Essay PreviewMore ↓
The Power of The Grapes of Wrath
Steinbeck has become one of my favorite writers -- for the love he has for his characters, the loveliness of his language, and the clear-eyed conviction with which he writes. Originally, I failed to see the beauty in Steinbeck's people, though it is plainly there. Perhaps I hadn't seen enough of the world myself, yet. There was a lot I didn't understand about people.
What Steinbeck does so well is to show people's struggle for simple human decency in the face of meanness and ignorance. He toes a fine line, but there is no romance or pity in his work. He loves his characters, warts and all, as an author must. He shows those who polite society might find wretched and despicable to have real humanity. The bums and whores of Cannery Row. The lost imbecile of Of Mice and Men.
Easygoing and plainspoken for the most part, Steinbeck's language is richly evocative. Indeed, his example shows these qualities are not at odds, but, in fact, related. He is also a master of pacing. In his passages of description, he never gets bogged down in detail, never lets the eye linger too long.
Take a look at the opening of Chapter 15 of The Grapes of Wrath, a description of a roadside hamburger stand. The language is precise, stopping here and there to dwell in more detail where necessary, but always marching onward. As the camera-eye moves about the scene, it is not wandering aimlessly, seeing whatever falls in its line of vision; it is moving purposefully, taking in a whole scene.
Part of this passage's success comes from its use of repeating sounds to maintain continuity as the eye moves from object to object -- for example, the repetition of "bar," "nickel," "candy," "seltzer," and "Coca-Cola" in the first paragraph, and "pot" and "roast" in the third paragraph. If you scan these opening paragraphs as poetry, you'll find a pattern of stresses that serves to slow down the rhythm in key places to that of a sacred chant. These formal techniques are characteristic of Steinbeck. He uses them throughout the novel to tell the story in the form of a sacred myth.
In addition, Steinbeck also has a perfectly tuned ear for the rhythms of American speech and idiom. He renders the simple beauty of American dialects so well that his writings serve as a declaration of their value.
How to Cite this Page
"The Power of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath." 123HelpMe.com. 14 Nov 2018
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The Power of Religion in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck's epic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, chronicles the struggles of the Joads as they join the thousands of fellow "Okies" in a mass migration westward. The Joads reluctantly leave behind their Oklahoma farm in search of work and food in California. While Steinbeck writes profoundly and emotionally about the political problems of the Great Depression, his characters also show evidence of a deep concern with spirituality. When they feel hopeless and are uncertain about their immediate future, their concentration on religion dwindles.... [tags: The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck]
2419 words (6.9 pages)
- In the great depression many people suffered from hunger and poverty can you imagine not being able to eat for days and days and not only that but imagine having to suffer from sands blowing away all your crops and destroying your home. That’s how it was back then, people suffered from hunger and sandstorms destroyed everything in their paths. John Steinbeck a very well know writer and the creator of “The Grapes of Wrath” is very well known for writing books during the great depression in which he liked to write about the poor, homeless and misfit people.... [tags: great depression, behavior]
651 words (1.9 pages)
- John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath Throughout his book, the Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck employs the principles of Foucault’s theory that power exists as a result of consent. This is particularly the case in the relations between the Joad family. Chapter ten includes specific scenes in which the family members’ assumed positions of power are focused on and explained. When Jim Casy asks if he can accompany the Joads on their migratory trip to California, Ma looks to Tom to speak, “because he [is] a man”.... [tags: John Steinbeck Grapes Wrath Essays]
512 words (1.5 pages)
- A clear concept in John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath was the way families were run. At the beginning of the twentieth century, men led the family. They made the decisions and they made the money for the family while the women worked behind the scenes and kept everything going. What the men did not realize, or did not want to recognize, was that the women were the ones who were really in control. Though they did not take credit for it, they were the ones who bought and cooked the food the men ate, bore and reared the children the men helped create, and did everything they could to make a better life for themselves and their families.... [tags: John Steinbeck, Grapes Of Wrath,]
1054 words (3 pages)
- John Steinbeck wrote a book, The Grapes of Wrath, which would change forever the way Americans, thought about their social classes and even their own families. The novel was completed in 1938 and then published in 1939. When this novel was released the critics saw it as being very controversial. Some critics called it a master piece, while others called it pornography. Steinbeck's attack of the upper-class and the readers' inability to distinguish the fictitiousness of the book often left his readers disgruntled.... [tags: John Steinbeck]
1190 words (3.4 pages)
- Chapter 25 of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck In the twenty-fifth chapter of his novel The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck presents the reader with a series of vivid images, accompanied by a series of powerful indictments. Steinbeck effectively uses both the potent imagery and clear statements of what he perceives as fact to convey his message. This short chapter offers a succinct portrayal of one of the major themes of the larger work. Namely, the potential bounty of nature corrupted and left to rot by a profit-driven system, a system that ultimately fails.... [tags: Grapes Wrath John Steinbeck Papers]
2623 words (7.5 pages)
- ... Says he foun’ he jus’ got a little piece of a great big soul. Says a wilderness ain’t no good, ’cause his little piece of a soul wasn’t no good ’less it was with the rest, an’ was whole (Steinbeck, pg.418). This meant, that a person who takes measures into their own hands will not have a big effect on the world. Only until that person dedicates their life for a group of others, who have a great enough cause, will the effect be grand. He realizes he can no longer stay devoted to his family, because his actions are only helping them and not others.... [tags: The Grapes of Wrath, Henry Fonda, Tom Joad, Family]
1307 words (3.7 pages)
- The Powerful Images of The Grapes of Wrath In the Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck has achieved an interesting effect by breaking the narrative at intervals with short, impressionistic passages recorded as though by a motion picture camera moving quickly from one scene to another and from one focus to another. The novel is a powerful indictment of our capitalistic economy and a sharp criticism of the southwestern farmer for his imprudence in the care of his land. The outstanding feature of the Grapes of Wrath is its photographically detailed, if occasionally sentimentalized description of the American farmers of the Dust Bowl in the midthirties of the twentieth century.... [tags: The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck]
999 words (2.9 pages)
- Ma Joad in the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck In the 1930s, America’s Great Plains experienced a disastrous drought causing thousands of people to migrate west. As their land was devastated by the Dust Bowl, deprived farmers were left with few options but to leave. The Grapes of Wrath depicts the journey of the Joads, an Oklahoma based family which decides to move to California in search of better conditions.... [tags: Grapes Wrath Steinbeck]
1030 words (2.9 pages)
- Steinbeck's Faulty Logic in The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath chronicles the destruction and chaos of the lives of the dust bowl victims and their families. The classic novel works on two levels. On the one hand, it is the story of a family, how it reacts, and how it is unsettled by a serious problem threatening to overwhelm it. On the other hand, the story is an appeal to political leaders that when the common working-class is put upon too harshly, they will revolt. In this aspect it is a social study which argues for a utopia-like society where the powerful owners of the means of production will be replaced by a more communal and egalitarian community l... [tags: The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck]
1058 words (3 pages)
What I realized from reading Steinbeck this time is how much his writing is about values. In complex, nuanced ways, Steinbeck's characters demonstrate and uphold our most important values through their actions. Values of hard work, honesty, humility, and compassion.
Of course, lots of people claim the mantle of moral superiority in talking about values, so how can you tell whom to trust? Well, I believe the difference is that the true prophets speak of these values unfettered by any obsession with sin. The minute you hear a prophet raging against sin and telling you what's wrong with you, run the other way. Such false prophets have made a huge profit over the centuries telling people what's wrong with them and claiming to have the key to fix it, particularly here in America, birthplace of self-help.
The Problem of the Spiritual Journey
Reading The Grapes of Wrath also made me question my own inclination towards do-it-yourself spirituality. For a long time I've approached religion as a salad bar from which I would collect only the bits and scraps that I agreed with. I believed that spirituality was ultimately an individual journey. Much as I admired the community a church can provide, I felt dogma was implicit in any organized religion and that church therefore hindered that journey.
Yet, there's a scene in which Tom Joad discovers Jim Casy, the Preacher, is part of a strike at a peach orchard that the Joads are unwittingly helping the land company to break. Casy tells Tom: "Jail house is a kinda funny place. . . Here's me, been a-goin' into the wilderness like Jesus to try find out somepin. Almost got her sometimes, too. But it's in the jail house I really got her." Casy found that it was in society -- not on a solitary journey -- that he had his revelation. In the jail house, Casy found himself surrounded by all kinds of people, but people who all shared one thing: need. And he saw that this need was the cause of their stealing and drinking, their sins -- sins that arose from suffering at the hands of others. The way out of that suffering, Casy learned, was for the people to work together; only then could they have the power to end their suffering. Only by acting together could they express the opposite of sin. As long as they kept to themselves they were powerless.
After reading this passage, I went for a walk up to the newstand and it came to me, that, like Casy, my notion of a hermit-like spirituality was misguided. The fact is, I have never truly believed I needed to go off to a mountain cave in order to find salvation. To remove oneself from the world and its problems is a cop-out. I believe the real challenge is to find salvation in the world, rather than outside of it. Humans are social animals, and it is only through our relationship to each other that we have the means to express virtue and spirit. A solitary spirituality may be of some value, but it is not fully mature. Engagement with others is the most fertile ground for spiritual growth. Yet, salvation cannot come through individual questing nor good works in the community of the world alone. Salvation can only come when the journey and the work become one.
The Power to Transform
The stories and poems I enjoy the most are ones that inspire the "I'm back" response. You suddenly look up and regain awareness of the chair you're sitting in, the floor under your feet, the walls of the room. "Oh, wow. I'm back!" you say.
There is another way art can transform experience, and that is when it transforms a person. I finished The Grapes of Wrath as a different person from who I was when I began. I can think of few more powerful or more noble things a work of art can do than that.