Illustration of the back a man in a hat and overalls looking towards the farmland

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

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What is colored red in chapter 2 of The Grapes of Wrath and why?

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Chapter Two of Grapes of Wrath opens with description of a "huge red transport truck" standing in front of a restaurant. The passage is as follows.

A huge red transport truck stood in front of the little roadside restaurant. The vertical exhaust pipe muttered softly, and an almost invisible haze of steel-blue smoke hovered over its end. It was a new truck, shinning red, and in twelve-inch letters on its sides-OKLAHOMA CITY TRANSPORT COMPANY

The truck could be just the color of the company it represents. If it signifies anything, however, it would be communism, or the workers fight for their rights and the end of oppressive working conditions under the reign of rich business owners.

In this chapter, the story's main character Tom Goad asks the truck driver if he could be a good guy and give him a lift. The driver points out that he has a "No Riders" sign in his window shield, but Tom changes his mind by telling that he was obviously forced to carry the sticker "by some rich bastard."

The driver's affinity with Tom as a fellow worker becomes more apparent as their conversation continues. At one point he states an ability to notice if people are workers are not. "Thought so. I seen your hands. I notice all stuff like that. Take a pride in it."

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In Chapter 2, the truck is colored red. Red will be important for a number of reasons throughout the novel. Red can be interpreted both literally and symbolically.

Literally, red is the color of the earth in Oklahoma (Note the use of the song "Red River Valley" repeatedly in Ford's film.)

Symbolically, red represents the blood of the people who have lived on the land for generations and the toil that they have invested in making the land fruitful.

The fact that the truck too is red probably has to do with the blood of the people being sold, as it were, for profit. The truck is a transport truck, brand spaking new, and the Oklahoma Transport Company is thriving because of the changing situation of the migrants and their necessity of spending money on the road.

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