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The grapes of wrath: a critical analysis

             The Grapes of Wrath has been difficult for me to read. It is not simply a long book; it is a powerful book. The first line ("To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth" [Steinbeck 3].) sets a tone for the novel. It transcends to me that this is written beautifully, with emphasis on the land, and that action is precisely described in a style both poetic and journalistic. In that way, Steinbeck did not disappoint. However, the style is not enough. His did not make the best use of that style. First of all, as Robert DeMott points out in his introduction to the novel, Steinbeck is given to "frequent sentimentality" (Steinbeck ix). Take, for instance, chapter nine. It first describes the farmers of Oklahoma selling their belongings to junk men, and at low, unfair prices at that. One man tries to sell his plow horses and wagon. As he does, he reminisces about his daughter "plaiting the forelocks [of the horses], taking off her hair ribbon to make bows, standing back, head cocked, rubbing the soft noses with her cheek" (Steinbeck 118). It's sad, and it's human, and it's rather sappy. Further on, the women are at home looking at all the leftover belongings, deciding what to take with them to California and what to leave: How can we live without our lives? How will we know it's us without our past? No. Leave it. Burn it. They sat and looked at it and burned it into their memories. How"ll it be not to know what land's outside the door? How if you wake up in the night and know-and know the willow tree's not there? Can you live without the willow tree? Well, no, you can't. The willow tree is you. The pain on that mattress there-that dreadful pain-that's you. Steinbeck's characterizations are flat (Steinbeck ix). I think that they seem undeveloped because Steinbeck leaves little for the reader to discover about them.

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