Critical essay the grape of wrath

Written by: John Steinbeck.

Critical Essays on Steinbeck's "the Grapes of Wrath"

Major Symbols: turtle crossing the road; vacant houses; Ma Joad; the truck. During this time, a long period of drought and high winds affected large parts of the American Midwest, including much of the state of Oklahoma, creating what was called the Dust Bowl. Many of the people in the lower Midwest moved elsewhere, hoping to find fertile land on which to make a living.

Tom Joad is the protagonist, or main character, of The Grapes of Wrath. Tom is the book's hero as well despite the fact that Tom attacks a policeman at one point in the novel and beats a man at another point, becoming a cave-dwelling fugitive as a result. Tom learns that his family has been evicted from the farm and has moved in with Uncle John.

The Joads and Casy head out along Route 66 , joining an exodus of poor tenant farmers heading west. They encounter many obstacles on the journey, as well as warnings that the jobs they expect in California are illusory. Upon arrival in California, they find that their trials are far from over.


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They stop in a migrant encampment, where they speak with a man named Floyd Knowles, who informs them that jobs are scarce, available pay is poor, and families are literally starving to death in the makeshift migrant camps. When a man arrives seeking workers to pick fruit, Floyd asks for the proposed wages in writing. A policeman accuses him of communism and tries to arrest him. A fight breaks out, and, when the policeman shoots at the fleeing Floyd, Casy knocks him out.

However, they later find the government-run camp Weedpatch, which is kept clean and organized by committees of residents, and Tom finds work. After a month in the camp, Ma Joad declares that they must move on because of the scarcity of work.

They soon are offered jobs picking peaches, but the pay is so low that they cannot afford an adequate dinner. Tom finds Casy, who is now organizing striking peach pickers—the Joad family was hired to be strikebreakers. A group of men approach the meeting under cover of darkness, and one of them strikes Casy with a pick handle, killing him.


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  8. An enraged Tom kills that man before returning to his family. Fearful that Tom will be arrested, the Joads leave the peach farm.

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    Essays on Grapes of Wrath Theme

    It is an explicitly political piece of writing, one that champions collective action by the lower classes. In taking this social stance, Steinbeck's novel criticizes shortsighted self-interest and chastises corporate and banking elites for profit-maximizing policies that ultimately forced farmers into destitution and even starvation.

    The novel begins with a description of the conditions in Dust Bowl Oklahoma that ruined crops and instigated massive foreclosures on farmland. No specific characters emerge initially; this is a technique that Steinbeck will employ several times in the book, posing descriptions of events in a large social context against descriptions of events more particular to the Joad family. Tom Joad , a man not yet thirty, approaches a diner dressed in spotless, somewhat formal clothing.

    He hitches a ride with a truck driver, who presses Tom for information until Tom finally reveals that he was just released from McAlester prison, where he served four years for murdering a man during a fight. Steinbeck follows this exchange with an interlude describing a turtle crossing the road, which serves as a metaphor for the struggles of the working class. On his travels home, Tom meets a onetime preacher, Jim Casy, a talkative man gripped by doubts over religious teachings and the presence of sin. He gave up the ministry after realizing that he found little wrong with the sexual liaisons he had with the women in his congregation.

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    Casy espouses the view that what is holy in human nature comes not from a distant God, but from people themselves. Steinbeck contrasts Tom's return with the arrival of bank representatives to evict the tenant farmers. The possibility of a working class insurrection is raised, but an effective target for collective action cannot be found. Tom and Casy reach the Joads' house, only to find that it has been deserted.

    Muley Graves , a local elderly man who may not be sane, tells them that the Joads have been evicted, and that the family now stays with Uncle John. Muley's own family has left to find work in California, but Muley decided to stay himself. Steinbeck then provides a description of the tactics that car dealers use to exploit impoverished customers.

    The dealers find that they can make greater profits by selling damaged jalopies than by selling dependable new cars. Tom Joad finds the rest of his family staying with Uncle John, a morose man who has been prone to depression since the death of his wife several years earlier. Yet Tom's mother is a strong, sturdy woman who is the moral center of family life. His brother, Noah, may have been brain damaged during childbirth, while his sister, Rose of Sharon called Rosasharn by the family is recently married and pregnant.

    Her husband, Connie Rivers , has dreams of studying radios. Tom's younger brother, Al, is only sixteen. This introduction to Steinbeck's characters is followed by a more general description of the sale of items by impoverished families who intend to leave Oklahoma for California, as the Joads expect to do. The Joads plan to go to California on account of flyers advertising work in the California fields.

    The Grapes of Wrath Guide: Literature - A Research Guide for Students

    These flyers, as Steinbeck will soon reveal, are fraudulent advertisements meant to draw more workers than necessary and drive down wages. Jim Casy asks to accompany the Joads to California so that he can work with the people in the fields rather than preach at them. Before the family leaves, Grampa Joad declares his refusal to go, but the family gives him medicine to knock him unconscious and takes him along. The subsequent chapters describe the vacant houses that remain after the Oklahoma farmers have left for work elsewhere, as well as the conditions on Route 66, the highway that stretches from Oklahoma to Bakersfield, California.

    Almost immediately after the journey begins, the Joad family loses two members. The first victim is the family dog, which is run over during the Joads' first stop.