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...
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