Essay PreviewMore ↓
Portrait of Fear in The Grapes of Wrath
Steinbeck shows throughout The Grapes of Wrath that mankind is afraid of failure. Although that fear is present in both the desperate migrant workers and the big, ruthless land owners, Steinbeck uses Al Joad's character to his full advantage t model this characteristic of man. Al's personal fear of failure motivates him to do well in life in comparison to his male role models, as well as to help support the family. This is conveyed through Al's sense of responsibility to his family, his careful nature, and his moody and defensive behavior.
Al's sense of responsibility to his family is a major element in his determination not to fail. His knowledge and operation of automobiles are Al's major contribution to the family: "He might be a musking goat sometimes, but this was his responsibility, this truck, its running, and its maintenance...And everyone respected him and his responsibility" (Steinbeck, pages 131 and 132). Al not only helps the family succeed in getting to California by taking on this responsibility, he also makes up for other areas of his character in which he feels he is failing or lacking. Such an area of character might be his apathy towards letting his family know his whereabouts when he disappears for days at a time in Oklahoma.
Al's careful nature is another obvious sign that he does not want to fail. He feels that precaution is the only way to prevent something from going wrong and ultimately failing. This is visible in his meticulous care of the truck: "Al grew tense over the wheel. A little rattle had developed in the engine. He speeded up and the rattle increased...Al blew his horn and pulled the car to the side of the road" (page 225). Al's care, though obvious only in that of the truck, definitely suggests that should he fail to properly maintain the truck, he would fail himself and his family as well. To offset such an event, Al constantly watches for and prevents any possible problems with the truck.
Al's moody and defensive behavior is also a strong example of his resolution not to fail. Although his attitude could be attributed to adolescent arrogance, one who examines Al's character can see that he has more pressure placed upon him than most of the other members of the family.
How to Cite this Page
"Free Grapes of Wrath Essays: Steinbeck's Portrait of Fear." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Jul 2018
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The Grapes of Wrath and Steinbeck's Political Beliefs Steinbeck's relationship to the transcendentalists [Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman] was pointed out soon after The Grapes of Wrath appeared by Frederick I. Carpenter, and as the thirties fade into history, Jim Casy with his idea of the holiness of all men and the unreality of sin seems less a product of his own narrowly doctrinaire age than a latter-day wanderer from the green village of Concord to the dry plains of the West. Although Steinbeck argues for collective action to achieve specific goals, only the most unperceptive critics continue to argue that he is a collectivist in either philosophy or politics.... [tags: Grapes Wrath essays]
991 words (2.8 pages)
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck What does it take for one to achieve the American dream. What kinds of struggles does one need to overcome to achieve their goals in life. In the classic novel The Grapes of Wrath, written by John Steinbeck, you can follow the Joad family in the pursuit to their dreams and the difficulties they faced and overcame. The Joad family faced numerous conflicts including; men, society, nature, and him/herself but overcame many to keep pushing them towards their dream; to go to California and find a better life.... [tags: Steinbeck Grapes Wrath]
1007 words (2.9 pages)
- The Great Depression and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath Though most Americans are aware of the Great Depression of 1929, which may well be "the most serious problem facing our free enterprise economic system", few know of the many Americans who lost their homes, life savings and jobs. This paper briefly states the causes of the depression and summarizes the vast problems Americans faced during the eleven years of its span. This paper primarily focuses on what life was like for farmers during the time of the Depression, as portrayed in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, and tells what the government did to end the Depression.... [tags: John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath]
1699 words (4.9 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)
- 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)
- 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.... [tags: The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck]
1104 words (3.2 pages)
- Biblical Allusion in The Grapes of Wrath A popular literary technique that can be found in a number of literary works is the biblical allusion. John Steinbeck perfects this technique in his novel The Grapes of Wrath by introducing a character who is symbolic of Jesus Christ. This character, Jim Casy, not only shares initials with this biblical figure, but he also grows thoughout the novel as a speaker, a mediator, an organizer, and, most remarkably, a martyr. At the advent of the novel, Jim Casy is quick to protest that he is no longer a preacher. Nevertheless, evidence of his innate speaking ability is brought forth when he explains his thoughts and ideas to Tom. For example, Casy re... [tags: The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck]
432 words (1.2 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)
- 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)
- 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)
Steinbeck effectively exposes man's preoccupation with failure not just in the novel, but in the world as well. He uses Al as a vehicle for this common human characteristic by showing that the fear of failing to meet one's own expectations will motivate one to succeed. Because the combination of fear and failure makes such a powerful motivator, Steinbeck creates an enthralling theme throughout
The Grapes of Wrath that forces man to examine one's self and realize that one is always afraid of failing, no matter how confident and bold a facade one presents to the world.
1.) Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.