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What is the symbolic role of the truck driver in Chapter 2 of The Grapes of Wrath?

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iamcoolunlikeu | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 6, 2011 at 5:54 AM via web

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What is the symbolic role of the truck driver in Chapter 2 of The Grapes of Wrath?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 7, 2011 at 12:23 AM (Answer #1)

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The truck driver represents the need for "random acts of kindness" in a setting as bad as the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.  The fact that the driver has a sign in the truck indicating that he is not supposed to take hitchhikers represents how individuals in this challenging time period are driven by self- interest or self- preservation.  Yet, when the driver violates this by giving Tom Joad a ride represents how, in the most basic of senses, individuals have to look out for one another in challenging times when no one else is providing for the general welfare.  While the driver is suspicious of Tom, this does not prevent him from helping out someone in need.  While there are many characters loaded with symbolism, the truck driver might not possess as much importance.  Yet, Steinbeck does not miss an opportunity to display how there has to be some level of empathy and concern for others in a context where compassion for others was noticeably absent.

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