As a major literary figure since the 1930s, Steinbeck displays in his writing a characteristic respect for the poor and oppressed. In many of his novels, his characters show signs of a quiet dignity and courage for which Steinbeck has a great admiration. For instance, in The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck describes the unrelenting struggle of the people who depend on the soil for their livelihood. One element helping give this novel an added touch of harmony is Steinbeck’s ability to bind these two ideas into one story: the never ending struggle to survive and primacy of the family.
The journey of the Joads serves as a suitable vehicle for the delivery of Steinbeck's message and theme on three levels. The first is literal: he uses the journey and its ever-changing environment to put the Joads through many situations. The second level is general: the journey of the Joads can be seen as the same that forced farmers to become migrants from the dust bowl westward or of any mass migration since the beginning of time. The third level is the symbolic level: Steinbeck’s novel can be analyzed by the commonly used mathematics principle of fractals. This relates to The Grapes of Wrath by enlightening the reader of the fact that many things are identical at different levels.
The first level, the literal, is simply to describe the events the Joads witness and experience. Steinbeck uses the journey to place his characters in a range of dilemmas. He is then able to draw reactions from them. As each character involved in the situation reacts, we are able to see Steinbeck's respect for the poor shining through. Steinbeck stresses the evolutionary idea that man must adapt to changing con...
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...ure provides for a greater understanding of the theme. By reaching the general theme of humanity's journey, his novel attains the status of a classic, for humanity will always be on a journey. This makes The Grapes of Wrath not only a classic work of literature, but a timeless one as well.
French, Warren. "John Steinbeck" Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 1, Gale Research Co.: Book Tower: Detroit 1973.
Lechteihn, Yuri. "The Awakening of Tom Joad." 2 pp. Online. Internet. 30 April, 1999. Available http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~stephan/Steinbeck/grapes.html.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc, 1993.
Timmerman, John. John Steinbeck’s Fiction. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986.
Wilson, Edmund. "The Noonday Press." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 13, Gale Research Co. Book Tower: Detroit 1973.
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