The original land in which they live on. How has it changed over the course of the novel, how was it to begin with. I don't understand what the novel means. Imagine the land as a character in The Grapes of Wrath. What does it look like? What is its past? How does it change during the novel? Is it still alive by the end?
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The question asks you to personify the land. Before commercial farming or agribusiness, there was a connection between the farmer and his land. This is why the sharecropper met the Cat tractor with a shotgun. His land was worthless but it was a part of him, a part of his identity. Under commercial farming people got disconnected from the land and what they eat. Instead of working to grow our food we go to grocery stores. Most people have no clue how their food is grown or produced. When small scale farmers farmed their land, they were part of their harvest. Is the land still alive? It is alive but the connection most urbanized people have to it is pretty much dead.