The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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How does John Steinbeck use social realism in The Grapes of Wrath?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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We meet all the players in every social realm of this period in American history. Some take advantage of those who have few or no choices (car salesmen); some think they are better than those who have nothing but a dream (the worker at the junkyard); some take advantage of desperation (California landowners and farmers); some have nothing but offer what they can to help others (too many to count); some sacrifice themselves in order to improve conditions for everyone (the Reverend); some live on nothing but hope; some have lost all hope; some do what they must to survive; some give up when it gets too difficult. The novel is a documentary of this time and place, documenting the entire spectrum of human nature.

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catd1115 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Grapes of Wrath is the perfect example of social realism. The characters are the people of the Dust Bowl and the plot is their plight. He describes there suffering and circumstances in graphic detail, realism is obvious and inescapable in the book. In addition the intercalary chapters set the stage for the details of this reality. We are plunged into what the dust bowl is in form and life and one can't help but see how it is to be there.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Grapes of Wrath has the perfect title, for the narrative is much like a biblical tale in which spirituality is woven with realistic detail.  For, there is a realism with the intercalary chapters that evokes emotional responses from the reader.  Steinbeck does, indeed, have a reporter's sensibility as noted in #3 as the reader is reminded greatly of the U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos Passos and his camera's eye and newsreel techniques. Clearly, Steinbeck's great novel has both pathos and ethos in its narrative and with its larger-than-life characters such as Ma Joad.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I am with #4 in focusing on the intercalary chapters that do an amazing job of painting the harsh reality of life during the Depression and do not focus exclusively on the Joad family. In many ways, I think of Cry, Beloved Country as being very similar in this respect. Both novels are utterly uncompromising in presenting the harsh reality of life under very difficult historical situations.

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The novel is social realism at its finest and most powerful, full of detail and full of truth--so effective that it was banned in two states, Oklahoma and California. No surprise there, considering the rocks Steinbeck turned over to the light of public scrutiny. Many of the details are so exact as to create an accurate historical document. For some reason, I recall the passage in which the Joads' old truck is repaired on the trip west and the scene in the diner along Route 66. I'm from the Midwest; Steinbeck's descriptions of the land and the way of life as it was lived here during the 1930s ring with truth and accuracy. I know the land, and I grew up with stories of the Depression. Route 66 ran...

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