The Grapes of Wrath is a novel by John Steinbeck that exposes the desperate conditions under which the migratory farm families of America during the 1930’s live under. The novel tells of one families migration west to California through the great economic depression of the 1930’s. The Joad family had to abandon their home and their livelihoods. They had to uproot and set adrift because tractors were rapidly industrializing their farms. The bank took possession of their land because the owners could not pay off their loan. The novel shows how the Joad family deals with moving to California. How they survive the cruelty of the land owners that take advantage of them, their poverty and willingness to work.
The Grapes of Wrath combines Steinbeck adoration of the land, his simple hatred of corruption resulting from materialism (money) and his abiding faith in the common people to overcome the hostile environment. The novel opens with a retaining picture of nature on rampage. The novel shows the men and women that are unbroken by nature. The theme is one of man verses a hostile environment. His body destroyed but his spirit is not broken. The method used to develop the theme of the novel is through the use of symbolism. There are several uses of symbols in the novel from the turtle at the beginning to the rain at the end. As each symbol is presented through the novel they show examples of the good and the bad things that exist within the novel.
The opening chapter paints a vivid picture of the situation facing the drought-stricken farmers of Oklahoma. Dust is described a covering everything, smothering the life out of anything that wants to grow. The dust is symbolic of the erosion of the lives of the people. The dust is synonymous with “deadness”. The land is ruined ^way of life (farming) gone, people ^uprooted and forced to leave. Secondly, the dust stands for ^profiteering banks in the background that squeeze the life out the land by forcing the people off the land. The soil, the people (farmers) have been drained of life and are exploited:
The last rain fell on the red and gray country of Oklahoma in early May. The weeds became a dark green to protect themselves from the sun’s unyielding rays.
Grapes of Wrath Essay: Steinbeck’s Use of Universal Archetypes
Use of Universal Archetypes in The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck sets his novel The Grapes of Wrath during the Depression of the 1930’s. Universal archetypes play a significant role in Steinbeck’s story. Steinbeck creates a cast of characters whose archetypes can be easily related to. The Earthmother, haven versus hell, and the evil figure with the ultimately good heart are archetypes described in The Grapes of Wrath to show the bad and good times during a time of hardships.
During a period of arduous and zestful moments, the archetypal Earthmother can be identified in the Joad household. Ma Joad is the citadel in the family. She thinks and cares not for herself but for the family and people. Ma has helped keep the family stable, ” She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook” (96). Even in times when food was scarce, Ma spared what she could to help those without. Ma said, “´ Look, you little fellas go an’ get you each a flat stick an’ I’ll put what’s lef’ for you ‘” (331). The Earthmother is characterized by the willingness and thoughtfulness in helping and nurturing the family and fellow neighbors. Ma’s daughter, Rose of Sharon, gradually changes to an Earthmother. Rose of Sharon finds herself being concerned with the welfare of her baby. She is in constant worry about whether she is giving enough nutrients from milk and food to bring a healthy baby in the world. Rose of Sharon’s final act of nurturing shows how she accepts her role as Earthmother. ” She looked up and across the barn and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously” (589). With this smile, the mystery of motherhood is understood by Rose of Sharon. Though she was unable to g…
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…a sanctuary and a place of peace and beauty while the hells are gruesome and of cruelty.
In the Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck incorporates the Earthmother, the evil figure with the ultimately good heart, and the haven versus hell as archetypes to describes the characters and the situations in the novel that the migrants experiences on their excursion through the enjoyable and mendacious times. Ma and Rose of Sharon for there nurturing and caring of others characterized the Earthmother. Not only the Joads, but also other migrants encountered the evil figure with the ultimately good heart. The Haven and the hell are both symbolic of the dwellings the migrants and the Joads went through. These are archetypes that are described in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath in order to create a story of real life experiences during the depression of the 1930’s.