Grapes of Wrath: the Theme of Decay in Chapter 25

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One of the most pervasive themes in this passage is that of a spreading decay that is taking over the society. This is first expressed in quite a literal sense, as an actual decay of fruit and produce, which spreads like a virus across the American countryside and farming lands. Due to the economic mismanagement of the farming industry, fruit and other produce are left to rot and decay on the trees because they are not picked by the farmers. The text gives many examples of different fruits being left to decay on the farms. We see, for example, the cherries, that are described at first as “full and sweet”, being left to turn into seeds which “drop and dry with black shreds hanging from them”. The purple prunes, which now “carpet the…show more content…
Secondly, the repetition depicts figuratively the accumulation and spreading of the problem. It is not a problem that is isolated to one kind of fruit, or one particular farming community, but a problem that is rapidly becoming widespread. The image of “the smell of rot filling the country” also reinforces this idea of an unstoppable spread of decay, infiltrating the whole country bit by bit. This spreading decay is not only literal in the text, but it also symbolizes the proliferation of social injustice and inequality that is infecting the country. Interestingly, the text uses the spreading decay of the fruit as a cause, a symptom and a symbol of the spreading social inequality and discontent. The decaying fruit is a cause of the social discontent, as the rotting fruit is an affront to those who cannot afford to buy enough food for themselves and their families. As the text says: “a million people hungry, needing the fruit – and kerosene sprayed over the golden mountains”. People are literally forced to watch “potatoes float by”, “screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime”, and “mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze”. The waste of good food is thus a cause of separation between producers and consumers, as the potential consumers of produce cannot understand the willful destruction of fruit and food that could have been such a benefit to them. We see in the text a very vivid depiction of this causal relationship: “children

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