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Foreshadowing in The Grapes of Wrath: Examples & Meaning

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

''The Grapes of Wrath,~' written by John Steinbeck, is the story of the Joads a family that has been affected by the Great Depression. This lesson provides Steinbeck's ability to weave foreshadowing into his story.

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joads. They were living in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, and were thrown off their farm. They decide to travel to California in hopes of finding work. However, once they arrived in California after a long journey, they realize there is very little work. They struggle as they travel the state trying to find a better life. Unfortunately, they lose Grandma and Grandpa Joad along the way. Other family members also start to peel off as they find jobs or new lives. The story is dark and has very little hope in it, but Steinbeck was not trying to portray hope. Instead, he was hoping to show the honest challenges of the migrant workers in California.

Symbolism Foreshadowing

Steinbeck uses different types of foreshadowing, wither direct or symbolic. Symbolism is woven throughout the story, for many reasons, but one of the largest is to provide a hint as to what is coming for the Joad family.

  • Turtle - Steinbeck spends a better part of a chapter talking about a turtle that is traveling in the heavy soil in Oklahoma and how his nails slip as he tries to drag his weight across the way. This symbolism is used to foreshadow the trials the Joads are going to experience on their own journey to California. The author goes on to convey that because the turtle is dragging his shell along the dusty ground, it is clean, and shaped perfectly due to the wear. Steinbeck is using this to foreshadow the changes the Joads will go through, and how they will mature and evolve with the challenges they will face.
  • The Dog - The Joads dog is hit and killed on their journey to California. The important piece of this symbolism is that the dog is hit by a luxury car. This foreshadows how the rich in California oppress and harm the migrant workers, because they believe they have the right to do so.
  • The Dust Bowl - The black blizzards had turned the mid-west into a desert of sand and soil, destroying the crops. This imagery is used to symbolize the Israelites in Egypt and the desert they had to endure for 40 days and 40 nights, while they struggled to be free from slavery. This is foreshadowing for the journey the Joads take to be free of the weight of poverty, and their struggle to get land of their own and be free.

Direct Foreshadowing

Steinbeck does not just use symbolism to foreshadow the Joads future. He also uses the direct speech from travelers along Route 66, which is where the Joads are driving to get to California.

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