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In creating the setting of a once rich, fertile earth now deprived of life-giving nourishment, John Steinbeck introduces the first of the harships of the Joads, Oklahoma farmers who become the victims of the Dust Bowl. To describe this phenomenon, Steinbeck employs literary devices such as personification which gives the elements life as though they are powers. This life comes from his use of certain verbs.
The barren, dusty earth has been rendered by the
plows [that] crossed and recrossed the rivulet marks [and] the last rains [that] lifted the corn quickly and scattered weed colonies and grass along the sides of the roads...
The weeds grew darker green to protect themselves, and they did not spread any more.
The rainheads dropped a little spattering and hurried on to some other country.
The wind grew stronger, whisked under stones, carried up straws and old leaves, and even little clods, marking its course as it sailed across the fields.
In the middle of that night the wind passed on and left the land quiet. The dust-filled air muffled sound more completely than fog does.
There are stated comparisons, between two unlike things which use the words like or as, or similes, as well:
...a walking man lifted a thin layer as high as his waist, and a wagon lifted the dust as high as the fence tops, and an automobile boiled a cloud behind it.
In the gray sky a red sun appeared, a dim red circle that gave a little light, like dusk...
...but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes
In the morning the dust hung like fog, and the sun was as red as ripe new blood.
Certainly, these figures of speech serve to create a vivid tableau of the red country and the gray country of Oklahoma that is the initial setting of Steinbeck's novel.
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