How does Steinbeck begin his story and keep it flowing in correct chronological order while maintaining the reader's interest?

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Steinbeck begins The Grapes of Wrath with a chapter that describes the land, the time period, and the way the people are displaced during the Great Depression. This opening chapter, like many of Steinbeck's, sets the stage both thematically and atmospherically for what's to come without actually throwing the reader...

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Steinbeck begins The Grapes of Wrath with a chapter that describes the land, the time period, and the way the people are displaced during the Great Depression. This opening chapter, like many of Steinbeck's, sets the stage both thematically and atmospherically for what's to come without actually throwing the reader into the main story with the Joad family yet.

The structure of The Grapes of Wrath is interesting, because almost every other chapter is set up similarly to the first chapter—meaning that they are somewhat experimental, do not feature the main characters, and paint an impressionistic portrait of what is happening all over Western America. These chapters work to reinforce the main narrative, the story of the Joad family, by showing that what the Joads are going through is not specific to just them but is happening on a national level.

Steinbeck makes these chapters work by having them reinforce the main narrative. That's why the book, even during the more experimental passages, remains engaging.

As for the chronology of the story, it's pretty straightforward. Steinbeck doesn't need to tell the story nonlinearly, because he's so good at writing characters you care about. He consistently shows what the characters want and what they're chasing, and the reader knows without being told that things probably aren't going to end well for any of the Joads, making their hopes and dreams feel all the more tragic. So the story keeps flowing because the characters have clear goals that they are moving toward.

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