The Grapes of Wrath

By john steinbeck, the grapes of wrath essay questions.

How does the dialogue in The Grapes of Wrath work to illustrate the setting of the novel?

Steinbeck uses broken language and colloquialisms in the dialogue between his characters, and (as written out) the conversations are littered with misspellings. The dialogue can be difficult to read at times, but it serves to illustrate the mood and atmosphere of the characters and their lives: although the Joads and their companions are not prosperous or highly educated, they talk in a way that they can understand easily among themselves. Even though it takes patience to decipher, Steinbeck's dialogue is key to an accurate portrayal of how migrant workers spoke and interacted with one another.

Provide and explain instances from the novel when the characters realize the enormity of the systemic injustices perpetrated against them.

There are many examples of moral awareness in the novel, and such awareness occurs in monologues, narratives, and conversations between characters. All of these are important to answering this question, and it would be best to include a variety of examples in order to compare and contrast different episodes. For example, it would be effective to include a passage that does not include major characters (such as the scene in which an unnamed tenant argues with an unnamed tractor driver), and contrast such a scene with Muley's monologue about profit margin. In this exchange, Muley addresses two very important characters, Casy and Joad, shortly after seeing them for the first time.

How does alternating between generic and specific scenes further the plot and the emotional effect of the novel?

The answer to this question should explain how the novel alternates between narrative descriptions of generic scenes, where no characters are known or named, and lengthier chapters that deal with the characters that have been formally introduced to the reader. Because the generic scenes come first, they provide backdrops for the events that are about to face the major characters, such as Tom Joad, Ma, or Jim Casy. In Steinbeck's novel, the use of juxtaposition highlights the universality of certain experiences and allows the reader to see the far-reaching effects of what the Joad family is experiencing.

Describe the relationship between the people and their land in The Grapes of Wrath .

The answer to this question should delve into the many passages in the beginning of the novel that discuss the primal connection between man and the land. When the tractor destroys homes and removes people from the land, this machine is excising portions of human livelihood and memory. Additionally, when a person is forced to leave and will no longer know whether there is a willow tree out front, then that individual has been forced to leave behind an essential part of his or her being. The process of moving is a process of upheaval, both physically and emotionally, since the people are forced to leave behind the things that they hold dear.

How do the Joads handle the uncertainty of their future in California?

While the Joads, and many other families, have been promised a land of plentiful produce and good employment in California, these families are still unsure about whether the handbills are telling the truth. Each of the Joads handles the uncertainty differently: Ma focuses only on each day and on taking care of her family from moment to moment, Tom tries to think of nothing in the future (just as he did in prison), and Pa thinks fondly of the produce that he will be able to pick and eat in California. Even though the Joads all discuss the future in different ways, a basic anxiety and uncertainty lies beneath all of their conversations about the future.

How do the Joads handle the difficulties of the journey to California? Exactly what obstances must the family face?

The Joads must take care of their limited money and must make due with small living spaces as they travel to California. They have 12 people and many possessions packed on the back of an old jalopy, and the physical elements make the journey unpleasant: the family is exposed to weather conditions constantly. Emotionally, they face obstacles as well: they lose Granma and Grampa en route, and Ma also becomes very sick. In addition, they meet a handful of people who tell them that California doesn't actually offer all that the handbills claim. Despite the doubts introduced by other people and despite their own personal doubts, the Joads continue on. They remain optimistic and believe that, even if other families have faced difficulties, they will be able to find work, save money, and create a better life.

Why did the number of handbills printed exceed the amount of work available? How does this relate to capitalism and organized labor?

When answering this question, keep in mind that almost every family traveling west has seen the orange handbill which declares that hundreds of field workers are needed. The Joads refuse to believe that an excess number of handbills would have been printed because printing handbills costs money, but other travelers explain that all this is part of a larger strategy. If there is an excess number of workers, the owners of the land have leverage and can drive pay rates down because men are desperate for work and need to feed their families. Without the organized labor that could stand up to the capitalist owners, the laborers are at the mercy of their bosses. The struggle between capitalism and organized labor is a prominent theme in The Grapes of Wrath , and this theme should be expanded upon in the answer to this essay question.

Why do the wealthy landowners feel threatened by the government camp, and what do they do about it?

The wealthy landowners and businessmen have built a formidable opposition to the demands of the laborers, who seek essential human rights and basic lifestyle improvements. In Steinbeck's narrative, the business interests have accumulated an enormous surplus of workers, so that now these interests can easily control labor wages. But because the laborers are staying in a government camp where they are able to elect their own leaders, have their voices heard, and live in a dignified manner, the landowners are concerned that the laborers' frustration with the economic system will grow into a rebellion. In order to stop this, the landowners have planned for a fight to happen at a labor camp dance, which will enable police officers to enter and end the tranquil and confident life of the camp.

What is the meaning of the title, The Grapes of Wrath ? Where does it appear in the novel?

The answer to this question should explain that the title of the book appears at the very end of the novel, in a long narrative quote. The answer should also explain the phrase's origins in the Book of Revelation and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. In addition, an effective essay on this topic should acknowledge that there have been different interpretations of the title; still, try to offer an explanation that points to the broader themes of the novel, such as oppression, greed, suffering, and justice.

How does labor organizing bring the hope of better labor conditions?

For the migrants depicted in The Grapes of Wrath , wages have been driven down by a high supply of laborers and a low demand for work. Internal competition for jobs has driven these wages even lower. Laborers who form organizations are able to communicate with one another and to call attention to wages that are lower than they are willing to accept -- wages that they cannot survive on. By gathering together, laborers have greater leverage against powerful landowners.

GradeSaver will pay $15 for your literature essays

The Grapes of Wrath Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for The Grapes of Wrath is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Grapes of Wrath Chapter 6 and 8 Questions

1. What are the preacher's plans? Casey wants to find the people who have went out on the road to help them.

Please submit each of your questions one at a time. Thanks.

What are two things that cause the Joad's problems?

• the industrialization of agriculture

• corporate greed

which term best describes the word choice of a piece of writting ?

I would say mood and diction go together.

Study Guide for The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath study guide contains a biography of John Steinbeck, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Grapes of Wrath Summary
  • Character List

Essays for The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

  • Contrasting the Movie and Novel Form of The Grapes of Wrath
  • Four Pages of Fear, Hostility, and Exploitation
  • All in the Family in The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Importance of Chapter Twenty-Five
  • Grapes of Greatness

Lesson Plan for The Grapes of Wrath

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to The Grapes of Wrath
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • The Grapes of Wrath Bibliography

Wikipedia Entries for The Grapes of Wrath

  • Introduction
  • Religious interpretation
  • Development

grapes of wrath essay prompts

AP Assignments for The Grapes of Wrath

By tim roberts san dieguito academy encinitas, ca, 2009.

On a schedule in which there is never enough time and within a curriculum in which everything, at least on paper, has to be tied to the AP Language exam, finding a place for a novel the size of  The Grapes of Wrath  can take some doing. What follows are two suggested AP writing assignments that could be done with the book to supplement whatever other literary or response-based approach you may choose. As far as teaching to the test, the language exam has a number of qualities to recommend for it despite its necessarily superficial and abbreviated format. Rhetorical analysis promotes close reading, and the interchapters lend themselves well to such analysis. They are rich in imagery and figurative language, widely range in tone, and employ syntax to varied and dramatic effect. The synthesis essay calls on students to use research materials in forming a coherent argument; there are a number of topics in the novel that could be grouped with outside readings to provide the basis for such an essay. It’s an assignment that would lead students to examine the novel’s themes more thoroughly and explore their significance more deeply.

Rhetorical analysis

I’m familiar with  The Grapes of Wrath  as a staple in AP Language classes that had their roots in American literature courses. It’s still possible to invest the time to read the book with students while preparing them for the exam. I’ll assume that most students would have been introduced to rhetorical analysis already. The interchapters represent a stylistic tour de force on Steinbeck’s part, kind of the writerly equivalent of a jazz musician referencing Dixieland, swing, bop, and free jazz in a concept album. “Perhaps no aspect of Steinbeck’s accomplishment in  The Grapes of Wrath  has been overlooked as often as the sheer genius of prose style throughout the novel,” writes Louis Owens in  The Grapes of Wrath : Trouble  in the Promised Land . His excerpt on style, “From Genesis to Jalopies: A Tapestry of Styles,” is an adequate reference on the interchapters’ stylistic variety from the opening’s biblical cadences and epic sweep to the fragment-filled passages that render the confusion generated by the fast-talking used car salesmen.

The analyses could be approached in a number of ways. An entire chapter could be analyzed; the students could identify what they see as Steinbeck’s major purpose in the selection and explain what rhetorical elements uses to convey it. Alternatively, students could be given a section of the chapter, perhaps of a roughly equivalent length to an AP selection. For example, Chapter 23 has several short scenes depicting the migrants’ pleasures at the roadside camps, including telling stories, making music, dancing, getting drunk and getting saved. Any of those slices would be a suitable subject for analysis. Even a more seamless interchapter, such as Chapter 15, can be divided into smaller, more manageable units (the initial description of the diner, Mae and Al; the description of the “shitheel” couple). In another variation, the prompt could be focused to mirror some of the AP rhetorical analysis exercises. For example, students could analyze how Steinbeck conveys his criticism of the used car salesmen in Chapter 7, or his view of technology as expressed in the depiction of the tractor in Chapter 5.

Synthesis essay

In addition to the rhetorical analysis, the multitude of developed topics in  The Grapes of Wrath  could be used to give students practice with the synthesis essay. The essay calls for students to integrate at least three of six to seven given sources into a coherent argumentative essay. Teachers could choose topics and passages for the students to integrate into an essay supplemented by material that they have found or that students locate through research. In addition to the skills involved in crafting a solidly argued synthesis essay, the assignment could have students meet a number of other goals. For example, they could learn to identify thematic topics in novels such as are developed in  The Grapes of Wrath . They could also research supplementary works to complement their topics.

A few suggested topics with suggested supplementary works follow. (If you’re like me, you want to use your own. I usually find more reasons to reject people’s suggested titles than adopt them, preferring to find my own. An assignment of this nature might work best if the teacher or students chose works of particular interest to them. However, the suggestions are offered in the spirit of providing some leads and examples.)

The alienating nature of technology Steinbeck presents conflicting views.

In Chapter 5, the tractor is presented as an insect-like destructive force that rapes the land and separates its driver both from the land and the community. However, in Chapter 10, Al is described as closely in tune with the truck, monitoring it for problems. That close relationship is echoed in Chapter 12, the interchapter depicting the migrants’ “flight” along Route 66. Finally, in Chapter 16 Steinbeck gives nearly step-by-step instructions in how to replace a con-rod in 1925 Dodge that highlight the men’s intimate relationship with the machine. The intimacy that characterized the farmers’ relationship with the land now colors their relationship with machines. These alternative attitudes toward technology – intimate and alienating – can be found in a number of other works. I’ll suggest three:  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance  by Robert Pirsig (that dates me);  “The Case for Working with Your Hands”  by Matthew Crawford, which appeared in the May 21, 2009 New York Times Magazine and is adopted from his book  The Soulcraft of Shop Class ,; and “ Brain Candy: Is pop culture dumbing us down or smartening us up? ” by Malcolm Gladwell, which first appeared in  The New Yorker .

The immorality of capitalism

Throughout the novel, Steinbeck presents an indictment of a capitalist system that allows people to starve, exploits them mercilessly and, ultimately, is complicit in their murder. That topic is explored in a number of short essays by eminent economists, philosophers and politicians entitled  “Does the free market corrode moral character? ” available at the John Templeton Foundation website.

The morality of working for the good of the group

In the novel, Steinbeck charts his characters’ growth from looking after their own self-interests to caring for the good of the whole, depicts their movement from “I to We.” This is a topic with a rich tradition in American literature from which to draw: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”; the poetry of Walt Whitman; aspects of Mark Twain’s  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn . An interesting companion piece might be William Golding’s  Lord of the Flies , a staple of early high school years with an arresting counterpoint to Steinbeck’s view of the group behavior. For an interesting evolutionary biological view, try Natalie Angier’s  “Of Altruism, Heroism and Evolution’s Gifts ” from the September 18, 2001  New York Times .

There are a number of other lesser topics that can be followed and extracted out of  The Grapes of Wrath  that could make for engaging work: the crippling effects of guilt, sin and shame, as illustrated by Uncle John’s condition, the nasty shopkeeper that Ma converts in Chapter 26 and misery-dealing evangelicals; the nature of work, both satisfying and alienating, seen, again, in the alienated tractor driver in contrast with the pleasures of hefting a pickaxe in Chapter 22; the dangers and uses of anger, providing people with the righteous outrage to fight on bookended in the first and penultimate chapters but worrying Ma that it will reduce Tom to a “walkin’ chunk a mean-mad”; the advisability of taking life one day at a time and going with the flow suggested in Tom’s repeated strategy of just putting one foot in front of another and Ma’s ability to ride easily in the truck and adjust to the life changes, the latter explained to Pa in Chapter 28.

The above is not, by any means, intended to lay out a complete serving of topics in  The Grapes of Wrath . (I haven’t even broached the repeated references to road kill.) It does suggest ways to incorporate a lengthy novel in a curriculum hemmed in by the demands of the AP Language requirements.

The Grapes of Wrath

Guide cover image

45 pages • 1 hour read

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapters 1-5

Chapters 6-9

Chapters 10-13

Chapters 14-17

Chapters 18-21

Chapters 22-25

Chapters 26-30

Character Analysis

Symbols & Motifs

Important Quotes

Essay Topics

Discussion Questions

How far is it possible for the migrants to “start over” in California given the loss of their homes?

“It is not the tractor, but the way the tractor is owned which hurts the tenant farmers.” What is the meaning of this quote?

Is it legitimate to kill in self-defense? Discuss this in connection with the characters of Tom and Casy.

blurred text

Don't Miss Out!

Access Study Guide Now

Related Titles

By John Steinbeck

Guide cover image

Cannery Row

John Steinbeck

Guide cover image

East of Eden

Guide cover image

In Dubious Battle

Guide cover image

Of Mice and Men

Guide cover placeholder

Sweet Thursday

Guide cover image

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

Guide cover image

The Chrysanthemums

The Harvest Gypsies: On the Road to the Grapes of Wrath

The Log From The Sea of Cortez

The Long Valley

Guide cover image

The Moon Is Down

Guide cover image

The Red Pony

Guide cover image

The Wayward Bus

Guide cover image

The Winter Of Our Discontent

To a God Unknown

Guide cover placeholder

Tortilla Flat

Guide cover image

Travels With Charley

Featured Collections

9th-12th Grade Historical Fiction

View Collection

American Literature

Books Made into Movies

Books on Justice & Injustice

Books on U.S. History

Contemporary Books on Social Justice

Politics & Government

Poverty & Homelessness

Required Reading Lists

68 Grapes of Wrath Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best grapes of wrath topic ideas & essay examples, 📑 good research topics about grapes of wrath, 📌 interesting topics to write about grapes of wrath.

  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck The rest of the family is forced to go on, as the police suddenly begin to chase them. Tom understands that it is dangerous for him to stay there, and the work is over.
  • “The Grapes of Wrath” the Novel by John Steinbeck The novel “The grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck is claimed to describe the lives of ordinary farm workers all over the United States of America who moved to California during the period of the […] We will write a custom essay specifically for you by our professional experts 808 writers online Learn More
  • The Reality of the Great Depression in Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” The journey of the Joad family and other significant characters in the story who played the roles in building the whole context take the path of meeting miserable economic situations.
  • “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck: A Literary Analysis The author’s purpose in writing this chapter was to set the scene for the narration by illustrating how severe the drought that had occurred was, using various stylistic devices and expressive means.
  • John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” and the Great Depression The Grapes of Wrath begins by describing an occurrence of soil erosion in Dust Bowl Oklahoma that led to the destruction of crops, a decline in farming and farm produce and the migration of farmers […]
  • Chapter Three of Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” Without the rest of the book it is simple: the turtle is uniquely suited to his environment as are all the seeds that grab at every passing creature.
  • The Grapes of Wrath: Movie Analysis In the movie, the family is depicted as one of the struggling families in the United States after the economic crisis of 1930.
  • Theme Analysis: The Grapes of Wrath As a result, the novel portrays the issue of land ownership in California and America at large, the conflicts between the Haves and the Have-nots, people’s reactions to injustices, and the strength of a woman.
  • Intercalary Chapters in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath In conclusion, it can be said that chapter eleven of The Grapes of Wrath is important for understanding the novel’s messaging and themes despite being largely unimportant to its plot progression.
  • “Grapes of Wrath” and People During Great Depression The film was based on John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath”, but to the word, the ends of the film and of the book are different.
  • Evaluation of the Movie: The Grapes of Wrath The movie retells the tale of the Oklahoma family of the Joads during the 1930s that have lost their farm because of the Great Depression.
  • The Great Depression in Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” The family adjusted to the codes of conduct in the camp, and Tom even managed to find a job picking fruits at a local farm.
  • The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck’s Writing Methods In company with other ‘Okies,’ they tried to find land, dignity, employment, and future for their children.’The Grapes of Wrath’ begins with a representation of the Dust Bowl, the incident that brings about all that […]
  • “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Ford The plot of the story is set up in the great depression. Joad gets back home to discover the astonishing effects of the depression on every person in the area.
  • Steinback’s “The Grapes of Wrath” and Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” For me, this piece of writing best describes participation in social decision-making, as it is highlighted that options for the wealthy and the poor differ.
  • Literature: The Grapes of Wrath and As I Lay Dying This understanding forms the background of The Grapes of Wrath and As I Lay Dying analysis in this paper. The unity of structure and language in any comical genre take after carnivalistic folklore..”.there is a […]
  • Steinbeck and Babb: Shaping American Literature In the two books, Steinbeck and Babb wrote about the plight of migrants in Oklahoma and California. On the other hand, Steinbeck argued that the system forced the migrants to live in miserable conditions.
  • The Role of Steinbeck’s Women in The Grapes of Wrath (the Movie): When the Wind of Changes Blows For quite long, the role of women was restricted to household and child upbringing; however, in the first decades of the twentieth century, the stereotypical image of a humble housewife seemed to have started wearing […]
  • Family Values in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Historical Events and Family Hardships in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Social Attitude Towards Immigrants as Portrayed in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”: The Nature of Working Life
  • Life During the Great Depression in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Traditional American Ideals in “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
  • Love Between Social Classes in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Machinery vs. Human Characteristics in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Moral Compass and “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Social and Historical Analysis of “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being an Outcast in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Underlying Themes and Current Relevance of “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Unemployment and Social Criticism in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Christian Symbolism in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Rethinking the Politics of “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Equal Power for Women in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Propaganda of Agonistic and Secular Humanism in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Contrasting Rich and Poor in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Influence of Steinbeck’s Life Experience on the Quality of the Fiction Novel “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Exploring the American Dream in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Hopes and the Loses of “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Styles and Techniques Used by John Steinbeck in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Controversies Surrounding “The Grapes of Wrath” by Steinbeck
  • Developing Identities in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Eluded Socialist Allusions Within Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • “The Grapes of Wrath”: A Social Protest of Migrants in California
  • Alienation and It’s Relevance to “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Passion and Dreams in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Analyzing the Dynamic Role of Women in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The American Society During the Great Depression in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Why Was John Steinbeck’s Novel “The Grapes of Wrath” Banned in the USA?
  • The Different Literary Devices in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Biblical Allusions and Imagery in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Symbolism in “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
  • The Good Versus Bad in “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
  • Bonds With the Land in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Democracy and Pragmatism Philosophies: Approaches to “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Book and Film Comparisn: “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Economic Struggle During the 1930’s in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Character List for “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Common Social Evolution in “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
  • Community and the Individual in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Effect of Poverty, Prejudice, and Discrimination on the Central Characters in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Conflict and Generosity Within “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • “The Grapes of Wrath”: The Definitive Novel of the Depression Era in America
  • Differences Between Social Classes in “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Dynamic Characters and Survival in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • The Changes That Characters Went Through in Steinbeck’s Novel “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • “The Grapes of Wrath”: Revealing the Changing Family
  • The Similarities Between “The Great Gatsby” and “The Grapes of Wrath”
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2024, February 27). 68 Grapes of Wrath Essay Topic Ideas & Examples.

"68 Grapes of Wrath Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." IvyPanda , 27 Feb. 2024,

IvyPanda . (2024) '68 Grapes of Wrath Essay Topic Ideas & Examples'. 27 February.

IvyPanda . 2024. "68 Grapes of Wrath Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." February 27, 2024.

1. IvyPanda . "68 Grapes of Wrath Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." February 27, 2024.


IvyPanda . "68 Grapes of Wrath Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." February 27, 2024.

  • Of Mice and Men Essay Topics
  • The Pearl Essay Titles
  • The Old Man and the Sea Research Topics
  • Scarlet Letter Research Ideas
  • Lord of the Flies Research Ideas
  • The Great Gatsby Ideas
  • Catcher in the Rye Topics
  • Huckleberry Finn Essay Topics
  • To Kill a Mockingbird Topics
  • Crime and Punishment Titles
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Topics
  • Fahrenheit 451 Titles
  • Brave New World Paper Topics
  • 1984 Essay Titles
  • Animal Farm Research Topics

grapes of wrath essay prompts

The Grapes of Wrath

John steinbeck, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

The Grapes of Wrath: Introduction

The grapes of wrath: plot summary, the grapes of wrath: detailed summary & analysis, the grapes of wrath: themes, the grapes of wrath: quotes, the grapes of wrath: characters, the grapes of wrath: symbols, the grapes of wrath: theme wheel, brief biography of john steinbeck.

The Grapes of Wrath PDF

Historical Context of The Grapes of Wrath

Other books related to the grapes of wrath.

  • Full Title: The Grapes of Wrath
  • When Written: 1939
  • Where Written: Pacific Grove, California
  • When Published: 1939
  • Literary Period: American Realist
  • Genre: Novel
  • Setting: Oklahoma, California, the American Southwest
  • Climax: Rose of Sharon’s breastfeeding of a starving man
  • Antagonist: Industrial farms, banks
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient narrator

Extra Credit for The Grapes of Wrath

A Blockbuster Success: In 1940, The Grapes of Wrath was adapted into a movie, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad. The film was nominated for seven Oscars, and won two.

Steinbeck’s Politics: Although Steinbeck’s politics certainly leaned left, and he sympathized intensely with the working man, he never aligned with the Communist Party. Three trips to Soviet Russia only affirmed his distaste for Communism. Later on, Steinbeck developed more conservative views; he was at first supportive of Lyndon Johnson’s stance on the war in Vietnam, and he held the 1960’s counterculture in little esteem.

The logo.

Steinbeck in the Schools Home

Discussion Topics and Writing Prompts by Chapter

  • Students will be able to fully understand each section of the novel and provide specific examples to support their own opinions.
  • Students will be able to discuss the novel and with 100% participation.
  • Students will take notes on all class discussions.
  • Students will listen to and comment on the opinions of others (including the teacher).

Class discussions are at the heart of any novel, especially The Grapes of Wrath . The page references here are from the 2006 edition of The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Books). In other editions, page numbers may vary slightly.

Discussions should, first and foremost, be interactive. The teacher should not “tell” students what a book means. The best teachers know that any book has a different meaning for each student, and each supported opinion is valid. The role of the teacher, here, is to facilitate and guide, as necessary, a lively discussion of the previous reading assignment.

  • Generally, teachers should have some specific objectives/guidelines for the discussions—for example, in the opening section, discuss and identify figurative language, characterization methods, use of description, early conflicts, and so on. Teachers can also provide advance organizers or conversation maps to help students to prepare for discussions.
  • Encourage students to cite page numbers and read brief passages when discussing the novel. Other students will be able to follow along more easily.
  • All students should be taking notes during class discussions in their notebooks. Teachers should, as practical, spend the last five minutes of each literature period checking students’ notebooks.
  • Ideally, students are encouraged to listen to the comments of others and comment upon the comments of their fellow students. This is incredibly valuable in maintaining a lively discussion.
  • Teachers should require daily participation (up to two times daily, depending on the size of the class) and keep a record of participation each day. "Talking slips" or "chips" are one method that can help ensure that each student has participated.
  • Consider using the fishbowl method for group discussions. Fishbowls allow students to observe a conversation being modeled as well as participate. This is a creative, yet structured alternative to a traditional discussion.
  • Consider providing non-traditional roles for group discussions. These roles provide students with a specific focal point during a discussion. Similar to the Jigsaw method for challenging readings, providing specific "frames" or "Lenses" narrows the specific information a student is responsible for and can stimulate thoughtful discussions.
  • Consider allowing students the opportunity to rehearse or prepare their ideas prior to discussion. This can make students feel more comfortable about speaking to the class.
  • Teachers should emphasize that there are no “correct” or “set” answers in literature, and that all supported opinions are valid (unlike a subject such as math, where responses are uniform).  For example, when asked, “Who is the most important character in Of Mice and Men ?” there may be several valid responses.
  • Another successful (when teachers think students are ready) device is to have students lead/facilitate discussions. Let the class know that three students will be in front of the class asking questions about the previous reading. The students do not know who will be on the “panel,” so everyone in the class must be prepared with written questions to ask the class. Teachers should have a minimal role here.
  • Also, when students are ready, teachers may lead discussions in organic ways by opening up the discussions in a free-form style about whatever the students wish to discuss about the previous reading. For experienced and sophisticated classes, this is generally a rewarding experience.

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • The Grapes of Wrath

Estimated Time

Lively discussions are ongoing throughout the course of the unit.

The Grapes of Wrath is broken into thirty chapters. Each chapter is one of two different styles. First, the “general” or intercalary chapters. These passages step back from the main narrative about the Joad family and address the plight of people like the Joads. Here the reader sees the universal nature of the struggle faced by the main characters. In Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath , Steinbeck wrote about the final general chapter (chapter 29), “The last general must be a summing of the whole thing” (88). The intercalary chapters were just that, a summation of the challenges faced by the Joads.

The majority of the novel, however, is a traditional narrative. Like the turtle in chapter 3, the main narrative works its way steadily, intimately through the upended lives of the Joad family. Each character is revealed in his or her own time. Hopes grow and fade as the Joad family’s prospects rise and fall. The dialogue is written to be realistic, not simplistic. It was Steinbeck’s aim, as he wrote to his publisher, Pascal Covici “…to write this book the way lives are being lived, not the way books are written” (Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, 178).

The below list of topics and passages from the novel can be used as discussion topics, warm up journal exercises, writing prompts, or even debate topics. Although a thorough list, it is by no means an exhaustive list.

General themes of the novel can also be discussion topics and writing prompts. See the handout Themes by Chapter.

  • Steinbeck’s descriptive style (opening a novel with a description of the environment is a method he often used).
  • Causes of the Dust Bowl
  • What is the tone and the mood of this chapter?
  • Does this chapter create a feeling of hope or of despair?
  • How did the truck skinner know Tom had just gotten out of prison?
  • How did Tom know what the truck skinner was asking about?
  • What kinds of impressions do you have about the two men?
  • ~Like, dislike, trust, etc.?
  • How does Steinbeck compare the two men? How does he create sympathy and/or empathy towards them? Between them?
  • What does the turtle symbolize?
  • ~Revisit this topic after the Joad family is on the move.
  • Why does Steinbeck use a turtle for this scene?
  • Why include this scene?
  • What symbols can you identify in this chapter?
  • How do you feel about Tom?
  • How do you feel about Casy?
  • Should Tom feel ashamed of his crime? Why/why not?
  • Is prison for punishment or reform?
  • What is sin? Are there things that are good and things that are bad?
  • Do you agree with Casy’s idea of sin?
  • Tom leaves the road, each step he drifts back into his old life. How does Steinbeck show this?
  • What makes someone part of the land?
  • The tractor driver says only look after yourself and your family (37), do you agree? Disagree?
  • The tractor driver says times have changed and the farmer needs to move on (37). How do you feel about this? Do you agree? Disagree?
  • How do you feel about the tractor driver?
  • Should the farmer get to keep his land and his home?
  • Why is this scene in the book? Predict what will happen in the next chapter.
  • How does this scene connect to other economic crises?
  • What happens if the farmer does shoot at the tractor driver?
  • Discuss, create and act out a scene, or write dialogue that follows the last lines of the chapter. How do the farmer, his wife, and his children react? How do they feel?
  • Memory and the land
  • ~Personal examples of your connection to the land.
  • ~Connection to the land, being part of the land is a recurring theme in many of Steinbeck’s works. Do you believe this concept is as important today as Steinbeck felt is was? Explain.
  • What does Casy think Muley “ a-holt of…” (49)?
  • Muley talks about Willy Feeley (55). What is the message of that paragraph? Do you agree with Muley? Explain.
  • ~Try to see things from Willy’s perspective.
  • ~What themes does this passage touch on?
  • How does this chapter compare with stereotypes of salespeople today?
  • What is this chapter foreshadowing?
  • Predict what will happen in the next chapter.
  • Compare and contrast the car salesman with the tractor driver in chapter 5 and with Willy Feeley in chapter 6.
  • “I don’t give a damn if you don’t make payments. We ain’t got your paper” (65). What does the salesman mean?
  • ~Connect this with the mortgage crisis in 2008
  • Predict what happens to Muley after the Joad family leaves.
  • Write a narrative about what happens to Muley after the Joad family leaves.
  • Compare the family members:
  • ~Ma and Granma
  • ~Pa and Grampa
  • Ma does not have a name. Why?
  • ~This is a recurring discussion topic. As the students get to know Ma, their opinion may change.
  • ~Steinbeck does this in other novels as well. Curley’s Wife in Of Mice and Men , Mrs. Tifflin in The Red Pony .
  • “If we was all mad the same way, Tomm – they wouldn’t hunt nobody down –” (77).
  • ~What is Ma suggesting?
  • ~How do you think different people reacted to this in the 1930s. Consider:
  • ~~Small farmers
  • ~~Growers associations
  • ~~Californians (in contrast to the “Oakies”)
  • ~~Government officials
  • ~Predict: is this foreshadowing some later events?
  • ~This is a recurring theme. Return to this passage later in the novel when similar statements are made, especially chapter 26.
  • Do men and women think/feel differently about the past?
  • Why are prices so low when the farmers sell their possessions?
  • If you had to take only necessities, what would you leave behind and how would that affect you?
  • ~If students have read Farwell to Manzanar , there is a similar scene when Mama is choosing what to pack when they are being forced to head to the camp.
  • ~Compare and contrast what the women consider and what the men consider in deciding what stays and what they bring.
  • ~“How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?” (88).
  • ~~What does Ma mean by this?
  • ~~What defines someone’s life? What defines your life?
  • ~~Pair this with the Identity Charts activity.
  • Compare and contrast how each character handles leaving.
  • Discuss personal experiences of moving, leavings, or moving on.
  • “They were afraid, now that the time had come – afraid in the same way Grampa was afraid” (112). Explain. What are they afraid of?
  • Modern conveniences and appliances are not seen in chapter 10. How much different were the lives of the Joad family compared to our lives today?
  • ~Consider this: there are homeless people who still have a cell phone.
  • Why did Ma burn the box of keepsakes/memories (108)?
  • ~If students have read Farwell to Manzanar , there is a similar scene when Mama is choosing what to pack when they are being forced to head to the camp. Additionally, are Ma Joad’s actions similar to when Papa burned his Japanese flag and papers?
  • What is Steinbeck saying about Muley by using similar descriptions of the life of abandoned cats (116)?
  • “Wrecks along the road, abandoned. Well, what happened to them? What happened to the folks in the car? Did they walk? Where are they? Where does the courage come from? Where does the terrible faith come from?” (122).
  • ~Speculate on what happened to the people who abandoned their cars.
  • Interstate commerce an emigration.
  • ~What are the laws?
  • ~Why did Los Angeles police patrol the California borders?
  • ~Was this legal?
  • ~Do you agree with their actions?
  • ~Do you feel the same about the Border Patrol at our international borders?
  • Steinbeck considered this chapter the first in the second part of the novel. In Working Days Steinbeck wrote “…the first general and it must have the meat of the whole second volume in it” (37)?
  • ~Why was this chapter so important?
  • ~What themes, ideas, feelings, etc. is Steinbeck trying to get across?
  • ~Predict what will happen in the coming chapters.
  • In Working Days , Steinbeck says that the characters “…must be an over-essence of people…” (39).
  • ~What does he mean?
  • ~Why does he need the characters to be like this?
  • ~Does he succeed? How does this affect the story?
  • In Working Days , Steinbeck says that the Joad family’s first communication with other migrants is “very important” (39).
  • ~Why is this scene so important?
  • ~What do you see as important in their communication and interactions with the Wilson family?
  • Casy says “But they’s somepin worse’n the devil go hold a the country, an’ it ain’t gonna let go till it’s chopped loose” (129).
  • ~What do you think Casy is referring to?
  • ~Is Casy anti-capitalist? Is he anti-American?
  • ~How do you think different people would react to this statement today?
  • What are your feelings/impressions of Rose of Sharon? Of Connie?
  • Compare and contrast the Wilsons, the fat man, and the salesman.
  • Discuss Casy’s prayer on page 144.
  • ~What is Steinbeck’s message in this prayer?
  • ~What do you think about Casy’s message?
  • Why did Grampa die?
  • ~Would he have died if he had stayed home?
  • ~Did the conditions of the trip kill him?
  • Why was there fear of and resistance to the New deal?
  • “For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments” (150).
  • ~Do you agree with this idea?
  • ~Is this a positive or negative trait?
  • What does Steinbeck mean when he writes “results, not causes” (150, 152)? Do you agree?
  • Discuss the idea of “from I to We.” This is a big theme in the novel (and part of the Five Layers).
  • ~What does Steinbeck mean?
  • How was the social unrest of the Great Depression similar to that of the Great Recession of the early 2000s?
  • ~Think about unions, protests, Occupy Wall Street, the 99%, etc.
  • How are the different economic and social classes portrayed?
  • ~Blue collar
  • ~White collar
  • Why are truck drivers so great?
  • Which classes approve of FDR? Why?
  • What is the fat man in the car worried about?
  • At the top of page 158 Steinbeck writes about how a nickel “…has actually done a job of work…” unlike most other money.
  • ~What is he alluding to?
  • ~What is he placing more value on?
  • “…an’ after them shitheels” (161).
  • ~Does this erase the compassion that Mae showed?
  • Who is more a preacher: Casy or Tom?
  • Compare Ma and Rose (164-165).
  • Ma’s revolt: “She was the power. She had taken control” (169).
  • ~Is this true?
  • ~Or had Ma always been in control?
  • ~Predict: is this a turning point in the novel?
  • ~Do you agree with Ma?
  • Compare Casy’s method and Tom’s method. Climbing fences vs. putting one foot in front of the other (174, 176-177).
  • Was Tom cruel to the man at the wrecking yard?
  • ~What message is Tom trying to get across?
  • Compare California dreams: Connie & Rose vs. Ma & the Family.
  • ~Later, after Al begins to discuss his own ideas, separate Al from the family and return to this discussion.
  • Steinbeck describes a social structure that is being built and rebuilt as the migrants move west. Describe/summarize the process.
  • ~How do you think Steinbeck feels about rules, laws, and governments based on this chapter?
  • ~How do you think different people would react to these ideas today?
  • What is ostracism? Do you agree with Steinbeck that ostracism is worse than fighting (194)?
  • Compare California as the Joad family had hoped it would be versus what the men in the river describe (204-208).
  • Why does Noah leave (208-209)? Why does Tom not try to stop him?
  • ~If keeping the family together were so important (think of Ma’s revolt in Chapter 16), then why didn’t she make the family look for Noah?
  • Write about what happens to Noah after he leaves the family.
  • Ma’s description of life, death, and birth (209-210).
  • What do you think of Ma’s reaction to the sheriff (213-214)? Do you agree with her actions? What, if anything, could she have done differently?
  • Is Tom becoming the leader of the family?
  • “We ain’t never been dirty like this. Don’t even wash potatoes ‘fore we boil ‘em” (217).
  • ~What is the importance of this statement and the image it creates? How does it compare to what people said and thought of “Oakies?”
  • ~Return to this idea in chapter 22.
  • What is courage (221)?
  • Compare the description of the land on pages 221-222 with the description on page 227.
  • ~Why does Steinbeck create such an image of hope on page 227 and then immediately follow it with the news of Granma?
  • ~Which is stronger in the Joad family? Hope or despair?
  • “Casy said gently, ‘Sure I got sins. Ever’body got sins. A sin is somepin you ain’t sure about” (224).
  • ~What does Casy mean?
  • ~Do you agree?
  • ~What do you think about “Them people that’s sure about ever’thing an’ ain’t got no sin…” (224)?
  • ~~How do you think readers at the time reacted to this idea?
  • Write about what happens to the Wilsons after the Joad family leaves.
  • Is Steinbeck calling for a revolution?
  • Is Steinbeck anti-capitalist? Is he a socialist? A communist?
  • How do you think different people reacted to this in the 1930s. Consider:
  • ~Small farmers
  • ~Growers associations
  • ~Californians (in contrast to the “Oakies”)
  • ~Government officials
  • How do you think different people would react to this chapter today?
  • Why was there no revolution by nonwhites?
  • Why did socialism not develop and take hold in the United States as it did in parts of Europe?
  • Was there a revolution as Steinbeck predicted? Was there a different kind of revolution?
  • Read the descriptions of the different camp sites near the river (241-242). How does this compare to the migrant life the Joad family has endured thus far?
  • ~Why are the two different campsites different? What causes one to be worse than the other?
  • ~Extension: read chapter 2 of The Harvest Gypsies . Discuss the causes and effects found in the chapter.
  • How does Steinbeck build tension in this chapter?
  • In what ways are people held back? Held down?
  • ~Examples: division, vagrancy laws, greed, wage exploitation, abuse of power by police
  • Why did Casy have “…a look of conquest” (267)?
  • Do you agree with what Casy did? Was it a good thing? A bad thing?
  • Why does Connie leave? What are your feelings on this?
  • Predict/write: What happens to Connie after he leaves the family?
  • Why does Tom lie to Rose about Connie (277)?
  • ~What do you think about this? Was it a good or bad thing to do?
  • Tom complains “They’re a-workin’ away at our spirits… They’re workin’ on our decency” (278-279).
  • ~Who are “they?”
  • ~How are “they” working on the spirits and decency of people like the Joad family?
  • ~Extension: read chapter 4 of The Harvest Gypsies where Steinbeck talks about dignity. How does his definition of dignity apply to this passage?
  • Did Connie betray the family when he left? What about Noah? Casy?
  • Write a scene where Casy is in jail. What happens to him? Does any of the advice Tom gave him about prison help?
  • Extension: for a different perspective of “Reds” and violence, read Steinbeck’s short story “The Raid” in The Long Valley .
  • Compare the fear of “Oakies” with the fear of illegal immigrants today.
  • What makes everyone in Weedpatch camp so kind?
  • Timothy and Wilkie Wallace help Tom get a job (293). Why do they do this? Should they have?
  • “There’s always red agitators just before a pay cut” (295).
  • “Those folks in the camp are getting used to being treated like humans. When they go back to the squatters camps they’ll be hard to handle” (296).
  • Tom’s pride when working. How does this compare to FDR’s ideas about the WPA and the New Deal?
  • Read the third paragraph on 298 which culminates with Timothy saying “…we’re all reds.”
  • ~Why does Steinbeck include this scene?
  • ~What is his message?
  • ~How do you think different people would react to this passage today?
  • The life of the poor and farmers in the 1930s. The Joad family had never seen a modern flush toilet before!
  • “The Committees are good in this camp because they do know” (305).
  • ~What does this mean?
  • ~How does this connect to chapter 17?
  • The importance of appearance. Ma wants the family washed and looking as good as possible. Why?
  • ~How does this connect to what she said in chapter 18 about the family being dirty?
  • What does Steinbeck think about government?
  • What are the different sources of dignity shown in this chapter?
  • What is the difference between charity and the poor helping each other? Why is one bad and the other good?
  • The Protestant work ethic vs. charity and failure.
  • Extension: In Working Days (70) Steinbeck says “I want to show how valuable Ma is to society – and what a waste there is.”
  • ~What is Ma’s value? How does Steinbeck show this?
  • ~What is the “waste?”
  • Extension: Read “Breakfast” in The Long Valley .
  • ~How does this compare to the scene on page 289 when Tom joins the Wallace family for breakfast?
  • ~~Note: the scene on page 289 is a rewrite of “Breakfast.”
  • ~How does this compare to the scene on page 192 in the roadside camp?
  • Extension: Read pages 51-55 in Travels with Charley .
  • ~How does this scene compare with the breakfast scene in The Grapes of Wrath (289)?
  • Extension: Read pages 66-69 in Travels with Charley .
  • ~Compare Steinbeck’s views on government to his commentary on government and governing in Weedpatch camp (and outside of it).
  • How important is music and entertainment?
  • Even though the country was in the Great Depression, people still went to the movies, still held dances, and still listened to popular music.
  • ~Go deeper into this idea with the activity Period Music.
  • Arming and organizing the people (345). What are your thoughts on this?
  • ~Is this a dangerous, revolutionary idea?
  • ~~How does this idea compare to the idea of “open carry” states? With militias?
  • “I been thinkin’ maybe we ought to git up a turkey shootin’ club an’ have meetin’s ever’ Sunday” (345).
  • ~Compare this to the Black Panthers, militias, and the NRA.
  • ~What if these same statements were made, not by poor white people, but by nonwhites?
  • “In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage” (349).
  • ~Why does Steinbeck call the novel The Grapes of Wrath .
  • ~~Note: It was named by his first wife, Carol, after a line in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
  • ~What is the message Steinbeck is sending with the title of the book?
  • ~Why is the title of the novel revealed in the narration itself?
  • “Every’thing you do is more’n you” (353).
  • ~What does Ma mean by this?
  • ~Do you agree with her?
  • “Horse is a hell of a lot more worth than a man” (358).
  • ~This is an important concept throughout the novel.
  • “Learnin’ it all the time, ever’day. If you’re in trouble or hurt or need – go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones” (376).
  • ~Ma is finding this to be true. But is it true in the real world?
  • ~What is the overall message of this statement?
  • Casy and his new calling – to lead the people, to lead strikes.
  • “Jus’ goin’, an’ getting’ goddamn sick of it” (402).
  • ~What does Al mean here?
  • ~Predict what happens in the following chapters
  • “It’s need that makes all the trouble” (382). Casy tries to explain to Tom something he has figured out. What is he trying to say? What has he learned?
  • Casy compares his journey to that of Jesus (381). Is this inspirational, or blasphemous?
  • “Gives ya a funny feelin’ to be hunted like. I’m getting’ mean” (403).
  • ~Ma says this. Who in the novel would you have expected to make this statement?
  • ~Is it more important or does it make a stronger impact being said by Ma?
  • What are Casy’s religious, spiritual, and social influences?
  • ~Christianity, Buddhism, socialism.
  • Extension: Read “The Raid” in The Long Valley . Compare this to the attack on Casy’s group and the way the gate guards talk (377-378, 381-387).
  • Extension: Read about company camps in The Harvest Gypsies (chapter 3).
  • California dream of working, buying a piece of land, and farming versus the reality of saving for winter and facing months of no work.
  • How have the hopes and expectations changed up to this point in the novel?
  • Predict: What do you think will happen to the Joad family in the next chapters?
  • How and why did Ma become the leader of the family? Or was she always the leader?
  • Tom’s speech on page 419 is one of the most famous passages in the novel. Is this speech the peak pinnacle of the story?
  • ~What other powerful speeches and moments in the book compare?
  • Ma talks to Pa about how women and men handle change differently (423). Do you agree? What are your thoughts on this?
  • This chapter began with hope. How does it end?
  • How does Steinbeck change the pacing and create tension in this chapter?
  • Why does Rose of Sharon react the way she does to hearing about Al and Aggie?
  • Discuss this further after completing the novel.
  • Once again Steinbeck returns to a scene where the women are watching the men to see if they break (434-435). Compare this to the original scene on pages 3 and 4.
  • ~Compare the conclusions of each scene. In both scenes the women remain unbroken, but the reasons are different.
  • ~As the reader, are you left with hope or despair at this point?
  • Extension: In Working Days Steinbeck writes of this chapter “The last general must be a summing of the whole thing. Group survival” (88).
  • ~Does chapter 29 accomplish this goal?
  • ~Is it an effective summary?
  • Predict: How will the novel end?
  • Is Pa to blame for the family being stuck?
  • Did Rose of Sharon know that she was going to lose the baby?
  • Uncle John sends to set the baby’s body into an apple box and floated it down stream (448).
  • ~This is a graphic scene. What is Steinbeck trying to accomplish with it?
  • ~Do you agree with what Uncle John did? Is he sending a message? Is he doing something cowardly? Mean?
  • Write/Predict: What happened to Tom? He is never mentioned after Ma left him in his hiding place.
  • The last words of the novel describe Rose of Sharon as she nursed the starving man. “She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously” (455).
  • ~What are your thoughts on this ending? On this scene?
  • ~What does it mean that she “smiled mysteriously?”
  • Steinbeck insisted that the ending to the novel not be changed, he refused to alter it. He insisted that the dying man be a stranger and that he be an anonymous character.
  • ~Why? Why is the man a stranger? Why end the novel in this way?
  • Compose a newspaper article, letter, journal entry, poem, or song about the flooding.
  • Write your own general chapter to end the novel. Does it end in hope or despair.
  • Extension: Dive deeper into the ending by reading Steinbeck’s letter to his publisher Pascal Covici ( Life in Letters , 178-179).
  • ~“I’ve done my damndest to rip the reader’s nerves to rags, I don’t want him satisfied.”
  • ~“…I tried to write this book the way lives are being lived not the way books are written.”
  • ~Do you think Steinbeck achieved these aims?
  • Does the novel end with hope, or despair?
  • The Grapes of Wrath was banned in Kern County, California (where the Joad family spend their time once reaching California).
  • ~Why was the novel banned?
  • ~What particular themes, scenes, or ideas may have prompted the banning?
  • ~Who wanted the book banned?
  • How does Steinbeck treat Oakies in the novel?
  • ~Some people complain that they are treated poorly, as if they are stupid.
  • ~Some people claim that they are the true heroes of the book.
  • Is The Grapes of Wrath still relevant today?
  • ~Why or why not?
  • ~Have working conditions changed?
  • The Grapes of Wrath warns that change is coming – revolution perhaps.
  • ~Did change come? Was it revolutionary (even if it was not a revolution)?
  • Why read The Grapes of Wrath today?

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

  • Takeaways have been included above.
  • Teachers can have students write an evaluation of the project and what they have learned.
  • Students can write short papers based on discussions.

Periodic tests/quizzes and short papers on each section would be useful.

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4, 5, 6
  • ~Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 7, 9
  • ~Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: 10
  • Writing Standards 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 1, 2, 3
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5, 6
  • ~Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 7, 9
  • ~Range of Writing: 10
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 1, 2, 3
  • ~Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: 4
  • Language Standards 6-12
  • ~Conventions of Standard English: 1
  • ~Knowledge of Language: 3
  • ~Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 5, 6
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2
  • ~Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 8
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12

Additional Information

Additional Steinbeck resources listed above:

Steinbeck, John. Steinbeck: A Life in Letters. New York: Viking Press, 1975. Print.

Steinbeck, John. The Harvest Gypsies: on the Road to the Grapes of Wrath . , 2017. Internet resource.

Steinbeck, John, and Robert J. DeMott. Working Days: The Journals of "The Grapes of Wrath", 1938-1941 . New York: Penguin Books, 1990. Print.

Related Lesson Plans for this Work


Introduce students to John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, its characters, the setting, and the contextual background, including the Great Depression.

Controversial Topics

Prepare students for the controversial issues they will encounter in the classroom while reading The Grapes of Wrath.

Farming Changes

Examine the transition from small agrarian farming to the large mechanized, industrial farms prevalent in California.

Setting the Context - The Great Depression

Set the novel into the broader context of what was happening around the country in the 1930s.

“The Grapes of Wrath” in Historical Perspective

This essay about “The Grapes of Wrath” examines the novel’s reflection on the economic hardships and social injustices experienced by farmers and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. It highlights how Steinbeck’s narrative, centered on the Joad family’s migration from Oklahoma to California, serves as a poignant commentary on the era’s struggles. Through the backdrop of environmental catastrophe and financial crisis, the essay explores themes of resilience, discrimination, and the erosion of the American Dream. It also discusses the novel’s portrayal of social dynamics, the exploitation of migrant workers, and the potential for compassion and collective action. The essay concludes by asserting “The Grapes of Wrath” as not only a piece of American literature but also a historical document that captures the human cost of this period, offering a message of hope and solidarity that transcends its historical setting.

How it works

John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” is more than just a novel; it’s a powerful commentary on the American condition during one of its most turbulent periods. Set against the stark backdrop of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, the narrative dives deep into the economic hardships and social injustices that plagued farmers and migrant workers in the 1930s. This exploration not only provides a window into the struggles of the era but also offers a timeless reflection on themes of resilience, injustice, and the quest for dignity.

The Dust Bowl was a period marked by severe dust storms that greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the American and Canadian prairies during the 1930s. This environmental catastrophe was largely the result of poor farming practices combined with prolonged drought conditions. It led to a mass exodus of displaced families, many of whom were farmers, from their barren lands in search of work and sustenance elsewhere. “The Grapes of Wrath” captures the heartache and desperation of these families, focusing on the fictional Joad family as they journey from Oklahoma to California in hope of a better life.

Steinbeck intricately weaves the economic hardships of the time into the fabric of his story. The Great Depression, a decade-long economic downturn, had a profound impact on the American populace, with unemployment rates soaring and widespread poverty. For farmers and migrant workers, the situation was exacerbated by the collapse of agricultural prices, which rendered their already meager livelihoods unsustainable. Steinbeck’s portrayal of the Joad family’s struggles against the backdrop of these economic forces serves as a poignant reminder of the human cost of financial crisis and environmental disaster.

The novel also delves into the social dynamics and conflicts that arose as a result of these hardships. Discrimination, exploitation, and a profound sense of injustice were rampant among the migrant camps in California, where workers were often subjected to inhumane conditions and paltry wages. Steinbeck doesn’t shy away from depicting the stark realities of these camps, highlighting the social and economic disparity between the migrants and those who sought to profit from their labor. Through the Joads’ experiences, Steinbeck critiques the societal structures that perpetuate inequality and underscores the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Moreover, “The Grapes of Wrath” serves as a historical document that illuminates the broader societal implications of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. It captures the erosion of the American Dream for many, as the promise of prosperity and security crumbled along with the soil of their farms. Yet, it also portrays the potential for compassion, community, and collective action as a means to overcome dire circumstances. Steinbeck’s empathetic depiction of the migrant workers’ plight and their capacity for endurance offers a message of hope and solidarity that resonates beyond the confines of its historical setting.

In conclusion, “The Grapes of Wrath” is a seminal work that richly deserves its place in the canon of American literature, not only for its literary merit but also for its profound engagement with the historical context of the 1930s. Steinbeck’s novel is a testament to the strength and dignity of those who faced the unimaginable hardships of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Through the lens of the Joad family’s journey, Steinbeck invites readers to reflect on the enduring themes of struggle, resilience, and the search for justice in the face of systemic oppression. As much a historical document as it is a work of fiction, “The Grapes of Wrath” continues to speak to the challenges and hopes of humanity in any era.


Cite this page

"The Grapes of Wrath" in Historical Perspective. (2024, Mar 02). Retrieved from

""The Grapes of Wrath" in Historical Perspective." , 2 Mar 2024, (2024). "The Grapes of Wrath" in Historical Perspective . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 12 Apr. 2024]

""The Grapes of Wrath" in Historical Perspective.", Mar 02, 2024. Accessed April 12, 2024.

""The Grapes of Wrath" in Historical Perspective," , 02-Mar-2024. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 12-Apr-2024] (2024). "The Grapes of Wrath" in Historical Perspective . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 12-Apr-2024]

Don't let plagiarism ruin your grade

Hire a writer to get a unique paper crafted to your needs.


Our writers will help you fix any mistakes and get an A+!

Please check your inbox.

You can order an original essay written according to your instructions.

Trusted by over 1 million students worldwide

1. Tell Us Your Requirements

2. Pick your perfect writer

3. Get Your Paper and Pay

Hi! I'm Amy, your personal assistant!

Don't know where to start? Give me your paper requirements and I connect you to an academic expert.

short deadlines

100% Plagiarism-Free

Certified writers

Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Books — Grapes of Wrath

one px

Essays on Grapes of Wrath

The grapes of wrath essay, types of the grapes of wrath essay:.

  • Social Commentary Essay: This type of essay analyzes the social and economic issues that are portrayed in The Grapes of Wrath. It explores the impact of the Great Depression on the lives of the Joad family and other migrant workers, as well as the injustices they faced.
  • Historical Analysis Essay: The Grapes of Wrath provides a vivid portrayal of life during the Great Depression. This type of essay explores the historical context of the novel, including the political and social issues of the time.

Social Commentary Essay

  • Familiarize yourself with the historical and social context of the novel. It is essential to understand the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, which were the backdrop of the story. Also, research the political and social issues of the time, including labor movements, migrant worker camps, and New Deal policies.
  • Analyze the characters' actions and motivations to understand their role in the novel's social commentary. For example, how do Tom Joad and Ma Joad represent the working-class struggle against the oppression of the wealthy landowners and corporations?
  • Use quotes from the book to support your arguments and provide evidence for your analysis. Steinbeck's writing style and use of language are critical to understanding the social commentary presented in The Grapes of Wrath.
  • Consider the symbolism and imagery used throughout the novel. For example, the image of the turtle crossing the road represents the migrants' struggle to survive and persevere against all odds.
  • Incorporate historical and contemporary sources to support your arguments and provide additional context for your analysis. This can include articles, academic journals, and primary sources from the time period.

Historical Analysis Essay

  • Research the historical context: It is important to have a good understanding of the historical events, social conditions, and economic realities of the time period in which the story is set. Read historical accounts and scholarly articles to gain insight into the era.
  • Analyze the characters: Examine how the characters are influenced by their historical context. How do the social, political, and economic conditions affect their lives and decisions? Look for examples of how the characters' experiences reflect the larger historical events of the time.
  • Examine the symbolism: The Grapes of Wrath makes use of powerful symbols and metaphors. Analyze the symbols used in the novel and consider how they relate to the historical context and events of the time.
  • Consider the author's perspective: Steinbeck was a social critic who used his writing to comment on the injustices and inequalities of his time. Analyze how his perspective is reflected in the novel and how he uses the historical events to make a broader commentary on society.
  • Use supporting evidence: Use quotes and examples from the novel to support your analysis. Incorporate historical facts and statistics to provide context and evidence for your arguments.
  • Edit and revise: After completing the essay, read through it to ensure that it is well-organized and that your arguments are supported with evidence. Make sure that your writing is clear and concise and that you have effectively conveyed your analysis of the historical context of The Grapes of Wrath.

Tips for Choosing a Topic for The Grapes of Wrath Essay:

  • Choose a topic that interests you and that you have a strong opinion about. This will make it easier to write a compelling essay.
  • Consider the themes of the novel and how they relate to your own life or current events.
  • Read critical analyses of the novel to get ideas for your own essay.
  • Brainstorm potential topics and narrow them down to a specific focus.
  • Don't be afraid to take a unique or unconventional approach to your essay. The Grapes of Wrath is a complex novel that can be interpreted in many different ways.

Grapes of Wrath Intercalary Chapter Summary

The grapes of wrath: critical analysis, made-to-order essay as fast as you need it.

Each essay is customized to cater to your unique preferences

+ experts online

"The Grapes of Wrath": Structure Analysis

The theme of finding meaning through adversity in black boy by richard wright and the grapes of wrath by john steinbeck, the injustices of the dust bowl migration in the grapes of wrath by john steinbeck, rhetorical analysis of "the grapes of wrath", let us write you an essay from scratch.

  • 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
  • Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours

Characters of Jim Casy and Tom Joad in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath

Challenges of the migrant workers in the grapes of wrath by john steinbeck, differences between social classes in the grapes of wrath, depiction of the great depression and dust bowl in the grapes of wrath, get a personalized essay in under 3 hours.

Expert-written essays crafted with your exact needs in mind

The Realities of The Dust Bowl in The Film The Grapes of Wrath

Gender roles in the grapes of wrath, the grapes of wrath: the effects of sudden poverty, the american dream in the grapes of wrath by john steinbeck, marxist ideals in the grapes of wrath by john steinbeck, "the grapes of wrath": effects of family reunion, novel review: "the grapes of wrath", stylistic analysis of john steinbeck’s "the grapes of wrath", contrast analysis of "the grapes of wrath" and "the worst hard time", ma joad: analysis of the character’s development, steinbeck and stirge: cultural dialogue through the great depression, grapes of greatness: a steinbeck's guide on resilience, "the grapes of wrath" book report, the grapes of wrath: analyzing the symbolism of nourishment, grapes of wrath: family and land connection, social and historical analysis of "the good earth" and "the grapes of wrath", the grapes of wrath as "a piece of documentary propaganda in functional form", family ties in "the grapes of wrath", depiction of camaraderie in the grapes of wrath and of mice and men, the grapes of wrath: the importance of 25th chapter.

April 14, 1939

John Steinbeck

Tom Joad, Ma Joad, Uncle John, Jim Casy, Al Joad, Rose of Sharon Joad Rivers, Connie Rivers, Noah Joad, Grampa Joad, Granma Joad, Ruthie Joad, Winfield Joad, Jim Rawley, Muley Graves, Ivy and Sairy Wilson, Mr. Wainwright, Mrs. Wainwright, Aggie Wainwright, Floyd Knowles

Relevant topics

  • A Modest Proposal
  • A Rose For Emily
  • Into The Wild
  • Catcher in The Rye
  • Between The World and Me
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • A Long Way Gone
  • Animal Farm
  • Never Let Me Go

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy . We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

No need to pay just yet!

We use cookies to personalyze your web-site experience. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy .

  • Instructions Followed To The Letter
  • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
  • Unique And Plagiarism Free

grapes of wrath essay prompts


  1. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) Exam (with essay prompts)

    grapes of wrath essay prompts

  2. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) Exam (with essay prompts)

    grapes of wrath essay prompts

  3. The Grapes of Wrath Chapter Reading Checks and Essay Prompts

    grapes of wrath essay prompts

  4. The Grapes of Wrath Chapter Reading Checks and Essay Prompts

    grapes of wrath essay prompts

  5. The Grapes of Wrath

    grapes of wrath essay prompts

  6. Grapes of Wrath Essay

    grapes of wrath essay prompts


  1. Grapes of Wrath Chapter 07

  2. 5 lines on Grapes

  3. THE GRAPES OF WRATH at the gas station

  4. 10 Lines On Grapes In English 🍇| 10 Lines Essay On Grapes

  5. The Grapes of Wrath in about 3 minutes

  6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck


  1. The Grapes of Wrath: Suggested Essay Topics

    4. Think about the book in terms of Steinbeck's intent for it. Do you think it successfully raises sympathy for the plight of the Dust Bowl farmers, or does it seem untrustworthy in some way? Add your thoughts right here! Suggestions for essay topics to use when you're writing about The Grapes of Wrath.

  2. The Grapes of Wrath Suggested Essay Topics

    Suggested Essay Topics. PDF Cite Share. Chapters 1-6. 1. Compare and contrast the characters of Jim Casy and Tom Joad as revealed in their first conversations. 2. Explain the three-fold ...

  3. The Grapes of Wrath Essay Questions

    4. Describe the relationship between the people and their land in The Grapes of Wrath. The answer to this question should delve into the many passages in the beginning of the novel that discuss the primal connection between man and the land. When the tractor destroys homes and removes people from the land, this machine is excising portions of ...

  4. The Grapes of Wrath Critical Essays

    Topic #4: One prevalent theme of The Grapes of Wrath is the concept that strength comes from unity. Analyze situations in which Tom Joad, as a major protagonist, discovers and acts on this concept ...

  5. The Grapes of Wrath Essay Topics & Questions

    Grapes of Wrath. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck tells the story of a family who drives to California in hopes of finding a better life during the Great Depression. However, all the Joad ...

  6. The Grapes of Wrath

    Use these essay questions for writing prompts, journal assignments, assessments, or discussion starters. Skip to Main. Steinbeck Works. Steinbeck Works. ... The Grapes of Wrath is the last novel in Steinbeck's labor trilogy, following In Dubious Battle and Of Mice and Men.

  7. AP Assignments for The Grapes of Wrath

    Synthesis essay. In addition to the rhetorical analysis, the multitude of developed topics in The Grapes of Wrath could be used to give students practice with the synthesis essay. The essay calls for students to integrate at least three of six to seven given sources into a coherent argumentative essay.

  8. The Grapes of Wrath Essay Topics and Outlines

    Suggested Essay Topics. Chapters 1-6: 1. Compare and contrast the characters of Jim Casy and Tom Joad as revealed in their first conversations. 2. Explain the three-fold symbolism of giving the ...

  9. The Grapes of Wrath Essay Topics

    Thanks for exploring this SuperSummary Study Guide of "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

  10. 68 Grapes of Wrath Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

    The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck's Writing Methods. In company with other 'Okies,' they tried to find land, dignity, employment, and future for their children.'The Grapes of Wrath' begins with a representation of the Dust Bowl, the incident that brings about all that […] "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Ford.

  11. The Grapes of Wrath Study Guide

    The Grapes of Wrath was published while the American Great Depression—in which the economy went into freefall, destroying lives and livelihoods—had the country fully in its grip. This historical backdrop without a doubt amplified the number of people who could directly relate to the destitution Steinbeck describes. More pertinently, the ...

  12. The Grapes of Wrath

    In Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck wrote about the final general chapter (chapter 29), "The last general must be a summing of the whole thing" (88). The intercalary chapters were just that, a summation of the challenges faced by the Joads. The majority of the novel, however, is a traditional narrative.

  13. "The Grapes of Wrath" in Historical Perspective

    Summary. This essay about "The Grapes of Wrath" examines the novel's reflection on the economic hardships and social injustices experienced by farmers and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. It highlights how Steinbeck's narrative, centered on the Joad family's migration from Oklahoma to California, serves ...

  14. The Grapes of Wrath Essay Prompts on Religion

    ~'The Grapes of Wrath~' is a major classic in American literature, and students will learn a lot from reading it closely. This lesson offers a series of essay topics related specifically to ...

  15. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

    Cite this page as follows: "The Grapes of Wrath - Christopher Isherwood (review date autumn 1939)." Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, edited by Janet Witalec Project Editor, Vol. 135.

  16. "The Grapes of Wrath": Structure Analysis

    The Grapes of Wrath is a masterful novel that employs a unique and impactful structure to convey its themes and ideas. Through its use of intercalary chapters, alternating narrative perspective, and symbolic imagery, the novel creates a rich and immersive portrayal of the Great Depression and its effects on individuals and society.Steinbeck's narrative techniques enhance the depth and ...

  17. The Grapes Of Wrath Essay Examples

    Great Depression in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. In The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck writes about the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the anguishing journey a family endures while trying to travel cross-country. The Great Depression was the cruelest financial decline in the account of the industrialized world from 1929.

  18. ≡Essays on Grapes of Wrath. Free Examples of Research Paper Topics

    The purpose of The Grapes of Wrath Social Commentary Essay is to analyze and discuss the social and political issues presented in the novel. This type of essay explores the book's commentary on topics such as poverty, capitalism, exploitation of workers, and government policies.

  19. The Grapes of Wrath

    The Grapes of Wrath, the best-known novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1939. The book evokes the harshness of the Great Depression and arouses sympathy for the struggles of migrant farmworkers beset by adversity and vast impersonal commercial influences. Learn more about the novel and its reception.

  20. The Grapes of Wrath Critical Overview

    Critical Overview. When the novel was published on March 14, 1939, 50,000 copies were on order, a remarkable number for a Depression-era book. By the end of April, The Grapes of Wrath was selling ...

  21. Grapes Of Wrath Essay

    Grapes Of Wrath Essay. 1206 Words5 Pages. In the novel "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck, the author discusses socio-economic issues in society. The story is centered around the Joad family, who have been kicked off of their land and must move to California to survive. Throughout their journey, the Joad's encounter problems with ...

  22. The Grapes of Wrath Essays and Criticism

    The Grapes of Wrath (1939) recounts the plight of the underclass in the story of the Joads, a family from Oklahoma, who lose their farm and travel to California, the land of milk and honey, only ...

  23. Grapes of Wrath Essay

    The Grapes of Wrath written by John Steinbeck, still remains one of the most controversial novels ever written. "The book was publicly banned in some places, burned in others, and heatedly debated on the radio" (Wartzman). The novel follows the Joad family on their journey to California and their struggles to survive during the Dust Bowl ...