The Setting of Grapes of Wrath
Length: 781 words (2.2 double-spaced pages)
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The Setting of Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath does not have one specific setting, but rather travels from Okalahoma to California. The setting in this novel is realistic because you can follow the Joads journey on a map. Accuracy to the novel was very important to Steinbeck because he wanted this novel to be a social document rather then just another piece of fiction.
The main characters in the novel are sharecroppers turned into migrant workers much of the stetting is taken place outdoors. The weather, land, water, and the road are as important to the novel as almost any character or theme. The coming of a long drought to America's midsection in the 1930s sets the book into activity. Farmers can't survive on dehydrated land. Nor can the banks that own the land make an income when the tenant farmers don't produce enough to nourish even themselves.
In contrast to the dry Dust Bowl, California is fruitful and lush. Its orchards and fields grow fruit, nuts, cotton, and vegetables of every sort. It's the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey. It's paradise, except for the people trying madly to keep the migrants at bay. For hundreds of thousands of migrants, including the Joads, of course, California turns out to be a lost heaven.
The migrant road- Route 66- links Oklahoma to California. Along its miles we see the filling stations, diners, and car lots that line many of America's highways even today. These sites remind us of what our country looks like and repeatedly tell the migrants that they are not wanted- unless they have money.
Steinbeck emphasizes on the nature of the background while focusing on specific events. For example, in the very beginning of the book, when everything is peaceful, the wind is rustling; the turtle is walking along, pleasant-sounding with its surroundings. However, as they travel on their journey down Highway 66, the turtle gets hit by a car, a dog gets run over, and there is a drought. When the animals get injured, it shows how innocence is trapped in the hands of the cruel and authoritarian people. In Ch 19, there's the scene with the soup and the starving children who demolish the soup.
This not only symbolizes the physical hunger of the people, but also the mentality of the people, that they will take whatever someone's willing to give them and are desperate for food above all, and also land, shelter, and money.
In The Grapes of Wrath the main characters are so lucky to live in a community called a Hooverville. A Hooverville is what they called the slums or boxcar community in the 30's. During that time there was a depression and many starved to death and could not find employment. The Joads lived in a Hooverville along with many other migrant workers turned into city folks. The boxcars also provide power in the camping area where the migrants live. Those who live in the boxcars are thought of as old timers to the living area because there were only so many boxcars available when people started to settle. After the boxcars were all taken, the newcomers had to set up tents to live in. The boxcars represent the Joads because they travel a lot in the novel, just as a boxcar does with a train. It also represents unity. The boxcar gets washed away. That conveys what happens to an individual if they don't work together. The boxcar was alone without the train, while the Joads were forced to work together to save themselves from the flood.
In The Grapes of Wrath the main characters morals are not high. Although who's morals would be high if you had to move from your home and start over to find out that you will never accomplish anything with the resources you are given.
You will notice that the Oklahoma migrants (as well as the other farm-to-city migrants) are relatively loose with their morals , considering the fact that they are from the Bible belt, they are highly supportive of "free sex" and vulgarity (take Grampa for an example - he was lecherous, which contradicts the general moral attitude of the day). The Joads see nothing wrong with Tom's murdering of another man - they just brush it off or were indignant about his imprisonment.
In conclusion in The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck wanted to be as true as possible to what was really going on in the world. As I stated before he wanted this book to be a social document rather then just another piece of fiction.