The Importance of Minor Characters in The Grapes of Wrath Essay

The Importance of Minor Characters in The Grapes of Wrath Essay

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Importance of Minor Characters in The Grapes of Wrath


In the novel The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, a fictitious migrant family, the Joads, travel west in search of a new life away from the tragedies of the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma.  Along the way, Steinbeck adds a variety of minor characters with whom the Joads interact.  Steinbeck created these minor characters to contrast with the Joad’s strong will power and to reflect man’s fear of new challenges, and to identify man’s resistance to change.  Three minor characters who fulfill this role are Muley Graves, Connie Rivers, and the tractor driver.

            Early in the novel, Steinbeck presents a direct contrast to the Joads, Muley Graves.  Muley Graves’ name and actions accurately portray Steinbeck’s idea of a man resistant to change and fearful of new challenges.  The name of this character has a distinct significance.  The first name Muley can be related to mule, and then linked to the saying “stubborn as a mule”.  By analyzing this name further, the reader can determine that Graves also has a meaning.  Grave is symbolic to grief or death, both of which this character endures.  Meaningful actions could only follow a name of such significance, and this is true with this character.  Even though Muley’s family has left him for “easy livin’ “ in California, he refuses to get off  “his” land.  By refusing to leave for pride reasons, Steinbeck tries to justify Muley’s stubbornness when he is really terrified of leaving his land and having to change his life style.  Muley’s refusal to adapt results in him being transformed into an animal with hi...

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...vides insight on a situation that occurred frequently during that time.  Most people did not fear the change in environments, but few like Joe Davis’ boy did and could not adapt to the rough life of a migrant.               

            Steinbeck created many characters for the Joads to come in contact with for different reasons.  These three characters mentioned above were created to contrast the Joads and to recognize the weaker individuals in a society.  By giving up, or refusing to try, these characters display a fear of new challenges and a resistance to change.                            

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