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The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck

THE NOVEL OTHER ELEMENTS FORM AND STRUCTURE

The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family for about half a year of their lives. We meet them just after they've been thrown off their land, probably in April or May. We go with them on a long cross-country trek, which lasts, perhaps, slightly more than a month. The last time we see them, they are in a hillside barn seeking refuge from wintry rains and floods, perhaps in November or December. Exact times can't be pinned down.

The Joads' story is told chronologically. Steinbeck occasionally fills in details of the characters' past lives in two ways. Sometimes he just tells us. That's how we learn about Noah Joad's violent birth, for example. Or Steinbeck has characters talk about themselves, as Casy does, or about each other. When Tom tells Casy the story of Uncle John's ill-fated marriage, we listen, too.

Between many of the narrative chapters, Steinbeck inserts interchapters, usually short sketches of economic and social history that bear on the story. Taken all together, the interchapters comprise a colorful background montage of migrant life. (See the accompanying table of chapters and interchapters.)


You can easily divide The Grapes of Wrath into three parts. Call the first part Oppression, the time of drought and dust in Oklahoma. The second section, about the journey, can be called Exodus; and the final portion, in California, The Promised Land. In viewing the novel's structure this way, we can discern biblical parallels. The Israelites, God's chosen people, left the land of their bondage, Egypt, and wandered in the desert for many years, searching in vain for a promised land, the land of milk and honey.

    NARRATIVE CHAPTERS                   INTERCHAPTERS                      
                                                                           
   2. Tom hitches home from prison      1. The dust storms                  
   4. Tom meets Jim Casy                3. The turtle                       
   6. Tom and Casy meet Muley Graves    5. Foreclosures; tenants            
   8. Tom is reunited with family          versus owners, banks,            
  10. Joads prepare to leave               tractors                         
  13. Journey begins; Joads meet        7. Used-car lots                    
      Wilsons; Grampa dies              9. What to keep, what to sell       
  16. Car trouble; Ma rebels;          11. Alienated work; vacant           
      ragged prophet                       houses                           
  18. Joads reach California; Noah     12. Route 66                         
      leaves; Granma dies; Joads       14. Socialism; "I" versus "we"       
      cross desert                     15. Roadside truck-stops             
  20. Hooverville: Casy arrested;      17. Roadside camps                   
      Connie vanishes                  19. California landowners;           
  22. Weedpatch government camp            Hoovervilles; fear of            
  24. Saturday night dance                 Okies                            
  26. Peach picking; strike; Casy      21. Fear-filled owners versus        
      killed; Tom in trouble               hungry workers                   
  28. Boxcar camp; Ruthie tells        23. Camp entertainment               
      on Tom; Tom leaves               25. Economics of abundance           
  30. Floods; Rose of Sharon feeds     27. Cotton                           
      stranger                         29. The floods   

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© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
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