New Beginnings in The Grapes of Wrath and Broken Ground

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New beginnings and new land, while made out to seem as beacons of hope and chances for prosperity, are complete opposites; new beginnings offer neither success nor happiness, but rather more failures and recurring sorrows. John Steinbeck and Jack Hodgins introduce the idea of new beginnings and settlements just as they emphasize the importance of togetherness as a community and a family in The Grapes of Wrath and Broken Ground. However, it is important to consider that these new beginnings were involuntary and rather forced due to situational circumstances. These circumstances caused drastic changes in the lives of the characters, changes that ultimately led them towards a downward spiral. In both novels, change in location helped advertise new beginnings as a chance for a new, improved lifestyle, which turned out to be a mere lie. The “promised land” was simply a hoax, which they would later realize, as it left them with nothing more than the broken pieces of their woven dreams.

Steinbeck and Hodgins both examine the idea of “promised land” where their characters, Steinbeck’s Joad family and Hodgins’s returned soldiers, hope to find both joy and prosperity. The characters, however, later learn that the idea of the “promised land” is simply just that - an idea - because it does not exist. While the “promised land” is different in both novels, it being a beautiful home and paying jobs in The Grapes of Wrath and actual land for settlement in Broken Ground, it represents the same hope for both novels – the hope of new, positive beginnings. Both Steinbeck and Hodgins lead readers to believe that the relocation of their characters is setting the stage for a turn of events in their lives, a turn for the better. This change, though, ...

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... harsh and tragic. Similarly, Hodgins symbolizes a life full of hardships in Portuguese Creek with the death of Elizabeth, for she had been the only good thing that had come out of the war. The positives of the families and communities working together were ultimately overshadowed by the negativity of these same families and communities falling apart; only further showing readers that new beginnings are not a chance for a better life, but center stage for one that is worse.

Thus, both novels, full of tragedy and sorrow, began with the promise of new land, new beginnings and a better life, but all three were impossible to find within the pages of these novels. In the end, it was broken relationships, broken families, broken communities, but most importantly, broken dreams and broken hopes that were left on the final pages of both woeful, yet celebrated, stories.

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