Grapes of Wrath: the Theme of Decay in Chapter 25

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One of the most pervasive themes in this passage is that of a spreading decay that is taking over the society. This is first expressed in quite a literal sense, as an actual decay of fruit and produce, which spreads like a virus across the American countryside and farming lands. Due to the economic mismanagement of the farming industry, fruit and other produce are left to rot and decay on the trees because they are not picked by the farmers. The text gives many examples of different fruits being left to decay on the farms. We see, for example, the cherries, that are described at first as “full and sweet”, being left to turn into seeds which “drop and dry with black shreds hanging from them”. The purple prunes, which now “carpet the ground”, fill the valley with “the odor of sweet decay”. Pears are left to be devoured by the yellowjackets, and give off a smell of “ferment and rot”. Grapes are not good enough to make good wine, and the wine that is made from them is “the smell of decay and chemicals”. As we can see, the text goes into quite a lot of detail in the description of the different fruits decaying all over the State. Fruits of all sorts are left to decay, and, like a virus, this decay is spreading rapidly. The passage shows this spread quite explicitly as well, using repetition to show the way in which this sense of decay is infecting each and every farm and the fruit it produces. Structurally, the text repeats each paragraph to show how each fruit is similarly decaying, and the same descriptions are used over and over again in each description. The descriptions of fruit “carpeting the ground”, and of the “smell of ferment and rot” are repeated in each paragraph that speaks about the fruit. This has two effects. First, it reinforces the helplessness that is felt by the farmers, as the same thing is happening to each one of the different types of fruit. Each time there is the same cause, and the same effect, but nothing seems to be able to be done....
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