17 Oct 2009

Essays on The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath is a story about the hardship of living on a farm during America’s Great Dust Bowl era of the 1930s.  The Joad family are forced leave their farm in Oklahoma due to the massive dust storms (called at the time “black blizzards”) and begin a trip to California after hearing about jobs in the area.  As the story progresses, the hardships continue with the death of family members and friends from malnutrition and dust storm-related ailments.  The story, in general, is an ode to the human ability to survive, even in the harshest of conditions.
The Grapes of Wrath was written by John Steinbeck.  John was born in California in 1902.  Though he lived briefly in New York, he considered himself a true Californian.  He began to write novels in 1929, just prior to the collapse of the American economy and the onset of the Dust Bowl era.  He wrote two bestsellers to include Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath.  When Steinbeck decided to write a story about the plight of immigrant farmers, he took it very seriously.  The basis was on true life though the story was fiction in itself as many such historic novels have been.  In 1940 he won the Pulitzer Prize and adapted the Grapes of Wrath into a screenplay.
The character interactions in The Grapes of Wrath are mainly between the Joad family. The main character in the book is Tom Joad, the favored son of Ma and Pa Joad.  Though the favored sun, Tom’s character comes with a history of being in prison.  Due to this experience, he tends to live for the moment, focusing on the here-and-now, rather than planning for the future.  Rose of Sharon, is the oldest of Ma and Pa Joad’s daughters.  Initially, the character is pregnant, adding an additional dimension to the story, but not what one might expect from Steinbeck.  Steinbeck uses the loss of the baby during the course of the novel as a driving force in Rose’ transformation from a giddy, pre-pregnancy child to an almost saintly standing.  Throughout the novel, Ma and Pa Joad are maintained as the epitome of dedicated parents.  Pa Joad, however, is also used to demonstrate the frustration American farmers felt when hit by the double punch of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl’s black blizzards.
Steinbeck effectively demonstrated the human spirit for survival in The Grapes of Wrath.  Part novel, part documentary, The Grapes of Wrath stands as an unquestionably significant literary work, often viewed as the epitome of historical fiction.   It’s selection as the subject of academic study and analysis was all but guaranteed the moment Steinbeck set the final sentence to paper.
Just as the characters in The Grapes of Wrath show amazing fortitude in the face of incredible adversity, today’s academic students tap this same level of strength.  Though the details may be different, surviving the overwhelming environment and challenges of academic studies require the same human strength.  But, as the Joad’s were in serious need of help, students often require assistance in keeping up with their written assignments.  This is when the students turn to companies like ours.  With the talent of hundreds of writers behind us, we can supply professional quality papers on almost every topic.  Our dedicated writers stand ready to assist you, needing only your order to get started.

29 Aug 2009

Sample Essay: Symbolism in The Grapes of Wrath

Thesis: The conflicts drawn in this story bring the rebirth of faith in humanism and more specifically on communism. This is expressed through certain symbolic factors witnessed on the path of the journey undertaken by the Joad family and their collective action.

It is believed in literature that what a thousand words fail to express might be easily expressed through a metaphor. Often we assume that metaphorical representation is more appropriate with poems than a prose. However, time and again several powerful writers have smashed this false assumption to the ground and John Steinbeck is a mastro in such literary articraft. In his “The Grapes of Wrath”, Steinbeck metaphorically portrays the conflict between haves and have-nots. Moreover he moves further to explain social destruction and reconstruction cycle as well as the erosion of valuable social capital like faith, trust and beliefs. As an optimistic foresighter he brings back all those eroded social capital through a reconstruction process carried on by the interaction and conflicts of various social events. The following paper is an effort to illustrate those symbolic expressions of the writer and the metaphorical portraits those Steinbeck has portrayed throughout this story.


The Grapes of Wrath (1939), one of the best selling works of John Steinbeck earned him the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. This book using Joad family and a combination of incidence as metaphor portrays the ever-going fight between the haves and the have-nots. The story portrays the impact of the Great Depression and its challenge faced the States. (August 10-17) The conflicts drawn in this story bring the rebirth of faith in humanism and more specifically on communism. This is expressed through certain symbolic factors witnessed on the path of the journey undertaken by the Joad family and their collective action.

The journey of the Joads – symbolic analysis

About the business system

When Tom Joad, the principle character of this novel was walking down the road he found a tortoise that was just a moment ago almost hit by a sedan and took it to his lab and rested it safely under a tree. To Tom, this tortoise was just like his own farmer class, who struggles a lot to reach at a level and even there he is constantly under attack from the upper class. However, finally he manages to be victorious. (Steinbeck, 376) The most devastating incident that brought the disorientation of Joad’s family was the eviction of farmers by the bank representatives. The bank, compared to Joads, is the upper class that already possess a lot but strives for much more. Their hunger leads to the ill fate of the lower class.

The bank representatives, who came to evict the farmers, were merely the messengers of the upper class. They speak in their boss’ words; do for their boss’ work and perhaps, live for his boss’ life. However, Joads even find them a part of the same race as they belong, doing their duties only to keep their families survive. For Tom, this incident strengthened his viewpoint towards the upper class. The business system is like a machine that extracts from the poor and delivers to the rich.  When Joads saw the car dealership owners they found that they are trying to make money even out of the distress of an evicted person or family.

The new friend of the Joads

On their journey to California, the Joads stopped by a gas station and there they came to know that even getting a job in California is quite uncertain. Tom identifies the true enemy as the Capitalist system that excludes normal people from making a decent living. At the same time, with the death of Grandpa and Grandma, which was mainly due to their separation from their native land, the hate and anger against capitalism got reinforced. The way the two families Joads and Wilsons interact with each other and almost reaches a contract to help each other on their way to California, make Tom very ambitious about the prospect of collective action. (Dooley, 4-7)

California: Experience at the new workplace vs. old one

At the workplace the strange interaction between migrant workers was one of the most moving incidents that made Tom trust their own race. Throughout the daytime migrant workers coming from different regions and working for different purposes work separately but at the evening some ten or twenty families come together to share their anguish and pain. This collectiveness and sense of dependency upon each other was transforming the Joads to believe in their own race. (Jackson, 3)

After reaching California, the Joads fell victim to the notorious police force. The cops threatened them. While the quarrel was going among them, the police started firing and that led Tom to protest and finally resulted in the arrest of Casey (the priest). The cruelty of the Californian police was quite clear to Tom. He reckoned the police system as another armor of oppression of capitalism. The search of greenery that brought the Joads to California was slowly fading out. Tom started to believe that with the phase of capitalism, no matter what be the place the fate of the worker is sealed.

The government camps: shattered hopes

The government camps where the Joads reach now were generated hope for the family. The living conditions within the camp was far better than outside, but when Tom reach the field to work, he finds the wage go down and it is not passed by a law, rather, an arbitrary action on behalf of the Bank of West. (Steinbeck 195) Any argument regarding the wage on behalf of the labor would mark him as red. When Tom watches the fruits of the field to ripen and decay it seems to him that they are representing the business class that will definitely erode one day. Days at California were not at all productive for the Joads. Tom managed to have five days of work and the others nothing. By that time Casey was released from jail and was heading a group of men on strike. Casey justifies his action by saying that people who strive for justice always face oppositions but soon Casey was killed and in the whole incident Tom became a murderer again by killing Casey’s killer. The Joads’ family moved to Boxcar after this incident. Up to this point Ma Joad is highly protective her family unity and that’s why even after commitment of the murder she ties up the family to Tom and leave the Government camp for Boxcar. At Boxcar, accidentally Tom’s true identity got revealed and Ma Joad now seems to realize that family unity bereft of a greater social unity is irrelevant. She gives Tom seven dollars and asks him to take a bus and get away.

Tom leaves the family hoping to come back when everything cools down and wonders why people cannot work together. From an ordinary man who was convicted and imprisoned, is now transformed to a person with immense trust towards its class and deep faith in humanism and collective action. The Joads now faces a torrential rain that washed off their single property, the car. They were not the only migrants from labor background that has suffered; rather everyone paid their toll in the train. By that time, Rose of Sharon delivered a stillborn baby and while somehow managing to sustain life within the rain and flood, she delivers her breast milk to an unknown person only to keep him survive, picture of a true sacrifice. (Steinbeck, 95) Throughout the novel she was portrayed as an ordinary individual but the events that she goes through has made her capable of sacrificing her selfish goals for communal benefit. (Fadiman, 101)

The connection with the author

The above incidents clearly portray the author’s humanitarian nature and communist identity. The author found the laws of Christianity is too constrained to follow and often dubious to understand. Author’s feelings regarding religions, more specifically Christianity has been clearly reflected through Casey, a former priest whose initials resembles with Christ himself and surprisingly who speaks against religion. Steinbeck considers the big financial bullies as the path maker for capital atrocity. When the banks evicted the Joads with other families to make more money out of that land, Steinbeck brings into light the years old fight between haves and have nots. Throughout this story, with each pain that a migrant labor family experiences and with each casualty that it faces, the author’s belief that capitalism is at the root of labor distress gets portrayed. With Tom Joad, Steinbeck brings into figure a hero, who stands for the poor and is full of action against any capitalist exploitation.


The transformation that Tom Joad experiences through all the incidents his family faces, stands for the author’s deep trust in humanism and communism. Collective action that Casey told and Tom dreamt is another aspect that Steinbeck was very fond of. A social movement with collective action from the have nots all over the world to bring a truly peaceful land offering livelihood to all is what Steinbeck dreamt of. Social unity and sacrificing individuality for mass benefit, the sole word of Steinbeck’s heart comes into life when Rose of Sharon a middle class ordinary lady with normal dreams, offers her own milk to an unknown person to keep him alive. As a whole Steinbeck was a great believer in humanism and holds society far above individual interest. He believed that collective action and labor union securing the benefits of the labor may hold the key for the future prosperity of common people and that is why he questions why people cannot work together for their living, why we cannot do what Casey had done.


August, Eugene. “Our Stories/Our Selves: The American Dream Remembered in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.”  University of Dayton Review 23.3 (1996): 5-17.

Cowley, Malcolm. Review ofThe Grapes of Wrath. In New Republic, May 3, 1939, p. 382

Fadiman, Clifton. Review of The Grapes of Wrath.New Yorker, April 15, 1939, p. 101.

Jackson, Joseph Henry. Review of The Grapes of Wrath.New York Herald Tribune Books, April 16, 1939, p. 3.

Steinbeck, John. style=”text-decoration: underline;”>The Grapes of Wrath, Penguin publishers, 1999

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