Monday, January 2, 2012

REVIEW: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck


It is unusually written. There are chapters that are from a completely different point of view and style of writing. The flow of the book is wonderful in that it moves from person to person to place and to creature in such a way that it does not seem out of place. The changes that the family go through are ones that most people today would never conceive of. Changes in the family dynamic, in their way of life, in their very morals and views of the world. Despite the wonderful body and depth of the novel I must admit that the final page is rather creepy.
 It is interesting to note how the flow of the novel exists in the way that Steinbeck moves from one character to the next, despite the points where he seems to jump to a seemingly random individual or character as it was for chapter three with the turtle.  In the first chapter the focus is on the dust which can be viewed as a character in itself as it plays an important role throughout the novel.  The chapter also gives a glimpse of what is coming in the later part of the novel with its intrusion of the houses.  The second chapter starts at the truck-stop and follows the truck driver as he speaks with his hitchhiker Joel.  The chapter ends with Joel leaving the truck driver to drive on leaving Joel behind, this sort of gives the impression that we will be following either the driver or the hitchhiker and yet this is not so.  The third chapter starts without a focus on the side of the highway itself and ends with the turtle and its impact with the truck (likely that of the truck-driver from the previous chapter.  Then in chapter four Joel reappears as the focus and meets up with the turtle on his journey.  The seemingly random change in view is actually a flow from character to character to get the reader to their final 'destination' character.  I really like how Steinbeck did this as it gives a greater variety to the book and yet remains cohesive.
Another aspect I found interesting was the inclusion of so many animals and the amount of detail given to them.  The pill bug is tramping through the grass and the death of the red ant by the turtle.  There is the cat at the abandoned farmhouse that is told of having eaten the entrails of the rabbits the men skinned and how it approached and interacted with them.  Even more intriguing is the attention paid to the dogs. There is a good portion of a page in chapter eight given to a group of dogs going after the lone female among them.  Then later when Tommy arrives at Uncle Johns ranch he is greeted by two dogs which are given personalities and their own viewpoints on his arrival.  And later at the second to last page of chapter ten Pa calls for the dogs and only one comes, but Pa states that there were three.  Why were only two dogs introduced and we are not informed which dog leaves. Why is that?

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