Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads, driven from their home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry. In a nearly hopeless situation, they set out for
While en route, they discover that all of the roads and the highways are saturated with other families who are also making the same trek, ensnared by the same promise. As the Joads continue on their journey and hear many stories from others, some coming from
Upon arrival, they find little hope of finding a decent wage, as there is an oversupply of labor and a lack of rights, and the big corporate farmers are in collusion. The tragedy lies in the simplicity and impossibility of their dream: a house, a family, and a steady job. The final act is said to illustrate the spontaneous mutual sharing that will lead to a new awareness of collective values.
Steinbeck’s novel centers, enters the stream of job seekers bound for
The narrator tells the story in third-person point of view. Generally, the narrator is omniscient, or all-knowing, seeing and reporting the thoughts of the characters as well as witnessing and reporting the action. At times, however, he reports only the action without revealing the characters' thoughts. The narration alternates between chapters centering on society, nature, universal themes, or background information and chapters centering on specific people and places. For example, Chapter 1 presents information about the the Dust Bowl and society's reaction to it. Chapter 2 centers on Tom Joad and a truck driver who gives Tom a ride home after his release from prison. Chapter 3 centers on a turtle that exhibits the kind of perseverance that sustains the Joad family during their journey west. Chapter 4 focuses on Tom and Jim Casy, a former preacher who tags along with Tom. Chapter 5 presents general information on how banks evict tenant farmers. Chapter 6 zeroes in on Tom, Casy, and Muley Graves at the abandoned Joad homestead. The narration continues to alternate chapters in this way, giving the novel a balanced structure.