Repetition in The Grapes of Wrath: Examples & Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine the use of repetition in John Steinbeck's novel 'The Grapes of Wrath,' which follows the Joad family from their failing farm in Oklahoma to new opportunities in California during the Dust Bowl.


'Because you know I'm all about that bass, 'Bout that bass, no treble. I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble. I'm all 'bout that bass, 'bout that bass, no treble' sings Meghan Trainor. Her song 'All About That Bass' climbed to the top of the charts due in no small part to repetition. Repetition is a literary device that is often used to draw emphasis to important details. Let's look at some examples of repetition from John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath.

Used Car Sales

During the Dust Bowl, land owners in California heavily advertised opportunities for farm workers. Used car sales was also a booming business as people left their homes in droves. The novel's narrator states, 'In the towns, on the edges of the towns, in fields, in vacant lots, the used-car yards, the wreckers' yards, the garages with blazoned signs-Used Cars, Good Used Cars, Cheap transportation, three trailers, '27 Ford, clean. Checked cars, guaranteed cars. Free radio. Car with 100 gallons of gas free. Come in and look. Used cars'. The repetition of the word 'towns' at the beginning of the first sentence emphasizes that the economic situation was dire and used car lots were appearing everywhere. The word 'cars' is also repeated several times to give the reader an impression of the overbearing sales pitches the characters had to endure.

The Sound of a Road Trip

If you have ever been on a long road trip across several states, you know how monotonous it can be. In Steinbeck's novel, the narrator describes this by saying, 'Listen to the motor. Listen to the wheels. Listen with your ears and with your hands on the steering wheel; listen with the palm of your hand on the gear-shift lever; listen with your feet on the floor boards. Listen to the pounding old jalopy with all your senses, for a change of tone, a variation of rhythm may mean - a week here?' Repetition of the word 'listen' provides the reader with auditory imagery of the drudgery of a long trip, where any change of sound may indicate that it's time for either the people or the car to take a break.

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