Study Guide 10: The Grapes of Wrath, Robert DeMott Introduction
1. What happens when machines replace people at work? What alternatives do unskilled
workers have when they are replaced?
2. What is your definition of family? Is family only made up of relatives? What keeps a
1. DeMott makes the following claim about the novel: “The Grapes of Wrath has a home-
grown quality: part naturalistic epic, part jeremiad, part captivity narrative, part road
novel, part transcendental gospel” (x). Look up the words and phrases (i.e. “captivity
narrative”) that you don’t understand, then explain what you think he is saying about the
2. What does DeMott mean when he describes the novel’s structure as contrapuntal?
3. What are the five layers of meaning Steinbeck incorporates into his novel?
4. Was Steinbeck happy about the popular success of his writing? Why or why not?
5. Steinbeck dedicates the novel to “Carol who willed it” and to “Tom who lived it.” Who
are Carol and Tom and why are they important for the novel?
6. How long did Steinbeck spend on the “Matter of the Migrants” - the name he gave his
preoccupation with the state of migrant labor in California?
7. In 1937 Steinbeck wrote, “I believe in the despotism of human life and happiness against
the liberty of money and possessions” (xxx). What does he mean by this?
1. What does the setting of the opening scene suggest about the rest of the novel? What
does it say about family structure?