Essay on Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath vs. Sinclair’s The Jungle

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Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath vs. Sinclair’s The Jungle

The global appeal of the so-called American dream of happiness and success has drawn many people to the “promised land” for hundreds of years. Although the American government preached equality for all on paper, it was driven primarily by money. Both Upton Sinclair and John Steinbeck recognized this and used literature to convey the flaws of capitalism. Sinclair’s The Jungle satirized America’s wage slavery at the turn of the century and forty years later, Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath criticized the commercialism of American farming. These two books, often viewed as propagandistic, employ similar persuasive strategies: strong imagery, heavy symbolism, biting
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Steinbeck also uses intense imagery to depict the lives of Dust Bowl migrants. His descriptions usually occur in the intercalary chapters interspersed with the story of the Joads. A poetic quality pervades these short chapters, like when he describes the wind racing across the land and digging “cunningly among the rootlets of the corn.” Often these vignettes personify the land, describing how “the earth whispered under the beat of the rain.” The intercalary segments portray the relationship of the migrants and the land. By showing the depth of connection between a farmer and his land in lyrical prose, Steinbeck appeals to the emotions of the reader. By approximating this situation to his own life, the reader identifies with the story and its cause. In this same way, symbolism also attempts to render concepts more tangible for the reader.

Symbolism is prevalent throughout The Jungle. From the beginning, Sinclair elaborates on two extended metaphors, the jungle and the machine. He also infuses animal analogies throughout the work. Jurgis possesses the “appetite of a wolf,” and he fights through a blizzard “plunging like a wounded buffalo.” The similes likening people to animals contribute to the jungle metaphor. Sinclair equates the city under capitalism to a forest, where “the branches of the trees do battle for