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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (Honors Summer Reading) Review and Quote Analysis Assignment
The Dust Bowl
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Grapes Handout.pdf When Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath, the United States was suffering through a severe economic depression. Everywhere people lost their savings, homes, and means of earning a living. Especially hard hit were the farming areas of the Midwest. Poor farming practices had depleted the soil, and it became less capable of supporting the individual families who farmed their small sections of it. Also, the markets and prices for the crops declined. Agriculture markedly changed in the area as a result. Small farms were consolidated into larger, and more profitable units. Tractors, other machines, and day laborers replaced mules and family labor. Independent farm life, which had developed the area and dominated it during the 1800s, dwindled.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND CONT. In the mid-1930s there were severe droughts and erosion of the dry soil by strong winds. This created a “Dust Bowl” in the states of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Colorado. The small farmers, now tenants and sharecroppers, were uprooted from the homes and farms which had belonged to their families for many years. By the tens of thousands these victims of depression, drought, and dust headed west to seek a better life in the fertile fields of California. They found themselves as much victims there. Work was scarce, wages were low, and they were resented, resisted, and repressed by the residents. Their attempts to better their lives were branded as Communism, a system much disliked and feared by many Americans of the time
LITERARY SIGNIFIGANCE – Literary Movement= Realism with a bit of Transcendentalism – “Few pieces of literature so accurately capture and portray the desperation of a generation… The Grapes of Wrath is one of those novels that defines a country, a people and an era. The story is so deeply ingrained in our identity as a nation that we have an educational imperative to pass it along to each generation”-enotes.com – It’s just fantastic writing!!!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR “Born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California, John Steinbeck dropped out of college and worked as a manual laborer before achieving success as a writer. His 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath, about the migration of a family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California, won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. Steinbeck served as a war correspondent during World War II, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in He died in New York City in 1968” –www.biography.com.
THE GRAPES OF WRATH: About the Title Taken from the hymn “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” (Allusion) – “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on.”
THE GRAPES OF WRATH: About the Title Continued The hymn summons God to bring justice to those who have wrecked havoc over the land and over its people. In other words, the hateful ways of the people are so great that only God can bring about vengeance. In the context of this novel, "the grapes of wrath" may be interpreted as the greed, self-interest, and selfish ways of the landowners and of the banks – all of which lead to the suffering of thousands of migrant workers.
POINT OF VIEW & INTERCHAPTERS The novel is narrated in the third-person voice (“he”/“she”/“it”). What is particularly significant about this technique is that the point of view varies in tone and method, depending on the author’s purpose. The novel’s distinctive feature is its sixteen inserted, or intercalary, chapters provide documentary information for the reader. These chapters give social and historical background of the mid-1930s Depression era, especially as it affects migrants like the Joads.
THEMES HOPE CLASS CONFLICT INDIVIDUAL vs. SOCIETY COMMITMENT
ALLEGORY: What’s with the turtle? The turtle can be seen as a metaphor for both the Joads and the migrants in general: the turtle is tough, tenacious, and unstoppable.
SYMBOLISM Family stands for the larger “family” of humanity Judeo-Christian Symbolism *The Joads, like the Israelites, are a homeless and persecuted people looking for the promised land. * Jim Casy can be viewed as a symbol of Jesus Christ, who began His mission after a period of solitude in the wilderness like Casy. Jim Casy has the same initials as Jesus Christ. Like Christ, Casy finally offers himself as the sacrifice to save his people. Casy’s last words, “Listen, you fellas don’ know what you’re doing.” When Jesus’ last words, “Father forgive them; they know not what they do.” Tom becomes Casy’s disciple after his death. Tom is ready to continue his teacher’s work, and it has been noted that two of Jesus’s disciples were named Thomas.
TERMS TO KNOW Oakie- term of contempt Hooverville- common name of migrant camps Weedpatch- term used to describe government camps Bull Simple- acting crazy
Review Assignment In your group, you will analyze your assigned quote(s) and present that analysis to the class. Please include the following information for each quote: -Who said the quote? Why is this character important to the novel? -What was happening at this point in the novel? Where would this event fit on a plot diagram? (Example: inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution)
Review Assignment Continued -What is the meaning of the quote? (put the quote in your own words) -What key historical idea does it connect to? or What theme does this quote represent? Why? -Other analysis? -Photos or Graphics?
GOW Quote #1 “ ‘Cause what’d they take when they tractored the folks off the lan’? What’d they get so their ‘margin of profit’ was safe? The got Pa dyin’ on the groun’ an’ Joe yellin’ his first breath…they jus’ chopped folks in two for their margin a profit.”- Chapter 6, page 55
GOW Quote #2 “Place where folks live is them folks”- Chapter 6, page 55
Dorothea Lange, Photographer of the Dust Bowl Era a Migrant Mother and Children
GOW Quote #3 “The women watched the men, watched to see whether the break had come at last…And where a number of men had gathered together, the fear went from their faces, and anger took its place.”- Chapter 29, last full paragraph
GOW Quote #4 “And the women sighed with relief, for they knew it was all right – the break had not come; and the break would never come as long as fear could turn to wrath.”- Chapter 29, last full paragraph
GOW Quote #5 “She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel* of the family, the strong place that could not be taken.”- Chapter 8, page 79 – *fortress, usually on high ground
GOW Quote #6 “Sometimes I’d pray like I always done. On’y I couldn’ figure what I was prayin’ to or for. There was the hills, an’ there was me, an’ we wasn’t separate no more. We was one thing. An’ that one thing was holy.”- chapter 8, page 88
GOW Quote #7 “Then he crept into houses and left gum under pillows for children; then he cut wood and took no pay. Then he gave away any possession he might have a saddle, a horse, a new pair of shoes. One could not talk to him then, for he ran away, or if confronted hid within himself and peeked out of frightened eyes.” –chapter 10, page 104
GOW Quote #8 “The death of his wife, followed by months of being alone, had marked him with guilt and shame and had left an unbreaking loneliness on him.”-chapter 10, page 104
GOW Quote #9 “…at the wheel, his face purposeful, his whole body listening…his restless eyes jumping from the road to the instrument panel…every nerve listening for weaknesses, for the thumps or squeals, hums and chattering that indicate a change that may cause a breakdown. He had become the soul of the car.” –chapter 13, 2 nd paragraph, page 133
Migrant Family on Rt. 66
GOW Quote #10 “…perhaps the owners had heard from their grandfathers how easy it is to steal land from a soft man if you are fierce and hungry and armed. The owners hated them.”- chapter 19, page
GOW Quote #11 “A crop raised – why, that makes ownership. Land hoed and the carrots eaten – a man might fight for land he’s taken food from. Get him off quick! He’ll think he owns it. He might even die fighting for the little plot among the Jimson weeds…We gotta keep these here people down or they’ll take the country.”- chapter 19, page
GOW Quote #12 “The changing economy was ignored, plans for the change ignored; and only means to destroy revolt were considered, while the causes of revolt went on.”- chapter 19, page 262
GOW Quote #13 “If he’ll take twenty-five, I’ll do it for twenty. No, me, I’m hungry. I’ll work for fifteen. I’ll work for food. The kids. You ought to see them. Little boils, like, comin’out, an’ they can’t run aroun’. Give ‘em some windfall fruit, an’ they bloated up. Me. I’ll work for a little piece of meat…” – chapter 21, pages
GOW Quote #14 “…And this was good, for wages went down and prices stayed up. The great owners were glad and they sent out more handbills to bring more people in. And wages went down and prices stayed up. And pretty soon now we’ll have serfs again.”- chapter 21, page 313
GOW Quote #15 “And the companies, the banks worked at their own doom and they did not know it. The fields were fruitful, and starving men moved on the roads. The granaries were full and the children of the poor grew up rachitic, and the pustules of pellagra swelled on their sides. The great companies did not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line. And money that might have gone to wages went for gas, for guns, for agents and spies, for blacklists, for drilling. On the highways the people moved like ants and searched for work, for food. And the anger began to ferment.”- chapter 21, page 313
GOW Quote #16 “The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back, they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And the stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch…and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”- chapter 25, page 385