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Chapters 7, 9, and 11 of The Grapes of Wrath insert information about the Great Depression and the migrant movement so that readers can build a larger perspective about these issues. As you read these chapters, which are sometimes called interchapters, it is important to consider how John Steinbeck probably intended readers to interpret them. It is also necessary to keep track of the point of view, which shifts continually. Good questions to ask yourself include: Who is speaking in each chapter/paragraph/line? Which passages use irony, and which are serious? What emotions does John Steinbeck intend to elicit in the reader through each of the interchapters? Why does John Steinbeck omit the quotation marks around the dialog in interchapters?
Chapters 8 and 10 focus on Tom Joad's reunion with his family and on the Joads' preparations for the trip to California. Good questions about literary narrative usually focus on how and why the events happen the way they do, not just on what happens. As you read these chapters, try to figure out the thematic meanings behind the characters' actions. Why are Ma and Pa afraid when they first see Tom? Why does Jim Casy resist praying? How and why does John Steinbeck compare Jim Casy to Jesus Christ? Why does Ma get angry at Pa in chapter 10, and how does her anger contribute to the development of the novel's themes? Why does Grampa want to stay behind, and how does his resistance contribute to the development of the novel's themes?
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