The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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What is the significance of the turtle in chapter 3?

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robin-lowe eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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My students ask this question every year! Since this is Chapter 3 , it represents an intercalary chapter, which illustrates symbolism on a macro-cosmic scale. The turtle symbolizes two elements: hardships/struggles and life. As the turtle begins its journey, it is obvious that he is determined to "get to the other side." The narrator describes the turtle as having "fierce, humorous eyes . . .star[ing] straight ahead (Stenbeck 20), which is a good description similar to the migrant workers. Throughout the chapter, the reader learns exactly how hard the turtle must fight to reach its destination. It has many obstacles such as the red ant, and especailly, the truck driver who "swerved to hit it" (Steinbeck 22). Therefore, the turtle, like the Joads and society, must work hard and fight to obtain any desired goal. An individual will encounter hardships in life; but if he or she is as determined as the turtle, then the desired goal will be achieved. In additon, the turtle picks up an oat...

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