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Biblical References in Grapes of Wrath Essay

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In his novel Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck integrated many biblical references and values throughout the book. This provided a more intriguing and complex style of writing that he used to tell about the Dust Bowl of the early 1900’s and the arduous journey the Joad family and many others took to reach California.
The first biblical reference is revealed when the Joad family leaves for California. “the rest swarmed up on top of the load, Connie and Rose of Sharon, Pa and Uncle John, Ruthie and Winfield, Tom and the preacher. Noah stood on the ground, looking up at the great load of them sitting on top of the truck (Steinbeck 113)” This passage relates to the loading of animals into Noah’s Ark in Genesis 7:15 where it is written that the animals went into the ark in pairs. In the book, Steinbeck uses the truck to represent the ark while the family represents the animals going into the ark two by two. Although it is depicted in the Bible that the animals went in as couples, male and female, there were not enough female characters for Steinbeck to be able to have them get into the truck in couples. Steinbeck might have made Noah’s name Noah for this purpose to give an allusion that this passage was to mirror the act of Noah’s Ark.
The second reference to Noah’s Ark is revealed near the end of the novel. “The rain began in gusty showers…for two days the earth drank the rain, until the earth was full…the rain beat on steadily…level fields became lakes…streams broke…and spread out over the country (Steinbeck 432-434).” This passage illustrates the great rain that comes to California and floods the valleys and over the fields. It floods the tents and homes of the Okies and causes them to move elsewhere to find shelter from the rain...


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...till-born baby. The image when Uncle John floats the dead baby down the flooded steam is a reference to baby Moses when he is places into the Nile in a basket. Both babies were sent off into the world with the same message in mind, to tell of the plight of the people, which for the Joad’s was the harsh living conditions and lack of food and home, while for the Israelites was the inhumane murder of their baby boys. “‘Go down an’ tell em’. Go down in the street an’ rot an’ tell em’ that way. That’s the way you can talk’ (Steinbeck 448).”
Steinbeck uses biblical allusions and references throughout his novel, from the very beginning to the climax and the end. The novel becomes a more meaningful and complex book with the use of these allusions and causes it to relate more and more with the Great Depression where many problems with authorities and social problems arose.


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