The Grapes Of Wrath David Rosen English 3H, Period 2 Mrs. Carmody September 26, 2000 The Inter-Chapters and Symbolism in The Grapes of Wrath Authors often use many different writing styles and techniques when creating their novels. They use these certain methods in order to make their stories more descriptive and easier to understand. John Steinbeck uses many literary techniques in The Grapes of Wrath to help the reader better understand the story. For instance, by writing the inter-chapters, Steinbeck often foreshadows the regular chapters and the events that will occur in them. Another literary tool used very well by Steinbeck is his use of symbolism throughout the entire novel.
He is able to produce a great deal of symbols which can provide for a clearer understanding of the novel through things such as animals, machines, and nature. In The Grapes of Wrath, many different literary techniques are used to further describe and bring to life the novel, but the two that Steinbeck uses the most are the inter-chapters and symbolism. The inter-chapters are a purely unique creation by John Steinbeck. Because of the extent of description that he writes with, these chapters fit very well into the novel. Clearly, the author’s goal is to have the reader picture the harsh situations that the Joads and other families have to go through.
By thoroughly describing each setting, this creates a more vivid image for the reader. Also, these inter-chapters contain a more of a general picture as to what is going on during the time period of the Joad’s journey. While the regular chapters are written to tell the specific story of the Joad family and document their journey to California, the inter-chapters, usually, correspond with the story line of the novel. The inter-chapters, eventually, become very intriguing as the story progresses. After awhile, as the story progresses, the two different types of chapters gives the story a rhythmical pattern. The inter-chapters are a key part in The Grapes of Wrath because they provide indirect comments and show general situations which foreshadow the personal tragedies of the main characters.
These comments and situations help give the reader an understanding of what the characters are facing through their journey by either showing metaphorically their triumphs and struggles or explaining the history of the period that they are living in. Chapter three is an inter-chapter. In this chapter, Steinbeck describes a “concrete highway” (p. 20) that a land turtle struggles to cross. The turtle has almost reached his destination when a truck hits it.
This chips its shell, and it is thrown on its back. The turtle then has to struggle with all of its might to turn back over. Eventually the turtle flips back over and continues on its journey. This chapter represents the continuous struggles and obstacles that the Joads would have to cope with throughout the entire story. Throughout the novel the Joads meet many hardships.
They are forced to leave their home, lose family members such as the grandparents and Noah, work for low wages, and suffer from hunger, floods, and cruel prejudices in California. Like the turtle, the Joads refuse to give up and continue on with their journey. Chapter five is another inter-chapter that discusses the tractors that would come to the land and plow through it. It destroys everything in its path. This chapter is an abstract conflict between the tenant farmer and the banks. The banks want to take over the land to make more money, but it is very difficult for the farmers to leave because the land has been settled by their grandfathers. One tenant farmers is so upset that he threatens to shoot the driver by saying “(he’d) be in the window with a rifle” (p.
51). Another chapter describes a tenant farmer that has to leave and is cheated into paying too much for a car. Chapter nine describes the generalized families who must sell their sentimental goods at absurdly low prices. These chapters represent the situations which the Joads encounter very soon. The Joads must leave their land and sell all of their things.
Later in the novel, Grandpa threatens to kill the tractor driver who was plowing their land just like the tenant farmer who Steinback described. Also, the Joads buy a used car in order to get to California and are ripped off. The inter-chapters provided general social situations which the “Okies” have to face. Inter-chapters nineteen and twenty-one describe the development of land ownership in California. Chapter nineteen explains how the Americans took California from the Mexicans, and people known as squatters (p. 315) acquired lots of land and thought of it as their own.
They hired people to work the land and became great landowners. Soon, many people from Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas began to arrive and the owners did not want them to become squatters so they hated them and called them Okies (p. 318). These owners cut wages in order to pay policemen to guard and protect their property. In the next chapter, the Joads are called “Okies”. A young man explains to Tom that the people are afraid that the “Okies” will organize a powerful group if they stay in one place for long enough, so they push them around.
This man also explains how no one can get people together to organize groups because the cops arrest anyone who starts doing this. Chapter twenty- one describes how the people with small jobs in California are afraid of the “Okies” because they do not want to lose their jobs. The people from Oklahoma were being “pushed out (of their jobs) and (they) swarmed on the highways” (p.385) looking for new work. Meanwhile, the big companies can make wages very low because people are starving and would work for anything. After the events in the novel have been told in a general sense by John Steinbeck.
They come to life through the Joad family. The inter-chapters describe general situations and the chapters after them explain how that particular situation affects or will affect the Joads. The reader can learn many details about the hardships that the Joads went through by reading about the hardships of the migrant workers as a whole. Another literary technique Steinbeck uses is symbolism. Steinbeck’s writing is filled with symbols in order to clearly show the importance of the ideas and main themes of the novel.
Possibly the most important symbol in The Grapes of Wrath are the grapes. The actual grapes are not the symbol in the novel, but the idea of grapes represents hope in the beginning of the book. When Granpa tells his wonderful story about sitting in a tub of grapes, this shows his and his families hopes of prosperity once they reach California. Although the Joads start out as an optimistic family, the wonderful grapes that they dream of soon will turn into grapes of wrath. The wrath is shown through the many deaths and obstacles they have to face on their journey. A symbol of nature in the novel is the dust that settles over the crops.
The dust is a sign of death. This harsh dust symbolizes the harshness that fell over many farms. Because of “the dust filled air” (p. 4), the crops could not grow successfully, therefore, forcing the people off of their land. The land that is owned by the farmers is their most prized possession.
“It is a part of (them)” (p.45). In a way, when the land of a farmer is taken away, a part of that farmer dies. The idea of machinery also contains a lot of symbolism in the novel. The “cat” (p.60) or tractor represents the bank people that take over the “Okies” farmland. The tractors are dead, unemotional machines. A tractor at any point can be shut off, and it does not know what it is doing.
This is very much like the bankers. They are dead to the world and to the needs of people. They do not consider the situation of the people living in Oklahoma. The bankers only care about money. Another symbol which is closely tied to the greed of the bankers are the tractor drivers. The tractor drivers, for the most part, are normal people who used to live in Oklahoma.
They will do anything the bank tells them to in order to make some extra money. These people also have no emotion. They are described as “robots” (p. 48) of the bank. Along with the images of machinery and nature in this book, there are some animal symbols.
The turtle is a symbolic figure. Like the families, the turtle tries to make it to a certain place. As the turtle continues on with its journey, it is intentionally hit by a truck and flipped over onto its back. The truck driver intentionally hitting the turtle is symbolic for the many people in the novel that try to hurt the Joads. The banks, car salesman, landowners, and citizens of California all try to stop the Joads from living a prosperous and happy life.
As well as the turtle, the Joad family dog is a major symbol in the novel. The dog starts off with the family on the journey. The dog one-day jumps out in front of the truck and gets run over. The death of the family dog represents just one of the many obstacles to come for the Joad family. Another symbol is Rose of Sharon’s ” blue shriveled little mummy” (p.
603) baby. This shows the reader that long, painful journeys with many problems sometimes amount to nothing in the end. By relating many of the themes in the novel to events or things, the reader gets a very clear understanding of John Steinbeck’s reason for writing this book. In conclusion, the ideas of the inter-chapters and symbolism in The Grapes of Wrath are very closely intertwined. Much of the book’s symbolism comes from the inter-chapters. Some readers, at first, may not understand the seemingly sudden chapters of vivid description and background detail.
As the story continues, however, they are imperative to the novel. One can better understand the situation of the “Okies” by understanding the details of the time period. In addition to the inter-chapters, Steinbeck does a great job with his symbols. The symbols express his points very clearly. These two aspects of the novel are very important, and because of them, the reader can feel as if they are right with the Joads throughout their entire journey.