Notebook Review On The Grapes Of Wrath English Literature Essay


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The tile of the novel comes from lyrics from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", by Julia Ward Howe

Steinbeck had a difficult time choosing a title

The title is referenced in the novel when authority figures destroy food in order to keep the prices high

His wife was the first to suggest the name of the title

The Dust Bowl caused much wrath for all of the Oakies

2. Author:

John Steinbeck first published his novel in 1939, a few years after the actual Dust Bowl ended

Steinbeck spent most of his young adulthood around the ranches of Salinas, California

He had hands on experience with the migrant workers who worked at the ranch

Steinbeck tried very hard to keep his controversial conclusion because he felt that it contributed immensely toward the tone at the end of the novel

3. Characters:

Tom Joad is the protagonist of this story. He develops an matures greatly as the novel progresses. Tom is good-natured and kind. He is also fiercely independent and is proactive. Tom spent four years in prison for murdering a man, which left him isolated from his family. Jim Casy becomes his mentor and Tom begins to inherit all of his morals. The second son of the Joads, Tom soon begins to replace Pa as head of the household

Ma Joad is the matriarch of the family. She is the one that holds everyone together. Without her, the family would have separated long before the end of the novel. Ma deeply loves every family member and helps the Joads get through even the toughest of times

Jim Casey was a former preacher who lost his faith after sleeping with some women. He now believes that all of the human experience is holy. Jim decides to follow the Joads to California and there he loses his life as he tries to protect the rights and dignity of the migrant workers. Tom is his living legacy after his death. He is a Christ figure

4. Conflict:

One major conflict is that of man against nature. The Dust Bowl caused crops to fail and forced the Oakies to relocate. This is the incident which drives the whole novel on. Man also has to travel across half of the country before they can reach their destination.

Another conflict would be the authority figures and wealthy people against the common people. The land owners fear the migrant workers and so set up a system in which the migrants are treated like animal

5. Opening chapter or scene:

The novel begins with a chapter that sets the background for the rest of the story

In Oklahoma, the crops wither away after a long summer drought

Dust is present everywhere. The Dust Bowl has begun

Farmers just stare at their dying crops because they can't do anything about it

The first chapter sets the ominous mood and tone

It foreshadows the Joad's moving to California because there is nothing left for them after the cornfields die

6. Plot:

Tom is released from prison and goes to find his family. Upon returning home, he finds that the farm is dying because of the drought.

The Joads sold everything and are planning on migrating west to California where they hope to find jobs picking fruit

Along the way, both Grandma and Grandpa die. Connie and Noah also abandon them.

They also realize that many other families are headed to California and they hear depressing stories

When they arrive, low wages, overcrowding, and lack of workers' rights greet them

The Joad family manage to find a government camp, a haven

Casy joins a union to stop the exploitation of workers but is killed

Tom murders the man who killed Casy and has to be on the run. He says farewell to his mother and promises to be an advocate for the poor

7. Conclusion:

The novel ends with a huge flood which forces the remaining members of the Joad family to seek shelter

Rose of Sharon goes through labor but eventually delivers a stillborn baby.

After six days of rain, they go to higher ground and stay in a barn

There they find a man who can't eat solid food anymore since he hasn't eaten for six days

Ma looks at Rose of Sharon and she breastfeeds the man

The ending of the novel gives hope

Steinbeck fought hard to keep his version of the conclusion in the published edition because he felt that it was important to the overall theme of the book

8. Themes:

One major theme is that humanity is all connected and what we do affects everyone. We are one big family. Therefore we should help the needy. There was a lack of this theme in the novel

Another significant theme is the importance of sticking together and of family. Only together were the Joad able to overcome so many obstacles. Ma was the glue that held everyone.

9. Symbols/Archetypes:

One symbol is the turtle in the beginning of the novel. It carries its home on his back just like all of the migrants. The turtle is kicked off to the side by a car but it still survives. This could symbolize the resilience of all of the Oakies

Jim Casey is the archetype of the Christ figure. He is the moral voice of the novel, has disciples, and is killed for what he believed in

10. Parallel works/parallel events:

Steinbeck's novel is a pretty accurate representation of what the actual Dust Bowl, migration, worker camps, and conditions in California were like

Steinbeck also based his work on his experience with the ranches in Salinas

The migration and flood part could be biblical references to the Exodus and Noah's Ark

11. Style:

Steinbeck writes the novel using two methods. He writes about the personal story of the Joad and their experience of the Great Depression/Dust Bowl

In a few parts of the novel, Steinbeck switches to the background and gives us the context of what was going on and gives us an overview of how other families were faring

12. Significant lines:

" But when they're all workin' together, not one fella for another fella, but one fella kind of harnessed to the whole shebang-that's right, that's holy"

"For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments"

"She stopped and sighed. "Why, I feel like people again."

"Says a wilderness ain't no good, 'cause his little piece of a soul wasn't no good 'less it was with the rest, an' was whole"

"Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there"

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