The Grapes of Wrath Literary Analysis
The Grapes of Wrath is one of the most important books in American literature. Set during the Dust Bowl, it follows the Joads and a group of migrants. It gives us insight into their lives and the lives of people during this time.
It follows hardships that these people had to face as they traveled. Without homes and without work, there were struggles ahead of them. We hurt with them and we see how these struggles made such an impact on their world.
Through this literary analysis, you can jump into their lives. Explore their experiences, learning more about how they had to live and survive. It is a glimpse into the bleak lives of not only these characters, but also the reality of citizens across this land during that time.
Against the Farmers
Monsters plagued the lives of the farmers. Not the monsters of fairytales and fantasy, but real life monsters. Monsters that threatened to devour their lives, their money, their families – and there was no way to win over it.
Steinbeck talks about these monsters often, even calling them out as monsters in several areas. He names these monsters. The bank that feeds greed. The tractors that consume jobs and livelihoods. The dust and rain that threaten homes.
These monsters take the Joads and the other farmers away from the lives they knew. They are the source of an upset in their lives, creating pain and struggles.
The farmers talk to themselves about how they are going to survive these monsters. There is a dialogue of the farmers, in length, worrying over what they will do. What could they do?
The metaphors showed, in detail, how the monsters destroyed their lives. Even as they tried to move to new areas and start up a new life, there were troubles that got in the way. It was the farms of life, and life pushed hard.
Real Life Experiences
Steinbeck’s writing was not from pure imagination. His telling of the Dust Bowl and of these farmers’ experiences was true to life. Farmers during that time had to move, suffer, and struggle in order to save themselves.
Even when they moved out to California, troubles remained. Due to landowners and other residents, getting a job and starting up in life was never easy. Everything worked against them.
Getting a job as a farmer or farmworker had roadblock after roadblock. Tractors began taking over, with machinery becoming the standard in farming. Those looking for work on farms had to compete, but there is no way to compete with machines.
Those who tried to build new lives had to work within the greed of banks, as well. Financial hardships mounted, leaving these poor farmers with few opportunities.
Even those who tried to stay behind faced trouble, like those who had their homes ruined by the rain. No matter the choices these people made, there were constant struggles.
It was the American reality, at least in that part of the world, during those years. Finding success on your own or with your family became insurmountable. The struggles were hard to overcome.
No matter the hope they have, like the hope they had in California, everything comes crashing down. People faced dread everywhere they turned.
People coming together, relying on that natural connection, is what helps them through. Looking for your fellow man, seeing them as your home is salvation.
The families coming together creates a community, bonds, and opportunities to survive. Instead of going out into the maws of the monsters, leaving themselves vulnerable and at risk, they come together.
Out of the needs created by the monsters, they realized they had to come together with the “family” around them. By building on that family, they could survive the struggles together. It takes them from focused on self and survival to surviving together as one.
Every character began to have this change in heart as they began to understand that it took that step for them to survive. They saw that their only hope was each other.
The Grapes of Wrath focuses on the struggles of individuals and families in a world that goes against them. Nature and humans alike, they had one place to turn – each other. They were their own salvation from the monsters.