Metaphors in 'The Grapes of Wrath': Critical Essay

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I think the setting is important in this piece because I believe the setting will affect many events in this book. I also believe it is important because the author believes the setting deserves its own chapter. “Every moving thing lifted the dust into the air: a walking man lifted a thin layer as high as his waist, and a wagon lifted the dust as high as the fence tops, and an automobile boiled a cloud behind it.”

The author used a simile well to describe the dust bowl/setting. Examples of this from the text are “'In the morning the dust hung like fog, and the sun was as red as ripe new blood.” The author is comparing the red of the sun to the red of blood. The author also used a simile to describe the turtle in chapter 3. “The back was brown-gray, like the dust, but the underside of the shell was creamy yellow, clean and smooth.” The simile is used to compare the turtle's color to the dust that is everywhere.

It was easy for me to get into this section/chapter because the author is very descriptive in describing the setting and the characters. This allows me to create a good visualization and understand everything effortlessly. “Men and women huddled in their houses, and they tied handkerchiefs over their noses when they went out and wore goggles to protect their eyes.” My opinions on this section are that based on the first chapter, it is more history based on the dust bowl era of the 1930s. The second chapter also made me believe there will be character interaction in this novel as well. 'Lookin' for a job?' he asked. 'No, my old man got a place, forty acres. He's a cropper, but we have been there a long time.'

I believe the author's intent in this section is to establish the setting and the types of people who live in the town. “The last rains lifted the corn quickly and scattered weed colonies and grass along the sides of the roads so that the gray country and the dark red country began to disappear under a green cover. In the last part of May, the sky grew pale and the clouds that had hung in high puffs for so long in the spring were dissipated. “ This quote establishes the setting. “Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, only a little green showing through the film of dust. The men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses to stand beside their men to feel whether this time the men would break. “ This quote shows what types of people live in the town. One main event of this section is the turtle getting knocked over. “And now a light truck approached, and as it came near, the driver saw the turtle and swerved to hit it. His front wheel struck the edge of the shell, flipped the turtle like a tiddly-wink, spun it like a coin, and rolled it off the highway.” I was very shocked once I first read this, and I wondered why anyone would do that to an animal.

Predictions that I have about the rest of the story are that we will get more information and character development from Joad. I believe this because based on Chapter 2, Joad seems like a very odd type of person. “The driver was reassured. He knew at least that Joad was listening.” This shows that Joad was very quiet on the car ride. “ 'Homicide,' he said quickly. 'That's a big word means I killed a guy. Seven years. I'm sprung in four for keepin' my nose clean.' Now, all of a sudden Joad has just confessed to murder to the Trucker. This shows that Joad has a very complex personality and backstory that I believe we’ll know more about soon.

Chapters 4-6

It was hard to get into this section/chapter because I was introduced to many new characters, which makes things a little more complicated. “'Why, you're the preacher. You're the preacher. I just passed a recollection about you to a guy not an hour ago.' 'I was a preacher,' said the man seriously. 'Reverend Jim Casy was a Burning Busher.” Here we are introduced to former preacher Jim Casy, as the chapters go on we meet many more characters, but none as in-depth as Jim Casy. My opinion on this section is that it is very important to the rest of the novel’s plot, along with the new characters that were introduced in it.

The author used many metaphors all throughout Chapter 5. Examples of this from the text are “ Their sunburned faces were dark, and their sun-whipped eyes were light.' This is used to describe the farmers. Another example is 'he was a part of the monster, a robot in the seat'. This is the first of many descriptions of the tractor drivers. And, one last example is 'Snob-nosed monsters, raiding the dust and sticking their snouts into it, Which is another description of the tractors.

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“An' this mornin' I didn't know what time to get up. Jus' laid there waitin' for the bell to go off.' 'Las' night, thinkin' where I'm gonna sleep, I got scared. An' I got thinkin' about my bunk”. I would like to say more about these quotes from Tom Joad. These quotes say a lot about Joad, it expresses how he misses prison and is still not fully accustomed to the outside world, as he is waiting for the prison bell to go off, and how he liked having a designated prison bunk. To the story itself, I don’t believe this means much. But, these quotes do tell us a lot about Joad. They tell us Joad is used to a structured schedule and things to be given to him because he was in jail for four years, he has obviously gotten used to that. So now, with his current situation, as in having no home and no structure, it will be very interesting to see how Joad reacts to this almost entirely different situation than what he’s used to in prison.

I think the setting is important in this piece because during Tom Joad and Jim Casy’s walk/where they met the author really sets the setting up for visualization from the reader’s point of view. “After a few fast steps, they slowed to a gentle, thoughtful pace. The cornstalks threw gray shadows sideways now, and the raw smell of hot dust was in the air. The cornfield ended and dark green cotton took its place, dark green leaves through a film of dust, and the bolls forming. “ This quote really sets the walk as a very calm peaceful walk with Joad and Casy. “ But the smell of burned dust was in the air, and the air was dry, so that mucus in the nose dried to a crust, and the eyes watered to keep the eyeballs from drying out. “ In this quote, the author is still referring back to Chapter 1 with the dust bowl just to make sure the reader still remembers which is also very important.

Predictions that I have about the rest of the story are that we are going to go on a journey with Joad, Casy, and perhaps even Muley. This is because, at the end of Chapter 6, it ends so mysteriously with everyone almost being caught by the police, having no home, and sleeping in Muley’s cave. “'Lead off,' said Joad. 'We'll folia you. I never thought I'd be hidin' out on my old man's place.' Muley set off across the fields, and Joad and Casy followed him. They kicked the cotton plants as they went. 'You'll be hidin' from lots of stuff,' said Muley. They marched in single file across the fields. They came to a water cut and slid easily down to the bottom of it. 'By God, I bet I know,' cried Joad. 'Is it a cave in the bank?' 'That's right.” Based on this evidence, it suggests that they will all continue some sort of journey in the next chapters.

Chapters 7-9

The author used literary devices well throughout the chapters. Examples of this from the text are “How if you wake up in the night and know and know the willow tree's not there? Can you live without the willow tree? Well, no, you can't. The willow tree is you. “ The author uses this metaphor of the willow tree to show the broader struggle that the Joads are going through and that highlights the difficulties of saying goodbye to prized possessions and moving on to a new place. Another example from the text is “'Course Muley's crazy, all right. Creepin' around like a coyote; that's bound to make him crazy.” This is a simile used to give a closer and more accurate description of Muley’s behavior.

This section is intriguing to me because the author uses different points of view. In Chapter 7, the author is narrating from a used car salesmen's point of view. “ They're lookers. Spend all their time looking. Don't want to buy any cars; take up your time. Don't give a damn about your time. Over there, the two people no, with the kids. Get 'em in a car. Start 'cm at two hundred and work down. They look good for one and a quarter.” This quote shows what the salesman is saying to his workers, and how they talk about their customers, as if they are money bags. Another point of view the author uses is in Chapter 9. This chapter is narrated by typical tenant farmers. “Harness, carts, seeders, little bundles of hoes. Bring 'em out. Pile 'em up. Load 'em in the wagon. Take 'em to town. Sell 'em for what you can get. Sell the team and the wagon, too. No more use for anything.” The author uses the narration of the tenant farmers to show how the farmers are forced to pawn most of their belongings, both to raise money for their trip and simply because they cannot take them on the road. These different narrations make this section much more intriguing for me.

“Listen, Jim, I heard that Chevvy's rear end. Sounds like bustin' bottles. Squirt in a couple of quarts of sawdust. Put some in the gears, too. We got to move that lemon for thirty-five dollars. Bastard cheated me on that one.” I would like to talk more about this quote from chapter 7. In this quote from the used car salesman’s point of view, he is talking about putting sawdust in the gears and rear end of the car. This quote really depicts how the salesmen really did not care about customer satisfaction or their customers in general. They just did whatever they needed to sell the car. I believe the author is trying to say that for many jobs, it really was just about the money back then. Another quote that interests me is “Coin' to California? Here's just what you need. Looks shot, but they're thousand of miles in her. Lined up side by side. Good Used Cars. Bargains. Clean, runs good.” This also supports my previous statement. The salesmen say they are good cars when they are in fact not good whatsoever, just to get another sale.

It was hard to get into this section/chapter because I had trouble understanding what was going on at the beginning of chapters 7 and 9. This is because I had assumed from here on out the book would be about Joad, Casy, and Muley. Now, when the chapters start and it is not what I expect, I have to analyze what is going on, who is speaking, what is the setting, etc; just to get the gist of the storyline and what the author is trying to say. “A lot and a house large enough for a desk and chair and a blue book. Sheaf of contracts, dog-eared, held with paper clips, and a neat pile of unused contracts. Pen keep it full, keep it working. A sale's been lost 'cause a pen didn't work.” This is the beginning of chapter 7, and personally, I really had to analyze the quote and what it means before I could move on with the chapter so I could understand better. A second quote is “That plow, that harrow, remember in the war we planted mustard? Remember a fella wanted us to put in that rubber bush they call guayule? Get rich, he said. Bring out those tools and get a few dollars for them. Eighteen dollars for that plow, plus freight Sears Roebuck.” This is the beginning of Chapter 9, and it is, yet again, a different person's point of view, which I have to spend time adjusting to for each chapter.

Predictions that I have about the rest of the story are that the author will hopefully go more in-depth with Tom Joads family. This is because, in Chapter 8, the descriptions of Pa, Ma, Grandpa, Granma, and Al are very generic and stereotypical. “ 'Let 'em come,' she said. 'We got plenty. Tell 'em they got to wash their hands. The bread is done. I'm just takin' up the side meat now.' And the sizzle of the angry grease came from the stove” This quote shows Ma, when Joad first arrives, was busy making bread in the kitchen, which is obviously very stereotypical for a woman back then. The author does go more in-depth with her physical appearance, and how Joad perceives her and her reaction to Joad surprising her, but not her personal characteristics and traits. “ Smart-aleck sixteen-year-older, an' his nuts is just a-eggin' him on. He doesn't think of anything but girls and engines. A plain smart aleck. Ain't been in nights for a week.' This is also a description the author provides of Al, Joad’s younger brother. The description is also very stereotypical. He is a 16-year-old boy who likes cars and girls. Therefore, I predict the author will go more in-depth with each of these characters and their individual personalities.

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Metaphors in ‘The Grapes of Wrath’: Critical Essay. (2023, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
“Metaphors in ‘The Grapes of Wrath’: Critical Essay.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2023,
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