What is the significance of the turtle in chapter 3 of The Grapes of Wrath?

The turtle is significant in that it represents the incredible resilience and perseverance that the Joads and other migrant families need to endure and overcome hardships on their cross-country trek. Steinbeck devotes chapter 3 to the turtle’s arduous journey across a dusty, busy highway. Despite encountering passive and active obstacles, the turtle continues to strive toward its goal, undeterred.

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The turtle in chapter 3 of The Grapes of Wrath is significant because it represents the tenacity and persistence of the Joad family and other migrants in confronting and surmounting obstacles during their trek to California.

Although vulnerable and seemingly insignificant in the vast, harsh landscape, the turtle is tough with “hard legs, yellow-nailed feet,” a “horny beak,” and a protective “high-domed shell” that deflects “barley beards” and “clover burrs.” His eyes intently stare straight ahead at its goal—to cross the highway—but Steinbeck humanizes the animal with “humorous” eyes. Like humans slowly yet steadily making their way across the country in jalopies, the turtle tediously yet continually inches across the ground, thrashing through brush and “boosting and dragging” himself along undeterred.

The turtle serves as a model of persistence despite hostile external barriers. Within the rough landscape lurk various obstructions. Just as the migrants...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 24, 2020