Themes, Motifs, and Symbols in The Grapes of Wrath

Updated: 1/27/2020
Themes, Motifs, and Symbols in The Grapes of Wrath
You can find this storyboard in the following articles and resources:
Grapes of Wrath Lesson Plans

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale

Why does a novel from 1939 about a migrant family in search of work during the Great Depression still resonate with readers in the 21st century? The answer is simple: look around. After the recession of 2008, this story maintains its relevance, especially with many students whose parents lost their jobs and/or careers as a result of the 2008 crash. The universal themes of the pursuit of the American Dream, perseverance, and the struggle against injustice, are still found in many aspects of American life today. As a result, The Grapes of Wrath has been hailed as one of the defining novels of American literature.


Grapes of Wrath

Storyboard Description

The Grapes of Wrath Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Storyboard Text

  • EXAMPLES
  • THE JOAD FARM
  • HIGHWAY 66
  • THE GRAPES (AND OTHER FRUIT)
  • The farm has been in the family for three generations and means everything to Pa and Grandpa. Being run off their land by a heartless bank deals Grandpa quite a blow and Pa a new set of challenges. Ma is dismayed by this loss of family history, and wonders if California is all it’s cracked up to be.
  • Highway 66 is a road of hope for the migrants searching for a better life. The migrants become a family amongst themselves, forging new friendships with others in need. The Joads find this friendship with the Wilsons, whose kindness during Grandpa’s death is not forgotten.
  • Grandpa muses about eating as many grapes as he can get his hands on in California. Later, Steinbeck uses the grapes to symbolize the growing unrest in the clash between the migrant workers and the larger farmers, who are withholding an opportunity of a better life from these destitute and desperate people.