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John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”: Chapter 3

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  1. Introduction.
  2. A resilient ecological system.
    1. An apparent fixity.
    2. A hidden activity.
    3. The turtle as the representative of determination.
  3. A highly metaphorical passage.
    1. Heaven and Hell revisited.
    2. The burning highway and the Red Sea.
    3. The law of the strongest.
  4. The reader's response to the text.
    1. Chapter three as a narrative bridge.
    2. Chapter three as a narrative bridge.
  5. Conclusion.

The chapter under study is an extract from John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Situated at the beginning of the novel, chapter 3 offers a very detailed description of a land turtle trying to reach the other side of the highway. Its journey is described as a very slow and painful one, full of obstacles that it will have to overcome in order to reach its goal. In this short chapter, the reader is given numerous elements which will help him not only to understand what is happening to the turtle but also what will happen later in the novel. In chapter 2 we had been introduced to the protagonist, Tom Joad, who was going back home after having spent four years in prison. This character is not present in chapter 3 which starts with the description of a struggling ecosystem. The author by using many literary techniques leads us to read this passage as a double layered narrative, full of hidden elements that we will have to discover in order to reach the essence of the chapter.

Tags: John Steinbeck's short stories, John Steinbeck's books, John Steinbeck's qoutes, John Steinbeck's facts, John Steinbeck's works

[...] This determinism is highlighted by the fact that the turtle l.21-22 ?stared straight ahead? and when it faces obstacles which prevent it from going on, the land turtle faces these obstacles and overcome them l.47 higher and higher the hind legs boosted it, until at last the centre of balance was reached, the front tipped down, the front legs scratch at the pavement, and it was Even when the turtle almost gets hit by the light truck, it manages to get back to its feet l.65-66: front foot caught a piece of quartz and little by little the shell pulled over and flopped upright.? The turtle shows its resilience to survive and to adapt itself to the obstacles and dangers it meets on its way. [...]

[...] In chapter two p.9 beginning of the reader is introduced to Tom Joad, the protagonist who is ?walking along the edge of the highway? and seems to be following the same path as the land turtle which is crawling the road side?. Both of them are lonely and apparently walking in the same direction since they meet in chapter four. The verbs of movement used throughout the chapter emphasize the idea of migration and the highway that the land turtle has to cross is highly metaphorical. [...]

[...] As we know, plants have been unable to grow because of the drought and what is presented to us at the beginning of the chapter is the foreshadowing of a rebirth. This passage also shows nature's resilience in the way that it managed to cope with the weather's disturbances and to rebuild or try to rebuild itself. The apparent fixity and the hidden life which are predominant in the first 10 lines are soon contrasted with the agitation which characterizes the world of insects. [...]

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