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Symbolism in Grapes of Wrath

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Symbolism in Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck included numerous symbols in The Grapes of Wrath. Various types of animals, for instance, play important roles in the novel.

  • A Turtle
  • The family dog
  • A cat

Steinbeck spends a significant amount of space writing about a persistent turtle that continues trying to cross the road regardless of any obstacles. This turtle symbolizes the tenacity of the Joad family and other families that have lost their farms but continue to search for a way to make ends meet. Like the turtle, these families have set their sights on a goal, and they will not stop regardless of what they face along the way.

Tenacity, however, does not always mean survival. Ma Joad and her family have tough times ahead of them. Steinbeck symbolizes this with the family's dog, which gets run over on the way to California. This suggests that the road has a dark side to it and that it might not lead to a better life for the family. Later in the book, this omen becomes true as the family continues to face increasingly difficult circumstances.

To survive, the characters will have to adapt to living in a new environment. This adaptation is symbolized by a cat that has been turned away from its home just as they have been ousted from theirs. They can learn to live in the wild like the cat and proceed slowly like the turtle, but, no matter what they do, they could also get run over like the dog.

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