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The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck

THE STORY CHAPTER 1

In the opening chapter, Steinbeck takes us to the Dust Bowl, the vast, dried-out farmland of the Southwest in the 1930s. He shows us the gradual bleaching of the land.

What was green and rich and fertile loses its life and turns to dust. Drained of moisture, the red earth turns pink and the gray earth turns to white dust. The wind sweeps the rain clouds away and sends dust billowing into the sky.

Steinbeck then shows us the people. Families worry about the land and crops. The wives worry that their men may crack under the strain. Since the farmers can't fight the weather, they sit silently and hope for rain.


NOTE: This description of the coming of drought is the first of the novel's interchapters. In only a few pages you see the effects of a months-long drought. You are introduced to a motif that will recur as you continue reading, namely, the bond between the land and the people. If land goes bad, life goes bad. But the people are hardy and stoic. They hurt, but they don't break.

The chapter ends in stillness, like the calm before a storm, and in contrast to the start of the next chapter.  

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