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Critical Response to the Grapes of Wrath

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Essay title: Critical Response to the Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck went into writing about the Dust Bowl migration feeling that he had the responsibility to convey the problem correctly. The Grapes of Wrath not only works as a call to action in favor of the masses of migrant workers that were forced to live in poverty, but also expresses several other messages about mankind itself. Steinbeck uses powerful imagery, unique and suspenseful structure, dramatic tone, and compelling symbolism to effectively squeeze a mountain of an issue into pages of text.

The Grapes of Wrath is structured with short chapters pertaining to the whole mass of migrants and longer chapters directed towards the actions of the Joad family. The styles of writing change dramatically between the two types of chapters, which helps to embellish the suspense of the storyline. Also, the structure at times works to juxtapose the selflessness of the poor and the selfishness of the wealthy. The shorter chapters help reiterate and emphasize that the situation of the Joad family was not unique, and show how there were too few people willing to help out. The shorter chapters also repeatedly point out that this was America in the 1930s, and that Steinbeck’s novel is not plainly a book of fiction.

The imagery and tone of The Grapes of Wrath work together to underscore the poverty of the migrant workers. The colors most present in the novel are gray and red. After they are mentioned in the first sentence of the novel, they are repetitively brought up in much of the imagery. Gray is the color of wear and deterioration, found especially prevalent in the very end of the book. The dust from the beginning of the novel is described as red or rust-colored, but by the end of the novel, the new dust around them is increasingly described as gray. This partly suggests that red symbolizes what drives them from Oklahoma, and gray is the color of the dreariness that awaits them. Gray shows up more frequently as the family descends further and further into disaster, just as their spirits wear. The tone throughout the novel is mostly either somber or angry, paralleling the real emotions of the migrant workers. This is most likely due to the fact that the emotions affected

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