The Grapes of Wrath

Problem vs Picaresque

John Steinbeck wrote two novels in the thirties concerning human behaviors during the depression entitled The Grapes of Wrath in 1939 and In Dubious Battle in 1936. The Grapes of Wrath is the better novel because it fulfills the requirements of being a picaresque novel while In Dubious Battle does not stand up to the characteristics of a propaganda novel. Typically, the loose characteristics of a novel are that it must be set in the realistic world with believable characters interacting with and revealed by believable actions and events in a long narrative form. Both works are accurately labeled novels, but the real question is whether or not they fit into a novel subcategory. As stated in A Handbook to Literature, Second Edition by C. Hugh Holman a picaresque novel is:

A chronicle, usually autobiographical, presenting the life story of a rascal of low degree engaged in menial tasks... Episodic in nature, the picaresque novel is, in the usual sense of the term, structureless. The picaro, or central figure, through the nature of his various pranks and predicaments and by virtue of his associations with people of varying degree, affords the author an opportunity for satire on the social classes. ...the picaresque novel...

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