The Grapes of Wrath

Grapes of Greatness

Historians have noted that works of literature often adopt the mood of the times in which they were written. It is thus not surprising that The Grapes of Wrath, written by John Steinbeck in the desperate nadir of the Great Depression, appears to be a novel of righteous anger and ably communicates the gloomy depths of human sorrow. However, Steinbeck has also interlaced the storyline with threads of cautious optimism and subtle hope. The Grapes of Wrath is not only an expression of the struggle of the dispossessed Okies and Arkies in California, but also a testament to the power and resilience of the human spirit everywhere. To accomplish this goal, Steinbeck imbues the most depressing objects with an aura of optimism, uplifts the utmost tragedies with the greatest results, and has the worst events reveal the greatest character traits.

Steinbeck's hopeful symbolism is apparent early on in the novel before the reader has even been introduced to all the main characters. The author describes a concrete highway that was "edged with a mat of tangled, broken, dry grass, and the grass heads were heavy with oat beards to catch on a dog's coat." (19) This jungle by the highway represents the confusion that has enmeshed...

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