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The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck
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Which quote demonstrates the polarized nature of the world, and which quote uses animalistic imagery to dehumanize Muley in chapter 8 of The Grapes of Wrath?

In chapter 8 of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the polarized nature of the world is shown by Jim Casy’s reflections on holiness. Animalistic imagery that dehumanizes Muley Graves is seen in the comparisons to a gopher and a coyote.

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In The Grapes of Wrath, chapter 8 is concerned with Tom Joad’s reunion with his family after he comes home from prison. On the way, he had run into the former preacher Jim Casy, and the two of them traveled together. Once Tom is reunited with his delighted family, they sit down to eat. Reflecting on his recent wanderings “in the wilderness,” Jim comments on the unity of person and nature, which is destroyed when unhappy individuals go their own way. Earlier, Tom and Jim had commented on the behavior of their neighbor Muley Graves, likening him to a gopher and a coyote.

Jim tries to explain the revelations that came to him while he was living off the land out in the hills. He stresses the sense of unity he felt and speculates about the ways that human dissatisfaction and selfishness destroy that “holy” quality.

There was the hills, an’ there was me, an’ we wasn’t separate no more. We was one thing. An’ that one thing was holy.

I got thinkin’ how we was holy when we was one thing, an’ mankin’ was holy when it was one thing. An’ it on’y got unholy when one mis’able little fella got the bit in his teeth an’ run off his own way, kickin’ an’ draggin’ an’ fightin.’ Fella like that bust the holiness.

Tom and Jim had stayed the previous night with Muley Graves at the Joad family home, which was destroyed and otherwise deserted, as Tom and Jim walked to the home of Tom’s Uncle John, where his family is staying. They comment on Muley’s odd behavior.

Both men use similes, direct comparisons of unlike things for effect using “like” or “as,” to describe the “crazy” behavior of Muley, who is apparently destitute and reduced to eating the small animals he traps. Tom wonders if he is “nuts,” and Jim agrees.

He’s gettin’ screwy as a gopher, livin’ like he does. ... Think he’s nuts?

[Jim] ’Course Muley’s crazy, all right. Creepin’ aroun’ like a coyote; that’s boun’ to make him crazy.

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