Complete the following list of questions, tasks and research activities.


NOTE: This is an assessment item




You will be required to write a 2,000 word paper. (Copies to be given to myself and all class members.) The paper will form the basis of a fifteen minute oral presentation.


Š      The life and works of John Steinbeck. This activity requires you to write and present a short biography of the life and career of John Steinbeck. Focus primarily on the key incidents and events in his life, particularly those that had any influence over his writing. Also give time and attention to the environment he grew up in. Finally, culminate your presentation with your considered opinion on the extent to which you believe Steinbeck’s life is present and visible in his works, particularly in The Grapes of Wrath.


Š      A short overview of early Twentieth Century American history. Focus primarily on the Great Depression Era, and the conditions faced by those in rural areas. Look at the unemployment levels, the Government at the time and the welfare policies and economic strategies it employed in an effort to alleviate the problem. Finally, use your research to address the following topic: “History is little more than fuel to fire the imagination of the author.” Refer closely to The Grapes of Wrath in your paper and presentation.


Š      The public and critical reaction to The Grapes of Wrath on publication, and its current reputation. Write and present a thorough analysis of the public and critical reception The Grapes of Wrath received on publication, the changing nature of its perception and its current status as a classic work of literature. Also argue to what extent you believe that it ought to be considered a classic work of literature.


Š      The Grapes of Wrath as source of Artistic inspiration. Research the impact the text has had on others, in terms of socio-political, artistic and cultural influence. After doing so, you are provide an analysis of the Bruce Springsteen song, The Ghost of Tom Joad and then compare its nature, content and purpose back to that of The Grapes of Wrath


Š      A Marxist reading of The Grapes of Wrath. Respond to The Grapes of Wrath from a Marxist point of view by comparing the similarities between it and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. You will also need to consider the political ideologies of the two authors.


Š      The Grapes of Wrath in Australia. Consider the thematic elements in The Grapes of Wrath in the context of an aspect of Australian society. Choose either the current plight of Australian Farmers, the plight of Aboriginal Australia, the circumstances leading up to the Eureka Stockade. (You may like to refer to more than one of the above options.)







Respond to the following questions, using the quotes where appropriate, and using the figure in brackets as an indication of the length of (full sentence) answer required. (Note: the figure is in reference to typed responses.)



1.    Comment on the descriptions Steinbeck uses to describe the physical and social environment in the opening chapter. (10)

2.    Comment on the symbolic function of the truck and its sticker, “No riders.” (5)

3.    Comment on the symbolic function of the turtle, and its fate at the hand of both truck and Tom Joad. (5)

4.    The theme of Faith is subtly introduced at a relatively early stage. How is this done? How are we positioned to view it? (10)

5.    Comment on Steinbeck’s use of phonetics and unconventional grammar in the writing of dialogue. What is his purpose? (5)

6.    Chapter Five is almost a self-contained story, written with a highly intrusive third-person narrative. Why is it included? Consider context, reader positioning and literary technique in your response. (20)

7.    What reasons are given for California being deemed the destination of choice for dispossessed farmers? (5)

8.    We learn (almost in passing) of the horrendous death of a child, partly consumed by a pig, as witnessed by the Mother: Why is such an horrific detail included, and given such scant attention? (5)

9.    Comment on the “hunted” imagery Steinbeck creates when Tom, Muley and Casy are hiding from the spotlight (Ch.6): What broader purpose does this have? (5)

10.         What is the purpose of Chapter Seven? (5)

11.         “The sky greyed among the stars, and the pale, late-quarter moon was insubstantial and thin.” (Ch.8) What technical term is used to identify this kind of description, and in terms of tone and theme, what is the positioning effect of Steinbeck’s choice of words? (5)

12.         Compare the treatment of the “Gopher snake” to that of the snakes in the previously studied short story, “Love” by Stuart. In this context, what do you think motivates the actions of Tom and Casy? (10)

13.         When Tom reunites with his family, the description of his Mother’s reaction, “And her joy was nearly like sorrow” is particularly poignant. Discuss this statement. (7)

14.         Compare the reactions of Tom Joad Snr, Ma and Granpa to Tom’s return from jail. What do these reactions reveal about those characters? (15)

15.         Explain the reference to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress in Chapter Nine. (5)

16.         Comment of the Joad family structure, as portrayed in the preparation for the journey to California. (10)

17.         Why do you think Steinbeck continues to alternate between the Joad-centric story and his more didactic chapters? (10)

18.         Comment on the function and characterisation of “the fat man” the Joads meet on the highway when they stop for petrol and water. (8)

19.         When the Joads stop to camp for the first time, they meet Sairy, a woman characterised as having “black eyes that seemed to look out of a well of horror”. Why does Steinbeck create such a startling and powerful image? (5)

20.         Grampa’s death is a pivotal moment in the text: In what way does it both symbolise the plight faced by the Joad family (and all struggling families) and simultaneously instill in them a sense of unity and purpose? (15)

21.         In what ways is the car trouble incident in chapter sixteen a plot device? (10)

22.         How are we positioned to respond to the ragged man in chapter sixteen and his “words of wisdom” about California? (7)

23.         “A man with food fed a hungry man, and thus insured himself against hunger.” What kind of philosophy is this? (5)

24.         What reasons does Noah give for his departure? What was the point Steinbeck was trying to make here? (8)

25.         After seeing Sairy, Casy went “out of the dusky tent [and] into the blinding light.” This is a very poetic line, designed to subtly convey an epiphany of sorts. Explain. (5)

26.         Compare Granma’s death to that of Granpa’s. (6)

27.         Chapter nineteen is a short history of California. Summarise it into twenty-five words. (25words)

28.         Describe the circumstances the Joads find themselves in when they arrive at their first real collective camp in California, the imagery Steinbeck has used to convey that scene, and how the Joads collectively respond to it. (30)

29.         “Red” is a powerful insult. How and why is it used, and what kind of response do you think Steinbeck hoped it would provoke in the mind of the reader? (10)

30.         In chapter’s twenty and twenty-one, there is an ominous lift in the level of resentment and violence, balanced against an increased wearying of the tone as the text begins to veer inevitably toward its fatalistic denouement. What literary techniques is Steinbeck using to balance these disparate factors? (15)

31.         Comment on the atmosphere and philosophies underpinning the Joad’s camp environment in chapter twenty-two compared to the previous site and the details Steinbeck include to convey those differences. (15)

32.         What was the point of the short scene where Ruthie tries to take over the games of other children, only to end up crying? (5)

33.         What do think Steinbeck hopes the reader will understand through his use of the term, “migrant people” in chapter twenty-three?

34.         What was the motivation behind the plot to organise a fight at the dance?(5)

35.         Consider the scene conveyed in chapter twenty-five: Can any semblance of blame be laid on anyone? (10)

36.         Analyse the first line of chapter twenty-six in detail. (15)

37.         Rose of Sharon’s eating of slack lime is a dangerous sign; explain its implications. (5)

38.         Do you think the Joad decision to leave the camp was the correct one? (Base your answer purely on the Joad’s understanding of the situation up until that point.) (7)

39.         Why do you think Steinbeck chose to reintroduce Casy to the text, and have him meet the fate that he did? (Consider Tom’s actions in your response.) (10)

40.         When Tom decides to leave, what reasons does he give? How are being positioned to respond to Tom at this moment? (10)

41.         Chapter twenty-nine is possibly the most devastating of all; What effect is it designed to have on the reader?

42.         The birth of Rose of Sharon’s child is one of the key symbolic events in the novel: in terms of thematic development, what does it represent? (8)

43.         Why does the text conclude with such a strange event in its final paragraph? How do think the reader is meant to respond to it? (7)

44.         Explain various meaning of the title of the novel. (8)

45.         Which previously studied text does GOW most resemble in your opinion?(5)