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In Chapter 5 of The Grapes of Wrath, what is the symbolism in the landowners kicking...

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psolaas | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 24, 2013 at 5:29 AM via web

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In Chapter 5 of The Grapes of Wrath, what is the symbolism in the landowners kicking the farmers off the land because crops cannot be produced from the drought?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 24, 2013 at 6:21 AM (Answer #1)

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What is so disturbing about the symbolism of this act in Chapter 5 is the way that the banks and the financial system that created the logic which drove the tenants from their land and forced them to become migratory workers is described. Note how the people working for banks personify them as a "monster," which proves to be an apt image considering the way that this monster destroys the lives of so many and breaks the link between man and his land. Consider the following quotation:

The Bank--or the Company--needs--wants--insists--must have--as though the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them.

The imagery used, describing the implacable "logic" of the financial system as a monster depicts the heartless lack of compassion and rapacious greed that lies behind the decision to expel so many tenants from the land. In addition, note the way that the representatives of this monster are depicted as nothing more than slaves, or "ensnared" individuals, who are unable to be free. The symbolism in the landowners expelling the tenants from the land is therefore one of absolute greed and focus on profit: even though the earth is already poor, the banks plan to farm cotton on it until it dies completely, and then sell the land. The banks are depicted as a heartless monster that lays waste to all in its path: not just the land and those living on it, but those that serve it as well. Steinbeck through this symbolism presents his harshly critical view of a materialistic and capitalistic society that is focussed on growth alone.

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