Questions for study with ideas for answers :
Q : Steinbeck wanted to do more than merely tell the story of the Joad
family’s migration to California. What did he want to achieve, and how did he accomplish this?
Ideas : Having traveled himself with a group of migrating farmers from
Oklahoma to California, he wanted to draw a complete picture of the events that took place. He used the character of Jim Casy as his mouthpiece when he wanted to make a specific statement concerning the
injustices suffered and the morals of the people in power.
‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is therefore part narration dealing with the trials and tribulations relating to the Joad family, and part documentary dealing with the actual history and circumstances regarding the Dustbowl in Oklahoma, and the slavery of the migrant workers in the fruit and cotton fields of California.
Q : What techniques does Steinbeck use in order for the reader to quickly
identify with the numerous characters in the novel?
Ideas : Each character is given a main characteristic to enable the reader
to distinguish them in his mind e.g.
Ma Joad’s determination, strength and love
Tom’s high morality
Rose of Sharon’s girlish immaturity
Jim Casy’s determination and drive
Al’s idolization of his older brother Tom
Pa Joad’s short temper
Although this tends to be unsophisticated and results in the characters
being too sentimental at times, it has the desired effect especially when the reader has to contend with the broad Oklahoma dialect.
Q : Symbolism is used throughout the novel. Give some examples of this.
Ideas : The turtle’s struggle to cross the highway at the start of the novel
gives the reader a foretaste of the struggles that the migrant farmers will face in their journey across America to California.
Tom’s rebirth taking on the mantle of Jim Casy’s work is symbolized by the
fact that he hid inside a cave representing the womb.
Rose of Sharon’s last act in giving sustenance to the starving man
symbolizes the land in Oklahoma that was unable to give sufficient succour to the farmers and their families.
Q : What makes Steinbeck such a good author of works relating to the common
Ideas : Steinbeck throughout his life lived and worked beside the common
man, sharing his work and obtaining an understanding of the problems he faced.
He actually traveled with a group of migrant farmers from Oklahoma to California and produced a pamphlet called ‘Their Blood was Strong’ in 1936. He had been commissioned by the San Francisco News to cover this topic. This was to become the foundation for ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ published in 1939. It is clear that he would not write about a subject unless he had lived through the experience personally.