Steinbeck's Style in The Grapes of Wrath


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Different Styles in The Grapes of Wrath

 

John Steinbeck used a lot of different styles in The Grapes of Wrath. He liked using language that was in keeping with his characters. He was also really big on symbolism. Steinbeck also used intercalary chapters to provide some of the background information.

 

John Steinbeck must have loved using slang and natural dialect. All of his characters spoke with a very heavy accents. "Tell 'em ya dong's growed scence you los' your eye." (P. 180). Granted, this does add some realism. But sometimes, its just a little too thick. This can make the book harder to read (as if it really needs any help in that department...). That style of writing is very useful when working on something that is going to be heard, but it doesn't work quite as well when it is read, I have noticed. Slang is also another element that can both help and hinder a book. Some words change meaning in time. A good example would be "cool". 100 years ago, if someone were to say that the clothes were 'cool', people would think "I should wear those during the summer, to stay cool". Some other words just don't have any meaning now. The phrase "tom-cattin'" was used to describe Al. That term is rarely, if ever, used today. The only reason that you can tell what it means is by its use in the sentence.

 

Another style that Steinbeck used was symbolism. Practically everything was a symbol for something. There was a chapter that had a turtle trying to cross the road. The turtle then got hit by a truck, the driver of which tried to hit the turtle. Some people say that the turtle symbolizes the "little people", and the driver symbolizes the capitalists who owned the land. Another symbol in the book was Jim Casy being Jesus Christ. Sheesh, I just don't see it. Yes, both of them have the initials "J.C.", and yes, they both sacrificed themselves for the nobler good. I still don't think that there is enough there to really say that Casy was based on Jesus. Some people will think anything... oh, wait. You were the one who told us that... Hmm, never mind me talking bad about it. Symbolism is wonderful!

 

One of the styles that I DO like is the use of intercalary chapters.

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I think that that is a great way to provide some background information, especially in a story that is written in the first person (even though this one wasn't). Using the intercalary chapters, Steinbeck was able to show us the conditions of all of the "Okies", not just the Joads. He also used it as an opportunity to use symbolism, like the turtle and the truck in the above paragraph. All in all, I like that style, and I plan on using it in some of my writing.


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