The Intercalary Chapters In John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath

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From its first publication in 1939, John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath has become a classic in American history and literature. Yet Steinbeck’s use of intercalary chapters has always faced criticism. Because they depict stories separate from the main plot, many readers think that they detract from the story of the Joad family. Steinbeck defends his choice, arguing that they only add to the story. He also argues that the intercalary chapters provide insight into the society for which the narrative chapters do not allow. Steinbeck uses intercalary chapters to allow readers to make connections between the Joads' journey and their society. Mixed between fourteen narrative chapters, sixteen intercalary chapters depict generalized stories. In those sixteen chapters, Steinbeck gives the reader background information about the social, economic, and cultural phenomena of the 1930s and the Dust Bowl. This allows the reader to “feel the scope and dimension of the Dust Bowl drama” (Owens). This understanding “adds new dimensions to the story of the Joads,” as the readers make connections between the…show more content…
The first instance of foreshadowing occurs in chapter one as Steinbeck describes a“scarred earth” afflicted by a drought (3). The longer the land goes without rain, the stronger the wind became. As the drought worsens, the land deteriorates. This decay of the land foreshadows the decline of the Joad family through their migration to California. As the family spends more time away from their farm and more time without jobs, the family loses its members. This not only weakens the family unit and their morale, but mirrors the degradation of the land during the drought. This example of foreshadowing in an intercalary chapter forces the reader to think critically about both the effects of the drought and the status of the Joad family throughout their
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