The Importance of Chapter Twenty-Five

July 4, 2019 by Essay Writer

Chapter Twenty-Five is central to John Steinbeck¹s The Grapes of Wrath. Besides containing the title of the book, this chapter clearly, forcefully, and elegantly drives home Steinbeck¹s central message‹the injustice of life in the Depression-era American west. Without doubt one of Steinbeck¹s strongest attributes as a writer is the way he makes the reader feel his words. Chapter Twenty-Five is an excellent example of this technique. Through his overall structure, graphic appeal to the senses, and approachable, rhythmic sentences, Steinbeck allows the reader to experience chapter Twenty-Five, and in doing so gives the reader no choice but to connect with his theme.Steinbeck presents the reader with two main contrasting sections joined by a third transitional one. The first, which portrays the verdant bounty of nature, is juxtaposed with the second, which portrays human suffering. Steinbeck¹s point is simple and ironic; “men who have created new fruits in the world cannot create a system whereby their fruits can be eaten” (448). How Steinbeck chooses to structure his point is likewise uncomplicated, yet incredibly effective. He simply gives the reader the first section‹verdant crops, and contrasts it with the second section‹hungry humans. This manner of presenting the information is strong because it allows the reader to discover the point for himself or herself by implying the question “what is wrong with this picture?”Chapter Twenty-Five is alive with vivid adjectives that bring the reader into the picture Steinbeck paints. It is accurate to say “paints” because Steinbeck uses color quite liberally. The palette is initially dominated by light pastels, white, pink, yellow, and particularly green. These are the colors of spring; they suggest growth and fertility. One can almost taste the “pale green lettuce” (445), or the “gray-greenŠartichoke plants” (446). Later, when the chapter turns to less pleasant subject matter, Steinbeck employs harsher colors‹primarily black and red. The reader is disgusted by the “red cherries” into which “yellowjackets buzz”, leaving nothing but “black shreds” (447). Other adjectives have a similar animating effect. Steinbeck describes the crops and land with such words as “fragrant,” “soft,” “level,” “fertile,” “sweet,” “tender,” and “round” (445-446). Paralleling the above change in color, Steinbeck switches to adjectives like “canned,” “hot,” “hungry,” “dumped,” and “heavy” (447-449) to match his shift in subject. All these descriptive words create a stark and tangible image for the reader, allowing him or her to feel the difference between the two sections.Steinbeck further makes the chapter felt by means of his powerful images. The dominant image is that of crops. Fruits and vegetables are mentioned forty-five times in the chapter, with ten references to grapes alone. Whether it be the “fragrant pink and white waters in a shallow sea” (445) that are the fruit blossoms, or the “grapes of wrathŠgrowing heavy for the vintage” (449) in the souls of the people, the plants and the land on which they grow are described again and again. Besides providing a powerful unifying element to the chapter, Steinbeck¹s use of the land and its products as the chief image connects with the reader. Steinbeck realizes that humans are able to relate to nature; by setting down some of the most poignant natural imagery ever written Steinbeck takes advantage of this characteristic. For example, Steinbeck states that “the decay [of human suffering] spreads over the State, and the sweet smell is a great sorrow on the land” (448). Who can argue against Steinbeck¹s thesis of social inequality when Nature herself seems to be in support?In addition to his masterful manipulation of the senses, Steinbeck uses deceptively simple sentences and rhythmic constructions to further draw the reader into his idea. Typically, Steinbeck does nothing to confuse the reader. His sentences, like his subject matter, are nobly ordinary. The ease with which the chapter may be read does much to enhance the reader¹s connection to Steinbeck¹s theme. But the craftsman does not stop there. To help the reader move his or her eyes across the page Steinbeck utilizes poetic devices such as alliteration, consonance, and repetition: “five dollars for forty fifty pound boxes” (447), “trees pruned and sprayed, orchards cultivated” (447), “the food must rot; must be forced to rot” (449). This “running” effect is echoed in Steinbeck¹s sentence structure. The sentences flow into one another, pulling the reader with them. To accomplish this the author uses the word “and” prolifically, often at the beginning of a sentence, and connects many phrases with commas or semicolons. The reader cannot help but be swept through this chapter, which can almost be described as a journey down Steinbeck¹s fast-moving stream of consciousness. However, Steinbeck draws the reader subtly, all under the illusion, perhaps pretense, of objective social realism. The following passage exemplifies his technique well.”The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the hungry there in a growing wrath” (449). The last sentence is worth mentioning as a linguistic device in, and of, itself. By the time the reader arrives at it, he or she‹if the reader is at all human‹is hopelessly under Steinbeck¹s spell. The reader has seen, felt, and smelled the bounty of the land and empathized with the suffering people, essentially seeing reality as Steinbeck wants him or her to see it. Steinbeck has slipped the hook deep into the reader¹s proverbial gullet; now with the final sentence he sets it: “in the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage” (449). Using almost every device he has employed throughout the chapter, crop imagery, poetic constructions, and forward momentum, Steinbeck sums up the chapter by revealing how he wants the reader to feel. What does the irony of verdant crops plus human suffering equal? Wrath. Growing, heavy wrath.

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