Joads traversed a treacherous path. However, by finding meaning through their adversity, they realize that anything is possible.
Rhetorical Analysis of Grapes of Wrath
Transitioning from one place to another can sometimes be a hassle. For example, if you are moving houses you have to pack the moving car and may forget to pack your bed the most essential item to most. Looking at the comparison between a book and a movie is a lot like from moving place to place. For example, Ford created the movie the Grapes of Wrath he forgot to add the beginning of the book that sets up the setting and environmental visual of the book. Next, everyone interprets everything differently like Ford rhetoric perspective of the book could be very different from the author of the book John Steinbeck rhetoric perspective. Personally I believe that the movie of Grapes of Wrath movie was better than the book because of the roles it showed between men and women and setting of the Dust Bowl. But one must analysis the following parts to make a final decision: the rhetorical significance of the novel, the similarities and differences between the novel and movie, and then the decision of the better of the two. First, one must view the rhetorical significance of the novel. The book demonstrated great significant value on family values.
Family values are the typical family of mom cooking and help feed and support family, grandparents providing wise and guidance, kids providing laughter and joy for the younger generation in all, and the dad supporting the family making sure nothing happens to the family and provide safety to all. This is exactly like how Steinbeck made the Joad family. The Joad family consists of Tom Joad the supportive but trouble seeker of the family, Ma Joad the caretaker and unifier of the family, Pa Joad the tenant farmer who is determined to find work and support the family, Grandpa Joad who has a deep connection the farm and is deeply sadden when the family has to move, Grandma Joad who has ever seeking aspirations to see California in it’s beautiful state, and finally Winfield Joad who is the young of the family and Ma Joad is consistently worrying about his wellbeing and growing up on a stable farm. For example Pa Joad exclaims “It’s a free country. In California they got high wages. ” ( CH 12).
This quote shows the sense of family value in the Joad family because Pa is usual supporting and having high hopes for the wellbeing of the family. Next, Steinbeck displays the role of men and women in the book very clearly and caring. First, Steinbeck creates Ma Joad as the ultimate caretaker of the family. By creating Ma this role Steinbeck takes the interpersonal relationship view of the Dust bowl to create her as women in the 1930’s. It gives the reader the knowledge and view how women acted in the 30. Also, he showed that the women’s role was to provide food, give mental support to the family, and care for all. But the mens role was very different. Steinbeck demonstrates the men’s role in Tom Joad. Tom is always looking to find a fair price for a home and safe place to live. He is always creating mischief to fight for his rights as a farmer and find a proper farming job to support the family. He consistently shows his support of the family throughout book. Lastly the most important rhetoric significance of the book is the way Steinbeck creates the setting. Steinbeck writes in Chapter 1, “The surface of the earth crusted, a thin hard crust, and the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red country and white in the grey country. ” (CH 1). Steinbeck illustrates the exact setting of the book word for word. He visually creates the picture of the farm land with the thin crust resembling the hot dry soil of the farm fields and the pink sky creating a beautiful picture of the sunset or rise of the farm life. Although the rhetorical significance of the novel is a key to make a decision of the better of the two, it’s essential to compare and contrast the similarities of differences of the movie to the novel.
First, there are a lot of similarities that both the novel and movie share. Both the movie and novel show the interpersonal relationship Jim the preacher and Tom Joad. Like displayed in the movie Jim and Tom meet under the big oak tree right after Tom is released McAlester State Penitentiary. This scene takes place in chapter 4 in the book and early on in the movie. This really shows the theme that time changes people and their views. Like how Jim used to be a preacher at Tom’s church when he was a little boy and now doesn’t believe in the religion concept. Also, both movie and novel illustrate Tom has a guy who just got out of jail and is determined to provide for himself and soon his family and look at the world a little differently after his years in the jail. Next, both movie and book do an excellent job of representing the farmers and their families struggling in these hard times. Chapter 9 of the book and scene 13 demonstrates the struggle of the families most clearly. Most of the farmers are forced to pawn most of their items because they simply need the money and don’t have enough room to travel with them. All the farmers have no other option but to accept brokers who pay outrageously low wages because they are focusing on the support of structure of their family. Then, there are some major differences between the novel and the book. The movie begins with scence 1 when tom is walking along side of the road glazing at the farm fields and this is very different from the beginning of the book where it sets up the setting. Having Tom walk along the road in the movie I think sets up the movie. It shows the audience the setting of the and the condition of the farm. It gives the audience the view of character value placed on Tom during the movie.
Also, by having Tom walk in at the beginning of the movie shows the importance of males in the farming life. Next, the book opens with Chapter1 describing the setting of the book and giving the audience a mental picture of where the story will take place and in the movie it does not show this at all. I believe chapter is very important to add in a story line. This chapter sets up the whole book for the audience. For example this quote from the book displays some of the setting, “ In the middle of that night the wind passed and left the land quiet. The dust-filled air muffled sound more completely then fog. ” (CH 1) This really encompasses the meaning of the land and the rough damage wind and dry soil can do to the family’s living conditions. Although the similarities and differences of the novel and movie are important the most essential part is which of these provide the greater effect on people. I believe the movie is better than the book. I think this because of the visual effect of the movie. I am a visual person so the movie connected with me. The movie showed great emotions of all the people. It was very clear the attitude of Ma Joad after scene 12 when grandma dies. Ma is fed up with everything and just wants a home for the family and wants everyone to be safe and happy. Next the movie really captures the audience with the setting. The setting really connected with me because it’s the base of every story. I thought Ford did an excellent job displaying the fields and showing how the wind overtook the land. Also, I like the dusty environment and the emphasize on the cars Ford showed. He showed the value of cars a lot in their society.
The cars were like the building blocks for their life. The Joad family would have never thrived without the car taking them to each farm looking for work and sustainable housing. Next, the I’ll be there speech in the movie delivered by Tom puts the message of the movie into play ( SC 23). He states he that he needs to leave to provide his family with safety. He says he will be there in spirit where ever the family travels. Finally, I feel that in rhetoric value that the movie was better than the book because it depicts the emotions of the characters, the basic needs of the setting of the story, the value of cars during the dustbowl, and finally the spirit and passion Tom displays for his family throughout the book. In conclusion, the movie is better than the book. I decided on this claim by reviewing the rhetorical analysis of the novel, similarities and differences of the novel and movie, and the rhetorical explanation of how the movie is better than the novel.
So, why watch the movie one may ask, simply because it best describes the effects of the dust bowl on farmers and the connection of these families at these hard times. Comparing a book and movie is key to looking effects and different viewpoints of people. This analysis and show us why something is said or why there is importance on a certain part of a scene. Finally, the analysis of the novel of Grapes of Wrath and the movie display the importance of character relationship, setting, and value of items in a society.
Challenges Of The Migrant Workers In The Grapes Of Wrath By John Steinbeck
The Dust Bowl era of the 1930’s caused a large group of migrant families to move westward to California because of the harsh conditions they faced at their previous residences. This move not only caused problems with the families but also with the individuals who were forced to face their own problems on their migration route. The book, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, depicts the personal struggles of the migrant worker through the characters of Tom, Casy, and Ma.
The character of Tom Joad has one of the more interesting backgrounds of the other characters which leads a greater change in his personality by the end of the book. As we begin the novel we are introduced to Tom and his self-centered personality. Tom claims that his four years in prison have taught him that you must seize the day because the future is not certain. However, by the end of the book, he trades this mentality in for a more future-focused idea. During his westward journey, Tom faces hostility and hardships that make prison look easy. Tom has to watch as both Grampa and Granma lose their lives, he has to watch his family starve and beg for work once they reach California, and many more things test his resolve. These challenges convert Tom to Jim Casy’s teachings of how one person cannot change the world, you need a family. This change saves Tom from turning into the many selfish migrants they have met who would gladly take a piece of bread even if it meant taking it from another family. In conclusion, Tom’s biggest struggle was learning that if his family were to survive the would have to focus more on the future, unfortunately, it took him the death of two family members to figure this out.
The next character of Jim Casy is a quite intriguing character for the reason that he seems to assume the role of Jesus Christ, of whom he shares his initials with. Jim Casy suggests, “…Maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe that’s the Holy Sperit – the human sperit – the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.” This is quite an interesting comment coming from a former preacher considering he is suggesting there is no real god. Casy’s main struggle was not really his problem, however, he made it his problem, which was all the suffering migrant workers. On the trip west, Jim Casy took note of not only the struggles his family faced, but of all the migrant families. He wants more than anything to end this suffering but doesn’t know how to use his talents as a speaker and spiritual healer to help at the beginning of the trip. By the end of the trip however, Casy is so dedicated to saving the suffering laborers that he is willing to risk his life for what he believes in and begins using his skills to organize the migrant workers. All in all, Jim Casy is extremely important in The Grapes of Wrath because he is able to help out not only himself in overcoming struggles but also Tom and other migrant workers.
Another important character is Ma Joad who emerges as the family’s glue that holds them together throughout the book as Pa Joad begins to become less of a leader. Ma holds not only her own personal struggles but the whole familys, Regardless of this Ma faces every challenge unflinchingly and continues to hold herself together regardless of the pain she might be going through inside. Perhaps one of the best examples of just how strong Ma is emotionally is after her mother, Granma, has just died and she rides silently grieving, but never showing her troubles to her family because she knows they must finish their journey. Both her mother and her father die on the family’s journey to California which is perhaps why Ma is so determined to keep the rest of the family together. Ultimately, Ma was like Casy in the sense that they carried more than just their own problems, however, they were different because Ma also faced the challenge of keeping together her family and she did so to the surprise of the reader.
In conclusion, there were many different challenges that the migrant workers had to face and author, John Steinbeck did an incredible job in displaying some of these struggles through the characters of Tom, Casy, and Ma. At the time of its writing, The Grapes of Wrath would have been a great depictor of struggles faced by the former migrant workers that would be reading it.
Characters Of Jim Casy And Tom Joad In John Steinbeck’s The Grapes Of Wrath
John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath follows a poor family of Oklahoma tenant farmers, the Joads, who migrate to California to pursue a better future. The novel’s protagonist, Tom Joad, is shown to be a man who likes to keep himself anchored to the present. He avoids thinking about anything that has no immediate effect upon himself or his family. But Tom’s early characterization clashes with the person he becomes by the end of the novel. Tom develops into a social activist, ready to fight for the rights of the wandering laborers in California. This change is brought about by his interactions with one of the other major characters in the story, Jim Casy. And it is largely Casy’s death that causes Tom to rise above the boundaries he had first set for himself. Tom eventually follows in Casy’s footsteps by becoming a social activist. Jim Casy’s character and death are important to understand the development of Tom Joad.
Tom Joad undergoes a significant transformation over the course of the novel. Early on the reader learns that Tom spent four years in jail for homicide. Released on parole, he hitchhikes home to his family. Tom unashamedly tells the man he rides with what he had done: “Means I killed a guy. Seven years. I’m sprung in four for keepin’ my nose clean”. Tom also meets Jim Casy, a former preacher, during his journey homewards. When his past is brought up in conversation with Casy, Tom speaks of the crime he committed very similarly to the way he had described it to the driver he hitchhiked with. “I’d do what I done — again. . . I killed a guy in a fight. We was drunk at a dance. He got a knife in me, an’ I killed him with a shovel that was layin’ there”. Tom’s lack of remorse is justified in that it was self-defense. But it is his inability to be ashamed or reflective at all that is indicative of someone who lives only in the present. His desire to avoid looking too deeply into the past or future is shown in his response to a question of Casy’s concerning the number of jobs available in California: “How’d I know? I’m jus’ puttin’ one foot in front a the other. . . This here little piece of iron an’ babbitt. See it? Ya see it? Well, that the only goddamn thing in the world I got on my mind”. Tom later breaks his parole to travel west with his family. This action also shows his disregard for any future consequences.
Jim Casy is the reverse of Tom Joad’s initial characterization. While Tom concerns himself only with the now, Casy constantly looks towards the future, often puzzling over the state of humanity and divinity. Casy’s overall thoughtfulness is illustrated well by a theological theory of his: “Maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe that’s the Holy Sperit — the human sperit — the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of”. But his tendency for future thought is not what separates him from Tom. It is his moral character and selflessness that distinguishes him from any other person in the novel. When Tom gets into an altercation with a deputy, Casy takes the blame, telling an officer that he had “knocked out your man there”. This brief moment shows the difference between the men well. Tom, giving into a moment of passion, does not think of the consequences his possible arrest would have on his family or himself. Casy, on the other hand, realizes the gravity of the situation immediately. He understands Tom’s importance to his family: “Somebody got to take the blame. I got no kids. They’ll jus’ put me in jail, an’ I ain’t doin’ nothin’ but set aroun’”. Casy’s morality and concern for the future contrasts heavily with the early characterization of Tom Joad.
Tom Joad’s interactions with Jim Casy are vital in understanding his change as a character. Towards the beginning of the story, Tom is shown to care only for his family and the people in his immediate surroundings. But his way of thinking changes drastically by the end of the story. He sheds this day by day philosophy and gains a new sense of purpose: the betterment of the lives of the western migrants. Tom tells his mother that he’ll “be ever’where — wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there”.
This change was brought about by the teachings of Casy. Casy, during his time in jail, learns about the power of mobilization of popular support. With this realization, he begins to organize migrants workers for a wage protest. Tom later stumbles into Casy and his band of men, where he learns about Casy’s time in jail. “Well, one day they give us some beans that was sour. One fella started yellin’, an’ nothin’ happened. . . Then another fella yelled. . . By God! Then sompin happened! They come a-runnin’, and they give us some other stuff to eat”. After their brief conversation, the men spot flashlight beams, and two policemen approach them, recognizing Casy as the workers’ leader. Casy protests that the men “don’ know what you’re doin’. You’re helpin’ to starve kids”. In the middle of his protest, one of the policemen sinks a pick handle into Casy’s skull, killing him instantly. This moment serves as the catalyst for Tom’s change from content bystander to activist.
After Casy is attacked, Tom retaliates and kills one of the policeman. The killing of a police officer, although immoral, is still a far cry from the drunken murder that had landed him in prison four years earlier. Here, by standing up for the rights of the western migrants, he begins to fight for a cause far greater than just himself or his family. In effect, Tom is taking Casy’s place. Surely, his methods are different (he is far more confrontational and unpredictable), but he is now fighting for the same goal as Casy: equality for the suffering laborers. Tom even ascribes his change in character to Casy himself: “God, I’m talkin’ like Casy. Comes of thinkin’ about him so much. Seems like I can see him sometimes”. And when his mother asks him what he plans to do with himself, Tom replies that he will do “what Casy done”. At this point, Tom’s characterization has taken a complete 180. He is prepared to take Casy’s place and fight for better conditions, not only for his own family, but for all other migrant families in California.
In The Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad is introduced as a former convict who lives by a day-to-day philosophy, concerning himself only with the wellbeing of himself and his family. Tom’s character differs heavily from another major character in the novel: Jim Casy. Casy, unlike Tom, cannot help but speculate about the future. He often thinks about the conditions of the migrant laborers and eventually leads a wage protest. Casy serves as the impetus for Tom Joad’s major transformation, from that of a somewhat selfish family man to social activist. And Casy’s final moments, in particular, are important to understand the radical changes seen in Tom. His death leads Tom to kill a police officer. This brash act of violence, possibly born out of rage, finally shows Tom stand up for something bigger than himself. In the end, Tom picks up where Casy left off, ready to lead a life of public action.
The American Dream In The Grapes Of Wrath By John Steinbeck
In the novel ‘Grapes of Wrath’ Steinbeck attempts to depict the hard conditions in which ranchers like the Joads needed to endure during the Dust Bowl. All through the novel, he centers around the Joad family and their adventure to California. Steinbeck had blended aims that he is attempting to express, maybe his message in this novel is the way the confiscated families were treated through the voyage from Oklahoma to California was, or it could have been how the American dream was formed by the disastrous occasions that were occurring during this time. The tale represents what the American dream is assumed to be, and yet another thought of what the American dream ought to be is being created. The American dream changes concerning time; this is the reason there will never be a substantial thought of what the American dream is. In Steinbeck’s tale, he is attempting to characterize another meaning of the American dream, for a rancher during this time it could have been, possess land with a house in which their family could live in and have enough to eat. While this may appear nothing to us, they felt like that was as well as could be expected get.
The American dream created because there where numerous individuals at specific occasions that were in hopelessness. In the event that there would of never been wretchedness in this nation, at that point the American dream would of never existed, on the off chance that everybody is rich and has all that they need, at that point they don’t generally have any goals to have or move toward becoming something throughout everyday life. Steinbeck gives an itemized depiction of how weird was the wretchedness of the individuals living during the Dust Bowl. ‘The first light came, however, no day. In the dim sky, a red sun appeared. Men and ladies clustered in their homes, and they tied tissues over their noses when they went out and wore goggles to ensure their eyes’, this is the thing that the individuals during the residue bowl suffered and figured it would leave in two or three days; however, for their misfortune, it wouldn’t.
Some portion of the improvement of the American dream is the solidarity that American families had during this time. Everybody relied upon every other’s work. Generally, the dad was the leader of the family and was accountable for carry the nourishment to their home; the mother was responsible for dealing with the house just as instructing their youngsters. Steinbeck uses the characters dialect to express the Joad’s solidarity. ‘The family turned into a unit. Dad crouched on the ground, and Uncle John next to him. Dad was the leader of the family now’. Regardless of the misfortune the family stood joined together and could pick a pioneer to continue onward.
In ‘Grapes of Wrath,’ each character it could be said had dreams of their own, similar to Rose of Sharon which had her fantasies and sat idle yet wonder about what her fantasies would bring. She needed Connie to think about during the night and afterward work at an ice store, she additionally had dreams for her child, and she envisioned living a decent house isolated as a family. In any case, she honestly didn’t do anything and couldn’t accomplish her fantasies. She just as the remainder of the family were in a battle to enduring, so she had no other decision than to surrender her illusions. While a significant number of Americans have their concept of what the American dream is, few get the opportunity to see that fantasy work out as expected.
The vast majority of the portrayed occasions in the novel will, in general, demolish the opportunity at prevailing to live the American dream. Times for the families couldn’t be most exceedingly awful, Americans wherein an extraordinary discouragement which implied that the economy was downright awful, this signifies one reason for why Americans in this time lost expectation on the American dream. ‘Furthermore, cash that may have gone for wages went for gas, for weapons, for operators and spies, for boycotts, for boring. On the interstates, the individuals moved like ants and looked for work, for nourishment. What’s more, the resentment started to mature’. Something other than the cash, wood, and work the Joad’s are searching for equity, for humanity.
For the Joads the American dream implied for, than self-accomplishment, it intended to ensure their and other’s right since they needed to live in a nation that was secure for them and their family. ‘Any place they’s a battle so ravenous individuals can eat. I’ll be there. Any place they’s a cop beating’ up a person, I’ll be there I’ll stand out children chuckle when they’re eager n’ they know dinner’s ready’. This likewise demonstrates the solidarity of a person with its general public.
The American dream keeps a general public contained and going because then one accepts that on the off chance that I’m not flourishing, on the off chance that I’m not purchasing these things, at that point that implies that I may accomplish something incorrectly. The American dream for these individuals during this time was to a greater extent an asylum and motivation to continue onward and continue longing for what one accepts and needs, the American dream resembles a religion for the individual, he would have the fantasy in his mind for each choice that he makes, he would attempt to develop his life around this conviction. Steinbeck epic demonstrates this, the Joads with their fantasy about having a superior experience need to change their method for living, move from the spot they generally lived in, leave their loved ones to seek after their convictions.
The Grapes of Wrath as “A Piece of Documentary Propaganda in Functional Form”
Throughout The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck follows the journey of the Joads during the Great Recession, they were a fictional family who had fallen into poverty after losing their farm and had no choice but to become migrant workers. I believe Steinbeck takes a Marxist approach to writing this novel, creating a reaction against capitalism by using real life circumstances to depict this fictional account and stand up for how the ‘Okie’ people were treated. Steinbeck himself worked as a ranch worker and fruit picker before becoming a writer and he travelled through California to collect information by talking to migrants, gaining a real sense of what they faced when leaving their homes in the 1930s, therefore his life experiences help to make this novel as accurate and realistic as possible.
Steinbeck adds an element of foreshadowing to his novel through his use of interweaving chapters. In chapter three he focuses on the story of a turtle who is struggling to cross the highway, barely surviving after a truck hits it and sends it back off the road, but it survives and tries again. In the following chapter Tom Joad finds this turtle and brings it home, hoping to surprise his brother and keep it as pet and when he meets Jim Casy the turtle tries to escape multiple times, but never fully manages it. Eventually when Tom returns to his family home to find it empty, he gives up and sets the turtle free, only for it to be attacked by one of the cats but again it survives by hiding in its shell until the cat leaves, before starting off on its journey once again. Lisca believes, ‘the indomitable life force that drives the turtle, drives the Joads’; the turtle is symbolic throughout as it faces much opposition yet shows determination to overcome it’s struggles, refusing to give up, much like the Joads family and in the end they both survive. Through the use of this symbol we as readers articulate sympathy for this poor turtle along its difficult and testing journey therefore Steinbeck foreshadows this sympathy that he wants us to have towards the Joads in their journey to battle against capitalism.
Steinbeck opens a scene in the novel by depicting a farmer who is standing next to a broken down home describing how ‘the Bank… or the Company… needs… wants… insists… must have… as though the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensared them’ in order to portray the Bank and big companies as evil and out to get land tenants and farmers. This is significant as many big land owners and corporations at the time evicted their tenants simply because they were of no use to them anymore and were non profitable, and Steinbeck wanted to emphasise how wrong this is and of what cost it comes to these tenants. The government created a new policy with the intention of increasing the price of cotton and it began to offer grants to land owners who would decrease the amount land on which they were farming on, this money was supposed to go towards helping tenants, but instead many land owners were using it for their own personal use, for example buying new tractors. This was the making of poverty for small farm owners and tenant farmers, leaving them with no choice but to leave their home land and migrate into California. Therefore, from the outset, Steinbeck makes readers aware that the problem stems from capitalism in big companies and banks whom the Okies fall victim to.
The Joads were one of the families who fell victim to the new government policy as they were forced to leave their home and begin their trip to California to start a new life after the drought left them unable to keep their land. Steinbeck highlights the effects that this had on them. The Joads had no choice in leaving as we learn from this dialogue:
‘You got to get off. It ain’t my fault’
‘Whose fault is it? I’ll go an’ I’ll nut the fellow.’
‘It’s the Shawnee Lan’ an’ Cattle Company. I jus’ got orders.’
‘Who’s the Shawnee Lan’ an’ Cattle Company?’
‘It ain’t nobody. It’s a company.’
Steinbeck is emphasising how unfair it is that the Joads had no choice and alike many others, they lived at the mercy of large companies such as the ‘Shawnee Lan’ an’ Cattle Company’and could do nothing about it, they had no one to defend them and had to simply do as they were told, even at the cost of uprooting their whole family home and livelihood. He is highlighting that these capitalist companies don’t care about the repercussions for small farmers, they only care about making more money and so their treatment of families like the Joads is wrong and inhumane.
In many situations, there is no one for people like the Joads to discuss matters with in order to possibly come to some sort of arrangement, they are simply told what to do and left with no other option. In chapter five when the tractor comes to clear the land the tenant threatens the worker driving the tractor with a gun, to which he responds, ‘I’ll lose my job if I don’t do it… suppose you kill me? They’ll just hang you, but long before you’re hung there’ll be another guy on the tractor’, the tenant questions, ‘Who gave you the orders? I’ll go after him’, and the worker tells him ‘He got his orders from the Bank.’ Steinbeck is portraying the Bank as the monster and the one to blame for this man’s misfortune as the worker is simply following their orders, the bank does not care about neither the tenant or the worker as long as the land is cleared and made profitable. The tenant says, ‘it’s not like lightening or earthquakes’, he knows it’s caused by humans who should have rationale and the ability to stop this, but he is unable to find anyone to actually talk to. Steinbeck alludes to the capitalists here, who even go as far to dehumanise not only the Okies, but their workers in order to get their dirty work done, and the novel as a whole is based around exposing these Banks and large companies.
Steinbeck showcases how the mentality of farmers and businesses of every man for himself caused a lot of issues in the lives of the migrants. For example, a small farmer only needed to have three workers and he had been paying them thirty cents an hour, but at the Farmer’s Association meeting he was confronted and threatened, ‘You’re paying thirty cents an hour. You’d better cut it down to twenty-five… If you pay thirty, it’ll only cause unrest. And by the way, you going to need the usual amount of crop loan next year.’ Steinbeck was emphasising that even when the migrant workers could get a job with someone who wanted to pay them fairly, that person was then threatened and manipulated by those more powerful than him. The farmer realises the injustice of what is happening to these people but cannot do anything about it without making a negative impact on his own life. After the three men, including Tom, agree to work for less pay he tells them, ‘I don’t know how you men can feed a family on what you get now.’ Steinbeck discusses how the treatment of Okies was even worse than the treatment of foreign immigrants years prior, ‘Okies did accept lower wages – wages that Mexicans, in fact, had refused.’ Steinbeck tackles the ongoing theme throughout of emphasising how wrong it is that capitalist corporations such as the Farmers Association leave people with no choice but to do what they want, or they themselves will be threatened, and in doing what they want they are often forced to give up their humanity.
In another bid to portray how unfairly the Okies are treated, Steinbeck describes how the Joad family take a job picking peaches, where they are given a dollar in credit for the company’s grocery store. When Ma goes to the shop, she realises that a dollar does not buy much at all and all together they only make a dollar fifty a day. They are unable to afford the food here and are not earning their own cash so they cannot go to another store to buy what they need. The shop clerk has no sympathy towards Ma, telling her ‘Hooper Ranches Incorporated’ own it and make the prices, not him. She asks him ‘Doin’ a dirty thing like this. Shames ya, don’t it?’ but he simply responds with, ‘a fella got to eat.’ Steinbeck is highlighting how unacceptable it is that capitalists are abusing the system by treating the Okies this way, and feeling no remorse towards any of their actions because they are only concerned with thriving themselves. He emphasises how capitalists dehumanise others after obtaining power and wealth.
If the small farmer or the shop clerk had refused to do as they were ordered which was to rob the Okies, they would have been subject to a counterblast. But Steinbeck wanted readers to realise that if all of these small farmers and shop clerks stood unanimously, and refused to do what was morally wrong, then change could be possible. Casy states in the first chapter, ‘It’s all part of the same thing. And some of the things folk do is nice, and some ain’t nice, but that’s as far as any man got a right to say’, highlighting that in the country’s current situation, only the rich and powerful such as Banks and large corporations can voice their opinions, and anyone else is threatened. Juxtaposing this, near the end of the novel Tom exclaims, ‘I been wonderin’ if all our folks got together an’ yelled.’ Shindo states that upon ending the novel, ‘the reader is left with very little resolution of the conflict’ but I believe Steinbeck’s aim was to encourage his readers to come together to force a change in attitudes towards the migrants and take a stand against capitalists. McElderry supports this view, stating that whilst writing the novel Steinbeck had ‘subconscious motivation- to express his basic faith in mankind, in the courage, the endurance and the kindliness of people like the Joads, and to show their passionate yearning for opportunity and for justice.’
Many Californian communities were furious at Steinbeck’s opinions in the book and it was banned in some counties for example Kern, I believe this was due to the embarrassment American’s felt after reading how accurately he portrayed their treatment of immigrants. Green states that the novel, ‘was a social document that outraged management groups such as the Associated Farmers of California’[footnoteRef:19] and Shockley reports that, ‘The Associated Farmers Group of Kern County described the book as ‘propaganda in its vilest form.’ Some argue that his portrayal was historically inaccurate and he exaggerated circumstances, but I do not support this view due to the extensive research Steinbeck carried out before writing the novel. Professor O.B Duncan, Head of Department of Sociology agrees, ‘I have been asked quite often if I could not dig up some statistics capable of refusing the story, it cannot be done, for all the available data prove beyond doubt that the general impression of Steinbeck’s book is substantially reliable.’ Therefore I believe that even though this novel is in fictional form, it captures life events for what they really were, and Steinbeck wanted his readers to tackle these events and go against capitalist corporations such as the Farmers Association, which is why it angered them so greatly.
In conclusion, I believe Steinbeck was revealing the true atrocity of the situation in which the immigrants were subject to due to capitalists within the country. His key concern was to expose how these capitalist companies exploited the Okies due to the new oversupply of labour workers, in order to make more profit in their businesses. Much of Steinbeck’s anger rooted from the treatment of Okies and how business owners, banks and land owners refused to acknowledge them as human, he states ‘these are American people’. But in his community they were only seen as a way to make more money, diseased or at fault for the tax increase, therefore a huge stigma surrounded the Okie people. I agree with Whicher’s statement, as I believe that propaganda is evident in the novel as Steinbeck wants to showcase how terrible things were, and to evoke his reader’s sympathy towards Okies, and their anger towards capitalist banks and companies. Through this novel he was driving for change, and attempting to drive his readers towards making this change.
The Grapes of Wrath Book Report
The Exposition of The Grapes of Wrath takes place in 1939 in Oklahoma when the dust bowl was occuring. It begins on the Joad family farm as they prepare to head to California before the conditions of the dust bowl get worse. The setting is very significant to the story because the dust bowl made it hard for people to live in Oklahoma. Page 17 states, “ Joad took a few steps, and the flourlike dust spurted up in front of his new yellow shoes, and the yellowness was disappearing under the gray dust. ” The dust bowl drove many people from Oklahoma to move out west, as conditions were not conducive to farming. Characterization: There are 3 main characters involved in the Grapes of Wrath. Ma Joad: Ma Joad is the matriarch of the family. She cooks dinner, tells the men what to do, does the laundry and goes shopping. She didn’t want the men to have anything to do with food preparation and threw a fit when the men tried to salt cure the pork. Ma is a very strong character as she kept the knowledge that grandma had passed before they made it to California. Ma frequently told the family what to do. When they were at Weedpatch government camp, she decided the family was going to go north towards Tulare to pick cotton. Ma is a very important character throughout the entire book.
Tom Joad: Tom Joad, known throughout the book as, “Joad,” started off the book as just paroling from 4 years in prison and is trying to make his way home. When he went over the hill to go the Joad farm, he saw that they were leaving. He decided to go up and surprise the family with a visit, and they told him they were going to California. He decided to go along and to avoid being caught again. Towards the end of the story, Joad was walking along the river and found a homeless encampment. In that encampment, he finds Jim Casy, the preacher in the novel. While Joad and Jim were talking, the property owner came with a pick-axe struck Jim Casy in the head and killed him. Joad went and told Ma that he had found Jim Casy, but now deceased, the police were looking for Joad for being suspected of the murder of Jim Casy. Joad went and hid in some blackberry bushes to stay hidden from the police. Pa Joad: Pa Joad is head of the family. He planned out the whole trip to move to California. As Pa got older, he tried his best to maintain his position of family leader, but he wasn’t able to do what he used to. He was complaining of “muddled” thoughts and had difficulty deciding in troubled situations, such as, whether to go north to Tulare or stay in Weedpatch camp. When they go north towards Tulare, they get a flat tire and a man tells them about work just ahead. When they leave Cooper farms to pick cotton, they hit a severe rainstorm and Pa shows his commitment to the family by building a dam to stop the river from overflowing.
Elements of plot: As this story starts off, we are introduced to Tom Joad. He is hitchhiking a ride with a delivery man to make his way home from prison and he finds that his family is packing up to move to California. They told Tom that they looked for work and couldn’t find any work, so they hoped California would have some work for them. After the long journey finally ended, they looked up from the top of a hill and looked down over the San Joaquin Valley and they were speechless because it was so beautiful. When they got work picking cotton in Tulare, Tom Joad witnessed Jim Casy be killed by the property owner and in turn, Tom kills one of the property owners assistant’s. Tom now has to hide because he became a wanted man by the law for the murder. Right at the end of the story, a huge rainstorm hits the cotton plantation and the Joad’s are forced to move, but the car was broken and wouldn’t start. The family choose to go to higher ground to stay away from the flooding river caused by the rain. They come across a vacant barn and they head inside. In the corner, there is an older man who was dying of starvation, and Ma forced Rose of Sharon to give the man some milk to save his life. He smiled mysteriously.
Reader’s Response: The part of, “The Grapes of Wrath,” that was most interesting to me was pages 165-185. On 165, their car engine started to rattle out in the middle of nowhere. I found this interesting because that car is their only way to California, and they need that car to make it there. Luckily, there was a junkyard just ahead. The man running the junkyard said take what you want because he disliked his boss and wanted revenge. They took the part, put it in their car, payed for it and then they were on their way again. This sparks my interest because they didn’t have a reliable car that will get them all the way to California, but they were so desperate to get to California. They risked going in the unreliable car. Theme: One major theme in The Grapes of Wrath is family and sticking together in times of desperation. I can relate to this theme because my family teams up and we get necessary tasks completed faster by helping each other. The Joad family is the same way in helping each other complete jobs. For example, trimming our bushes/trees is easier when everyone helps. Knowledge:
- Bemused(V): Puzzled, confused, or bewildered After a while, the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant.
- Insinuation(N): An unpleasant hint or suggestion of something bad. His voice had the same quality of secrecy and insinuation his eyes had
- Sparse(Adj): Thinly dispersed or scattered The willows of a stream lined across the west, and to the northwest a fallow section was going back to sparse brush.
- Beseech(V): Ask urgently and fervently to do something. He did not know or own or trust or beseech the land.
- Jalopy(N): An old car in a dilapidated condition. Get ‘em in a car. Start them at 200 and work down. They look good for one and a quarter. Get ‘em rolling. Get ‘em out in a jalopy.
The Injustices of the Dust Bowl Migration in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is about the social injustices that took place during the Dust Bowl migration in the western United States. It is composed of a third person view of a family, the Joads, who are kicked off their homestead and forced to travel to California in search of jobs, and inner chapters which are a general third person view of the hardship of homestead farmers during the time period. Steinbeck uses the inner chapters of the book to develop his political stance on the plight of the migrants. The story of the Joads is alone not enough to make the reader fully understand the extent of the misfortune and sorrow experienced by these migrants. The inner chapters help the reader understand the time period, and understand what is happening to the Joads, and what happened to thousands of other migrants during this time. Without these chapters, the book would not have as strong of a statement on the wrongdoings by Americans to other Americans during this time.
The story begins with the start of the dust bowl. Thick clouds of dust fill the skies, and the farmers tie handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths. At night, the dust blocks out the stars and creeps into the farmhouses. During the day the farmers have nothing to do but stare at their dying crops, wondering how their families will survive. The injustices to the farmers begins with the banks. Crops were withering and the farmers weren’t making the money they needed to pay the bank or company they took loans from. Men representing the banks come and explain to the farmers that they are being kicked out. The men blame the bank, saying it is “as though the bank or the company were a monster, with thought and feeling.” (page 31). The farmers are forced to leave and their labor is replaced with men who drive a tractor over the fields for three dollars a day. The families have no other choice than to travel west to California in search of jobs.
The next injustice Steinbeck reveals is from car salesmen. They exploit their desperation and sell the families whatever broken down vehicles they can find. The salesmen fill engines with sawdust to hide noisy transmissions and replace good batteries with cracked ones before they deliver the cars. Once the family has their car, they begin to sell their belongings. They have to get rid of everything before they make their journey. ” How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past? No. Leave it. Burn it.” (page 112). Their lives are sold away with their belongings as they began their new life.
Long lines of cars slowly crept down Highway 66, full of tenant farmers making their way to California. They find their next injustices along their journey. When the farmers stop to buy parts for their cars, salesmen try to cheat them. The farmers struggle to make it from service station to service station. At each stop they are met with hostility and suspicion. People claim that the country is not large enough to support everybody’s needs and suggesting that they go back to where they came from. People who live in the West do not understand what has happened in Oklahoma and the Midwest. So many migrant farmers were coming into the west. The citizens of the western states fear that the farmers will come together and stage a revolt.
The hostility directed toward the migrants changes them and brings them together. Little communities aries out of the masses of cars along the highway. The communities attempt to govern themselves with their own rules and means to enforce them. The lives of the farmers change drastically. “Thus they changed their social life – changed as in the whole universe only man can change. They were not farm men any more, but migrant men.” (page 250). The lifestyle of these people was flipped upside down and their world was totally different. As the migrant men were coming together, so were the locals of California. They formed armed bands to terrorize the migrants and keep them in their place.
During their search for work, the migrants were often paid low wages or cheated out of their wages through scams by the farm owners. Steinbeck describes the injustice done to the migrants by the cotton farm owners. The owners paid decent wages, but workers without cotton-picking sacks were forced to buy them on credit. There were so many workers that some were unable to do enough work even to pay for their sacks. Crooked owners rig the scale used to weigh the cotton sacks. Migrants who were only trying to feed their families are cheated out of the money they worked hard for by the wealthy landowners who have no aspirations in life other than to become more wealthy.
Steinbeck’s novel is a political statement on the treatment of migrants. His novel exposes the hardship faced by the migrants and the exploitation they face at every turn. From beginning to end, they are met with selfishness and greed. Steinbeck reveals the changes that had begun in America. Money was the new driving force for the lifestyle of every American. Getting it was what you spent your life achieving, and once you had it, you did whatever selfish thing needed to keep it, no matter who was hurt in the process. Although the story of the Joads sheds light on the topic, the inner chapters of the novel make the reader truly understand how unjust the world was for these families whose lives were uprooted and continually put through agony all in the name of becoming and staying wealthy.
Novel Review: The Grapes of Wrath
The unconventionally written intercalary chapters of Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath”, are designed to show the readers a view of economic depression and social aspects of America during this time period. Steinbeck tells the reader about the situation through a macroscopic point of view, when he writes the intercalary chapters. It is through these intercalary chapters that Steinbeck tells us about the struggle of many migrant farmers who are pushed out of their homes and start to live their lives on the road, while trying to find places for them to work. Between each of these intercalary chapters are narrative chapters where Steinbeck gives the readers a microscopic view of the situation, by giving us an example of one of the migrant family’s journey. Steinbeck uses the literary device of metaphor by narrating the Joad family’s journey to California, in comparison to the other migrant families in the intercalary chapters. Throughout the novel, there are a few of these chapters that help develop themes like re-birth, community, perserverance, etc, through key symbols, to support the narrative chapters.
In the third chapter of the book, the readers are introduced to a keen description of a turtle trying to cross the highway to get to the other side. What makes its journey so interesting is that the readers can see the experiences that the turtle faces, regarding two different vehicles. In one case, a forty year old woman in a sedan “saw the turtle and swung to the right, off the highway, the wheels screamed and a cloud of dust boiled up. The car skidded back onto the road, and went on, but more slowly. The turtle had jerked into its shell, but now it hurried on, for the highway was burning hot.” (p. 15) This shows that even though the the woman could have been in a hurry, she still took into account that she wanted to avoid harming the turtle. In another case, a light truck approached near the turtle, and the driver “swerved to hit it.” (p.15) Even after hitting the turtle, the driver did not care to turn back and see if the turtle was alright. The turtle is a symbol of these two contrasting events, and perserveres through difficult situations. It keeps on moving forward no matter what kind of obstacle confronts it. Looking at these two scenarios Steinbeck shows us that there are two kinds of people in this world. Those who get something done even if they end up harming others, and those who get something done by trying not to harm others. Throughout its travels, the turtle is host to an oat stick in its shell. The head then falls “out and three of the spearhead seeds stuck in the ground. And as the turtle crawled on down the embankment, its shell dragged dirt over the seeds.” (p. 16) Here, the oat stick is a symbol of a new life. The seeds that become stuck in the ground and covered with dirt represent re-birth, since all of these seeds will eventually produce more oat crops. Here, Steinbeck shows the reader that humanity will always undergo through a cycle of death and re-birth, regardless of the obstacles thrown at humans.
This chapter greatly complements a few narrative chapters within the novel, particularly chapters 20 and 28. In chapter 20, there is a scene where Ma Joad and Tom Joad are having a conversation in which Tom wants to move on to Weedpatch. Ma however does not wish to have this and instead tries to hold the family together. She tells Tom that they are “the people” (pg 280), and they can “go on” (pg 280). This shows that Ma is willing to perservere through various forms of hardships such as the cop telling them to go north, Hooverville being destroyed, etc. If the turtle was to represent one of the narrative characters, it would be Ma. Just like how the turtle carries the oat stick, Ma “carries” the family from place to place.
One good detail is that when the oat seeds from the oat stick fall out, they represent the seperation of the members of the Joad family throughout the novel. It is almost as if the fallen and dirt covered seeds are symbols of the seperated family members like Noah, the Wilsons, Tom, Rose of Sharon, Al, etc. Another example of how re-birth is shown is in chapter 28. There is a scene where ma tells Tom to go far away, and offers him seven dollars for his trip. However, Tom wants to spread Casy’s beliefs on spirituality among others. We see that Casy’s beliefs have finally reached Tom’s head, of which Tom undergoes an epiphany about religion, just like Casy. He wants to help unite people. Pages 418 of the novel states Tom’s sudden transformation, ever since he had been “thinkin’ about Casy…He spouted out some Scripture once, an’ it didn’ soun’ like no hell-fire Scripture. He tol’ it twicet, an’ [Tom] remeber[s] it. Says it’s from the Preacher.” (p. 418) This shows that Tom understood the importance behind casy’s preaching. From this, Tom sees the world in a whole different way. It’s as if he has been reborn as a whole new person. One can see how Reverend Jim Casy is a key symbol of the theme of re-birth in this novel. One can interpret that the turtle symbolizes the Joad family, and the oat stick symbolizes Casy’s philosophies. His beliefs are carried throughout the novel, and are left behind as teachings, just like how the oat stick leaves behind seeds. Knowing all of this, chapter three is like a figure head to the entire novel because it ties the migrants’ struggles, the Joad family’s journey, as well as Casy’s beliefs, to show that perserverance and re-birth are recurring themes within the novel.
Looking at the twenty third chapter of the book, Steinbeck shows the reader how the struggling migrants cope with their tough experiences and try to find ways to keep them entertained. In this case, the “migrant people, scuttling for work, scrabling to live, looked always for pleasure, dug for pleasure, manufactured pleasure, and they were hungry for amusement.” (p. 325) There is a common saying that one must have a balance in all aspects of their lives be it social, work related, or even academic. If a man “had a little money, [he] could get drunk.” (p. 327) This shows that earning money is already hard enough, meaning less quality time for the workers. Some others would take up musical instruments like the harmonica, and play songs while others danced to them and told stories around the campfire. Seeing how they tried to adjust a little time for entertainment really shows how hard they have been working in order to make money, so that they can enjoy entertainment with other migrant families as well. Once again, the migrants exhibit perseverance through hard work, as well as having a sense of caring for their community.
This ties into the consequent chapter. In chapter 24, the readers are introduced to the part of the novel where the Joad family is about to attend the dance party. Much like chapter 23, Steinbeck focuses on a microscopic view of how the migrant workers try to find ways to keep themselves occupied not only with work, but also entertainment. Their perseverance is shown the most when they unite with the other families to prevent a fight from happening. Doing so, they are able to show to us readers that they can cooperate with one another in order to organize a party like this. The sad part is that the ones who were trying to orchestrate this fight were unhappy with the unfolding series of events.
Grapes of Wrath: Family and Land Connection
Throughout the novel Grapes of Wrath, the author, John Steinbeck does an excellent job of portraying the struggles of life during the dust bowl. There were many reasons for these problems, including the stress of having to move a family from their homeland in search of work to sustain a successful way of life. These problems were very difficult to deal with for any family member, but it was especially serious for the parents and the elders of the family. The children were affected as well, but not as significantly as the parents. Arguably the most significant theme in the Grapes of Wrath, is the extreme struggles a family faced when leaving their family land and migrating to find work.
The struggles of the family are presented in the first chapter of Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck introduces the setting of the novel as taking place in the midwestern United States. The dictation throughout the first few chapters of the novel, uses gloomy phrases, and somber word choices that depict depressing images of the struggles faced during the dust bowl. These images are especially present when Steinbeck writes, “The people came out of their houses and smelled the hot stinging air…. ” This depiction of the polluted air and its effects on the people of this location, foreshadows the problems that are yet to come throughout the rest of the novel. It also connects the relationship between humans and nature. These relationships will be shown in every aspect of the rest of the book. The intense descriptions set the stage for the sad situations that many of the families in the dust bowl.
When the family decides to leave and head for California, it is extremely difficult for all members of the family. Pa Joad was arguably the most effected by the move to California. He had never been anywhere other than his family land, and the connection to the land, was extremely strong. Pa Joad had grown up on this patch of land since he was young. It was very difficult for him to pack up and leave for good. He raised six children on that land and grew up farming the same land. To expect him to leave everything that he has grown-up with and the life he has built, is a lot to ask a person to do. Before the family headed away to California, Pa was in a field staring at the land. This scene was one of the few times we see Pa express extreme emotion. This occurrence proves how important the land can be to someone. These struggles continue to culminate through the first few chapters of the novel. Just after the Joads leave their homeland, Grandpa dies and must be given the proper funeral. This was very difficult for the family, especially Pa, because grandparents are a large part of holding a family together. Later in the novel, when Grandma Joad Dies, some of the other family members had begun to venture off on their own, leaving the safety of a family. These two significant scenes in the novel mirror the idea that grandparents are essentially the glue of the family, and once the grandparents are gone, it is much harder to bring a family together for gatherings.
The connections between the humans and nature are shown evident throughout the novel. One of the key points this occurs in chapter 10 when Steinbeck writes, “And still the family stood about like dream walkers, their eyes focused panoramically, seeing no detail, but the whole dawn, the whole land, the whole texture of the country at once. ” (Page#) At this point in the novel, we have realized that the Joads are a family that is based heavily on details. It is significant that the family is taking the time to look at the full picture, because it shows that they are more relaxed and not in busy as one would assume a large family would have been during this time. They are taking the time to look at and enjoy the natural beauty of the world they are living in, despite the hardships of the dry arid farmland, and the thick polluted air. This shows the power and the shower of family has over all the negative aspects of life. The phrase family in today’s society is taken advantage of and does not have the strong bond that it has in the past. This can be related to the lessened amount of time that families spend together in society today.
There are other instances of how important family is throughout the novel as well. One of the most significant points of this importance take place in the 17th chapter of the novel. At this point in the novel, the Joad family is heading to California along Highway 66. They have become accustomed to the lifestyle of traveling long distances. The family is being forced to camp on the side of the road along with other families fleeting to California too. Steinbeck writes, “Each member of the family grew into his proper place, grew into his duties…. ”(195) This quote shows how reliant the family was on one another. No matter where the family were to stop for the night, each person in the family had a specific job they must complete. These times in history were heavily based on family support. If one member of the family failed to complete their task, the family would not have been a well-oiled machine.
By the end of the novel the family has become spread apart and was not as close knit as it had been in the past. Ma is one of the first to realize this as being true. In chapter 30, Ma tells the stout woman, “Use’ ta be the fambly was fust. It ain’t so now…. ” In this scene, Ma has reached the conclusion that her family had disbanded and was no longer together as they had been in the past. Right before Granma passes away, Noah Joad decides that he is going to leave the family because he did not feel loved by his mother and father. Once Granma passes and Tom awakens from his nap, he breaks the news to his mother that Noah has left the family. This was hard for her to accept because she and her family had always been together, and now that her children did not rely on her as heavily as they had in the past, she felt helpless and wanted to feel that feeling of being relied on again. To fill this void, she attempted to help Rose of Sharon with her child birth. Unfortunately, the child never took their first breath. This upset everyone involved. That baby was going to be a way of starting over for the Joads and to start fresh with their new life in California. This scene is a depressing depiction of how hard the times were during the dust bowl.