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 lived. The novel tells of one family's migration west to California through the great economic depression of the 1930's. 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, and how they survive the cruelty of the landowners that took 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 several uses of symbols in the novel from the turtle at the beginning 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 a ruined way of life (farming); people uprooted and forced to leave. Secondly, the dust stands for profiteering banks in the background that squeeze the life out 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 country of Oklahoma in early May. The...
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