Grapes of Wrath

Throughout John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, many concepts appear that were noted in How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster. However, the three chapters of Foster’s how-to guide that most apply to Steinbeck’s novel were “It’s All About Sex…,” “Every Trip is a Quest (Except When It’s Not),” and “It’s More Than Just Rain or Snow. ” On more than one occasion these concepts are hidden within the book, and two of them actually seem somewhat linked together. After reading between the lines, The Grapes of Wrath has an extremely intricate plot and many ulterior meanings.

Foster’s book helps to solve these meanings and make it so that the novel can be completely understood. According to How to Read Literature Like a Professor, “sex doesn’t have to look like sex. ” In fact, during the 1930’s when The Grapes of Wrath was published, writers weren’t allowed to include any straightforward sexual scenes in their novels. Writers then found a way to get around this restriction by hiding these scenes behind perfectly normal behavior. The first time this is seen in Steinbeck’s novel occurs in Chapter 15 when the Joad family stops at a small hamburger stand.

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In this stand, there are two employees, Mae and Al. Al clearly has feelings for the character Mae, feelings which Mae doesn’t notice. Steinbeck describes how Al “looks up at the vivaciousness in Mae’s voice. ” He then goes into a graphic description of Al going about his job. This description includes the line, “He lays the split buns on the plate to toast and heat,” and many other overly descriptive actions. Although they appear to be normal, no writer would go through all that trouble to describe an action unless it meant more than what it appeared to be.

In this case, Steinbeck obviously implies that there is sexual tension between Al and Mae. After this happening, there does not appear to be any more hidden scenes until Chapter 23. Instead of a food description, Steinbeck describes a dance between a Texas boy and a Cherokee girl. An unidentified man sees “the Texas boy an’ that girl a-steppin’ into the dark—think nobody seen ‘em go. ” This line make sit so that this boy and girl are sharing a secret and intimate moment, which in other terms could be thought of as sex.

The scene goes on to describe the girl panting and heaving without being tired ad how they’ll keep going. Just like that of the hamburger stand, Steinbeck went into so much detail that noticing the double meaning is unavoidable. Foster’s concept is definitely true, “sex doesn’t have to look like sex. ” In fact, it rarely does. In Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor, it is stated that a quest consists of five things: a quester, a place to go, a stated reason to go there, challenges on the way, and a real reason to go there.

In this particular situation, there is not just one quester, but instead and entire family: the Joads. They are headed to California in search of a steady job that will support them. On their way, they face money problems, car troubles, deaths, and issues with the government. The real reason to go there is always self knowledge in the eyes of Thomas Foster. The family learns that they must stick together and help each other and others out in order to survive. Without the help of their neighbors they would have perished of hunger and never would have made it into California.

Unfortunately, they never actually reach the point where they have steady and happy lives. This is their Holy Grail. They were journeying toward something that they were never going to find in this period of time. Although this quest makes the most sense and is the most obvious, Steinbeck also included another more complicated quest. The Grapes of Wrath’s character Rosasharn Joad always appears to be self-involved and naive. She only worries about herself throughout the entire book and always puts the others at some kind of inconvenience.

Her quest differs from the others due to the fact that she learns a different piece of self-knowledge and discovers it in a different way. She has the same initial quest, but the outcome varies. The other members of her family already have the quality of selflessness. She finds this piece of much-needed knowledge after she miscarries her much wanted baby. However, without the inclusion of rain, this realization would never have taken place. Weather is a large part of many books, because every form of it has a different meaning. The only example of weather seen in The Grapes of Wrath s seen at the end when Rosasharn had just miscarries her baby and was sitting in the barn after three days of continuous downpour. In How to Read Like a Professor, rain is generally seen as a means of purification or a new beginning. The rain in Steinbeck’s novel causes great grief to the travelers. One man catches pneumonia from the vicious weather and his son brings him to the Joad family in search of help. Ma Joad’s “eyes passed Rose of Sharon’s eyes, and then came back to them. And the two women looked deep into each other. ” Rosasharn understands that she needs to nurse this man id he is to live.

Up until now, she had never done anything that didn’t benefit herself in someway and in this way she is not only giving a new beginning to the dying man, she is giving one to herself. In this way, she obtains the self-knowledge she has been searching for all along. The rain brings about the end of the quest and the beginning of her life as a good person John Steinbeck wrote this book to portray the tragedy of the Great Depression and the affect it had on people of various lifestyles. The Joads were poor and their family was slowly torn apart. However, according to Thomas C.

Foster’s book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, that wasn’t the only point he was trying to get across. He incorporated the two linked concepts that determined the conclusion of the novel. The idea of making it so that the rain brings about the end of the Joads and specifically Rosasharn’s quest was extremely well planned out and hard to find. Not only that, but the hidden sex scenes made it so that the book wasn’t completely serious and depressing, without going overboard with real sexual descriptions. The inquisition it takes to read this book makes it the classic that it is, and Foster’s guide helps decipher it.


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