The Grapes of Wrath - Short Answer Questions

  1. What are the circumstances that cause the Joads to leave their family farm?
  2. How would you characterize Tom Joad at the beginning of the novel, particularly in his interactions with Jim Casy? How does Tom’s social philosophy change as the family travels to California? Which incidents help to shape Tom’s character in the book’s concluding chapters?
  3. What is the significance of Steinbeck’s use of animals, such as the turtle that crosses the road and the dog that gets struck by a car?
  4. Why does Jim Casy quit the ministry? What new form of worship does he undertake? How does Casy interact with characters who adhere to a strict Christian credo, such as Granma and Ma Joad?
  5. How is the family structure portrayed in the novel? What kinds of shifts in authority occur as the novel progresses? What do these changes suggest about the American family in general?
  6. Describe the attitude toward the banking system in Chapter 5. How do the banks’ actions affect the notion of the American Dream?
  7. How do the automobile dealers take advantage of the fleeing migrants in Chapter 7?  What role does this chapter play in the grand scheme of the novel?
  8. Despite his early excitement, why does Grampa Joad refuse to leave the land? What effect does his death have on the novel’s tone?
  9. The Joads decide to go to California based on a flyer they received, later learning that many others received the same notice. Why do the farm owners send out so many pamphlets?  How does this moment in the novel foreshadow the events to come?
  10. How does Steinbeck portray the journey on Route 66? What relevance does the story of Mae and Al’s diner have in relation to the travels of the Joads and Wilsons?
  11. Discuss Granma’s death. Why does it occur just before the Joads get to California? What effect does it have on Rose of Sharon?
  12. Why does Noah Joad leave the family behind upon reaching California? What significance does his character have to the narrative as a whole?
  13. What does Connie hope to achieve in California? Why does he abandon Rose of Sharon?
  14. What is the sociological significance of the migrants’ camp life?
  15. What is the dramatic purpose of the Joads’ interlude in the government camp? What do the Joads take away from this experience?
  16. Why do the farmers allow the oranges to rot in Chapter 25? What rhetorical aim is Steinbeck hoping to achieve in addressing not only the decay but the migrants’ outrage over it?
  17. What is Al’s role in the family unit? Is it important that he stay with the rest of the family? If so, why does he try to go off on his own?
  18. Why does Tom finally decide to leave his family? How does his departure serve to unite the novel’s themes?

Setting | Character SummariesPlot Synopsis | Reception
Cultural References | Key Terms and Concepts | Major Themes