In Chapter Three of "Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck The narrator describes a turtle. Why it is in the book?
Many students are confused about the turtle until they read the novel. The turtle is actually a symbol for the Joads, and some say, for Tom. Notice that the turtle is a land turtle, as the Joads are tied to the land. In addition, the turtle moves slowly but continuously to get to the other side of the road. The Joads will also move slowly on their way to California, on the other side of the country, and encounter many obstacles. The truck driver who purposely tries to kill the turtle represents the many people in the novel who will try to destroy the family and force them "off the road" of success. But the turtle has a hard shell, as do the Joads, and is able to survive the truck driver's attack, even though it's thrown off track. The Joads will also be attacked and pushed around but they are a tough people. Finally, the turtle carries two seeds under its shell and leaves those seeds on the other side of the road to grow and flourish. The Joads also bring two children, Ruthie and Winfield. A close look at the symbolism in their names suggests they will flourish and grow in California---as did many of the children who came to California with their families during the dust bowl.