The Grapes of Wrath- Symbolism Essay

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Symbols are often used to represent bigger ideas and concepts in a novel. In The Grapes of Wrath, there are many symbols to represent the lives of not only the Jode family but the migrants as a whole. Steinbeck uses the symbols of the dust and the turtle to show the struggles of the migrants and how they overcame all odds, revealing the only hope the migrants had to survive the harsh trek cross country was perseverance.

The dust is the first significant symbol Steinbeck uses to represent the migrants and their struggles. As the dust filled the air in Oklahoma, families watched their lives settle to nothing along with the dust, “The men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses to stand beside their men– to feel whether this time the men would break” (3). The dust is symbolic of the migrant’s lives eroding to nothing. It represents not only mother natures roll in the horrible tragedy of the crumbling families, but also represents the banks and large plantations that took over the small and venerable families and farms just like the dust engulfed their homes. Though the migrants went through so much with losing their farms, homes, and lives, they still stood strong and found a way to keep moving forward, “After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant” (3). The migrant families overcame their struggles with the dust over taking their homes along with all of the other struggles they faced, and they moved west for a new life.

On their journey west, the migrants faced many challenging obstacles that they had to persevere through. Steinbeck uses the symbolism of the turtle to represent the stubborn migrants fighting their way west, “And over the grass at the roadside a land turtle crawled, turning aside for nothing, dragging his high-domed shell over the grass” (14). The turtle was set back by both nature and man on his journey across the road, just...
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