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The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath is an eye-opening novel which deals with the struggle for survival of a migrant family of farmers in the western United States. The book opens with a narrative chapter describing Oklahoma, and the overall setting. It sets the mood of an area which has been ravished by harsh weather. "The sun flared down on the growing corn day after day until a line of brown spread along the edge of each green bayonet. The surface of the earth crusted, a thin hard crust, and as the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red country, and white in the gray country." (Steinbeck pg.3) Steinbeck, in a detailed fashion described the area in great detail. Not only was the area stricken by a drought and extreme temperatures, but to add to the difficulties, the families of the area were bombarded by high winds and dust storms which barraged their houses, crops, and moral. The idea was made clear, quite early, that the farming plains of Oklahoma were a cruel and difficult place for a family to make a successful living.
The reader is first introduced to a character by the name of Tom Joad, a man who has been released early from the penitentiary on parole after serving four years of his seven year sentence. Tom, once released, begins the trip back home to his family on their forty acre farming estate. Tom, through the aid of a helpful truck driver, is given a ride to the general area of his house. It is interesting to see how Tom manages to hitch a ride with the truck driver, who under normal circumstances, would not have given any rides to hitch hikers, simply due to a sticker on his cab which reads "No Riders." Tom however, through cunning reasoning skills, is able to get what he needs. "Can you give me a lift mister," said Tom. "Didn't you see the No Riders sticker on the wind shield?,"the driver proclaimed. "Sure, I seen it. But sometimes a guy will be a good guy even if some rich [email protected] makes him carry a sticker."(Steinbeck 11) Technically, if the driver refused, he would not be a "good" guy , and if he took the hitch-hiker, he would be a "good" guy, and would prove that he was not one whom a rich boss could kick around. Through his actions in the opening scenes, we learn a little bit about Tom Joad, and what he is like as a person.
Once Tom is dropped off, he meets up with an old minister named Jim Casey. The reader momentarily learns of Jim's inner struggle before he joins Tom in accompanying him back to his house. Meanwhile, the Joad's (tenant farmers) were being evicted from their house by the owner of the land, and were making plans for a trip to move in with Uncle Tom.
Upon the arrival of Tom and Jim, they are quick to discover, through the knowledge of Muley, an old friend of Tom, that his family has already left, but were unable to reach him to let him know what was happening to them.
Tom and Jim eventually catch up to the family at Uncle Tom's cabin and are greeted with open arms. Soon after their arrival, the family is once again forced to leave. After purchasing a truck, the family heads for California in the search of a home and work, but not without a struggle with Grandpa who does not wish to leave. The family is forced to drug him to bring him along, only for him to later die along the way of a massive stroke.
Casey decides to come along with the family while still struggling with his internal conflict. As the trip lengthens, the family meets up with the Mr. and Mrs. Wilson one night along the side of the road. The two families befriend each other and continue the trip west together. Both families continue to travel west together until they are separated when Mrs. Wilson becomes fatally ill, which forces the Wilsons to stay behind. The struggle of the Joad's is becoming more and more apparent now as they experience the realities of life. Cruel police officers, cunning salesmen, and ignorant people all add to the total picture and struggle the family is enduring, and bring the reality of the entire situation to a front. Grandma dies, as well as Rose of Sharon's baby which only adds to the trouble. Connie eventually walks out on Rose, and Noah Joad gives up on the thought of going west, and abandons the family to remain by a river in which the family had stopped. By this time, Ma Joad, who has struggled so hard to keep the family together, has become frightfully aware that the family is falling apart. The reader gets the impression that all has turned for the worst as Jim Casey is murdered, and Tom, due to avenging Jim's death is forced into hiding all of while the lack of jobs and appropriate wadges still overshadows the family.
Once the family reaches California, their hopes and dreams are basically shattered. Although briefly employed for descent pay, wadges are slashed, and the hard times become even worse. With lack of money, possessions, and an adequate food supply, the family finally hits rock bottom when torrential rains flood their makeshift boxcar home, destroying their truck, and once again sending them on the run.
There are many characters who played a vital role in the development of the Grapes of Wrath. Each and every character has something to add to the book as a whole.
Tom Joad is an assertive person who does not like to be pushed around. He served four years in prison for killing a man, who he insists was killed in self defense. Tom is quite influential as demonstrated in his actions of hitching a ride with the trucker, as well as the fact that Al Joad tries to impersonate him. Al had gained much notoriety for the fact that he was the brother of a man who had killed another man. This influence makes Al walk with a swagger as if to show off. The fact that Tom had murdered someone only proved a hindrance to the family as they often had to make appropriate accommodations for him throughout the trip.
Ma Joad was an emotionally strong woman who kept the family united (her primary concern), through the difficulties they faced. Ma Joad never showed pain, nor fear, and greatly suppressed her emotions for the sake of the family. Ma Joad was a giving person who would do anything for someone in need as demonstrated in her giving up the soup to some of the s
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