The 1939 classic, “The Grapes of Wrath,” which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize among many other awards, is considered one of the best works of famed American author John Steinbeck, who’s also known for such classics as “East of Eden,” “Cannery Row,” and “Of Mice and Men.” The novel takes place in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and deals with the hardships faced by migrant laborers there. Some call it a powerful critique of capitalism and a call for collective action by the poor. The novel struck a chord with readers across the United States and helped inspire a sense of empathy and compassion for those who were suffering during the Great Depression. Although the specific historical circumstances have changed, the issues of poverty, social justice and the struggle for human dignity remain and many hold that the novel is as relevant today as it was decades ago.
We have prepared a number of potential essay topics for “Grapes of Wrath” if you’re planning on writing an essay about this novel but aren’t sure where to get started. We’ve grouped them into analyses essays, compare and contrast essays, argumentative essays, and persuasive essays. We hope that you’ll find a topic here that will inspire you to write your next great essay!
Grapes of Wrath Topics for Analysis Essays
- How does the structure and language support the overall purpose of “Grapes of Wrath”?
- What is the purpose of the unusual name of the daughter (Rose of Sharon)?
- Analyze the role women play in the novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” Be sure to include the significance of Rose of Sharon’s final act in the novel.
- Steinbeck often stresses the importance of people working together to achieve a common goal. How does this need show itself when the people (represented by the Joads) are torn from their land? In what other ways does the power of a group show up in the novel?
- Analyze what Steinbeck has to say on the subject in the shorter “inter-chapters,” those which don’t deal directly with the Joads’ experiences (e.g. Chapters 14 and 17).
- Analyze history in “Grapes of Wrath.”
- John Steinbeck and censorship: Focus on the abuse Steinbeck suffered when he published “The Grapes of Wrath.” Which organizations and individuals hated his work the most? What were their reasons?
- What is the meaning of the title “The Grapes of Wrath”?
- To what extent does the central character struggle in a complex world? Analyze elements of human nature and/or the values of society in “The Grapes of Wrath.”
- Analyze the US working class and the history of how people struggled as a working class. Find examples from the story to relate.
- How are scientific and ecological themes depicted in “Grapes of Wrath”?
- How can “Grapes of Wrath” be related to Western novels?
- Why is “Grapes of Wrath” considered a political novel?
- How are Californian landowners depicted in “Grapes of Wrath”?
- How is dehumanization presented in “Grapes of Wrath”?
The Grapes of Wrath Topics for Compare and Contrast Essays
- You might want to focus on Jim Casy and Tom Joad for part of your essay. Compare the evolution of their thinking on this subject. Some of what they discuss involves unions and strikes (although some of the language used is not very specific). What kind of censorship or resistance do they encounter with these ideas?
- Compare Jewish refugees with the Joad family in “Grapes of Wrath.”
- Compare the failure of the American dream in “The Great Gatsby” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”
- Comparing two characters: one from “The Grapes of Wrath” and the other from “The House on Mango Street.”
- Compare Tom Joad’s speech in “Grapes of Wrath” to Martin Luther King’s speech.
- Compare “Grapes of Wrath” with “Thelma and Louise.”
- Compare “A Raisin in the Sun” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”
- Compare and contrast the author within his own works of literature: “Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men.”
- Compare “Grapes of Wrath” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
- Compare economic depression in “Cinderella Man” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”
- What are differences between Tom Joad and his farther?
- Compare challenges that the Joads had with the real events of the Great Depression.
- Compare “Grapes of Wrath” with other novels by Steinbeck.
- Compare different classes in “Grapes of Wrath.”
Grapes of Wrath Essay Topics for Argumentative Essays
- The element of foreshadowing in “Grapes of Wrath.”
- Select a theme from “Grapes of Wrath” and write an analysis of how the book/film develops this theme. What is the argument regarding the theme? Include examples of rhetorical devices and/or cinema elements in your discussion.
- How does “Grapes of Wrath” reflect the changes of middle-class values during the Great Depression? Support your ideas with examples and citations.
- God’s test to identify one’s own self.
- Does the family become weaker or stronger in “Grapes of Wrath”?
- Symbolism of the turtle in “Grapes of Wrath.”
- Morality and dignity in “The Grapes of Wrath” and how they evolve throughout the novel. Elaborate on these ideas through Steinback’s use of literacy elements.
- Does the book reflect the times? Was the novel historically accurate? Why was the book banned in certain areas when it was released? Does the book emphasize social, economic, political, intellectual, or aesthetic matters?
- How does John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” depict environmental challenges that affect the lives of the Joads and millions of other Dust Bowl migrant farmers?
- Character development of Jim Casy in John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.”
- How can the Marxism theory be related to “Grapes of Wrath” by Steinbeck?
Persuasive Topics for Grapes of Wrath
- The role of wealth in our society in light of John Steinbeck’s views on transcendentalism. How important is it? How important should it be?
- How can Marxist theory be related to “Grapes of Wrath” by Steinbeck?
- Triumph of the American spirit in “Grapes of Wrath.”
- How does “Grapes of Wrath” relate to a current economic issue?
- Does Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” represent the American dream?
- How does Steinbeck use the migrant traveling experiences to demonstrate the revolution of “I” becoming “we”?
- How does imprisonment of Jim Casy effect his development?
- Does the ending of the novel fit aesthetically with the other parts of the book?
- How does the chapter about a turtle crossing the Oklahoma highway symbolize the story of the migrants?
- Does Steinbeck successfully raise sympathy for the plight of the Dust Bowl farmers?
- Does “Grapes of Wrath” have the characteristics of a coming-of-age story or a bildungsroman?
- Are there any parallels between the sacrifices and messages of Casy and Tom and those of Christ?
- How does Ma Joad’s personality help to keep the family intact?
- How does the use of theme, setting, tone, and figurative language work within the passage?
- How does the political theme in “Grapes of Wrath” differ from that in Steinbeck’s earlier works?
What to Write About in an Essay
“I need to write my essay on the composition of “Grapes of Wrath.” Here’s an example of how you might start off writing about the composition: “The composition of the novel, “Grapes of Wrath” is perfectly constructed. The beginning of the novel and its description of nature and climate completely immerse the reader in the atmosphere of American life in the last century. Particularly strong are the novel’s digressions: insertion chapters, which are reports from the scene. These are monologues from outside observers of the refugee families: a Californian farmer who hates Oklahoma settlers, a nameless barmaid, a bankrupt tenant.”
“I need to do my essay on the characters of “Grapes of Wrath.” Here’s an example of how you might start off writing about the characters in “Grapes of Wrath.”, “In the classic novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” John Steinbeck reveals broader truths about society and the human condition. . Although, even from the very beginning of the novel, Steinbeck fleshes his characters out – the individuals described simultaneously seem to merge with a thousand families suffering the same fate. For them, every day is a struggle for survival and to not die of hunger.”
“How to write my college essay describing my impressions about “Grapes of Wrath?” While you should really use your own unique impressions of the novel if asked to do so, here’s an example of how you might start off writing about your own impressions: “Despite the fact that many books have been written about the injustice of life, this one is unique for me. Light breaks through the general painful and gloomy background of the book. It is about the hope that does not die.It’s about a mother’s eternal love, which is beyond time and space. It is about the mercy and compassion that raise a person up, even though they may sit in the mud of a collapsed barn, half-naked, and not knowing what will happen tomorrow.”
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