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The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck


In this interchapter we watch a land turtle's slow and painful journey through roadside grass, across a highway, and over an embankment. The turtle leaves a beaten trail behind him. Whatever hinders his progress is repelled by his hard shell. A red ant that crawls underneath the shell gets crushed. A woman in a sedan avoids the turtle, but the driver of a pick-up truck swerves to hit him. The wheel nicks the turtle and sends him spinning onto his back. Stopped temporarily, the turtle pauses. After a brief struggle to right himself, he continues his march.

How puzzling to find a chapter about a turtle in The Grapes of Wrath. It's different from everything in the novel so far. Let's assume that Steinbeck knows what he's doing, and that he has a sensible plan to fit this turtle into the novel.

In the meantime, it might be worth observing some of the turtle's most apparent qualities. He has tenacity above all: despite obstacles, the turtle drives himself ever forward. He also has endurance, strength, and pride. Steinbeck says the turtle has "hands," and "fierce, humorous eyes," which peer ahead across the road.

Why Steinbeck assigns a turtle characteristics normally reserved for people is an issue worth pondering. If the turtle has symbolic significance, we haven't yet read enough to determine what it may be. Usually we talk of a turtle as an "it." Here Steinbeck uses the pronoun "he." Maybe there's something in that, too.

We'll have to come back to the turtle later.  


ECC [Table of Contents] []

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