16 Excellent ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ Essay Topics And Writing Prompts

English Literature courses demand a lot of writing. Students begin to hone their skills writing response pieces, narrative essays, argumentative essays and more as early as middle school. One of the first assignments many will see, especially in American schools, is the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ essay. The classic novel, by John Steinbeck, has been a popular study since its publication in 1939. Sometimes students struggle to find something “fresh” to write about, so we’ve put together a list of ideas that is great for high school, college, and graduate students alike:

Grapes of Wrath Essay Ideas for High School Students

  1. How did Jim Casy’s imprisonment and subsequent death affect Tom Joad’s character development throughout the novel?
  2. What is the symbolic meaning behind the turtle slowly crossing the highway? Is Steinbeck commenting on immigration?
  3. Does Steinbeck mean to leave the reader feeling unsettled or feeling hope for the plight of the people who have suffered throughout?
  4. How does the Joads losing their wealth relate to their fall in status and ultimate decay in the eyes of others?

Grapes of Wrath Essay Topics for College-Aged Students

  1. How does Steinbeck use land ownership as a signal that defines the Joads family characteristics?
  2. Steinbeck uses religious traditions and images throughout the novel. What is he trying to achieve or say by doing so?
  3. What are the two central themes of the novel? Are these different from what Steinbeck used in the trilogy’s first two novels?
  4. How would one describe Tom Joad’s character arc? Consider when he was first introduced to us and what his circumstances at the time were.

Grapes of Wrath Essay Prompts for Graduate-Level Students

  1. What do you make of the frequent appearance of food locations throughout the novel (e.g., restaurants and roadside diners)?
  2. Why do you make of Casy’s decision to stop preaching? How does this relate to his conversations with Tom Joad?
  3. Why is the family council meeting such an important scene for describing the way the Joads perceive themselves?
  4. What major changes does Tom Joad go through during his journey from his home state of Oklahoma to his new home in California?

Grapes of Wrath Essay Questions for Current Times

  1. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is the last work a literary trilogy. How does Steinbeck explore changes in political thoughts and how does it relate to today’s issues in the U.S.?
  2. Steinbeck was always interested in issues involving the environment and science. Do you believe the novel relates to anything that is going on in the world today?
  3. What would Steinbeck make of today’s setting for the “Grapes of Wrath” (in California)? Would he think the region has improved or worsened?
  4. How would the current U.S. Administration react to a novel like “Grapes of Wrath”? Do you believe Steinbeck would have been more or less critical of the Joads family?

These are just suggestions and can be altered in any way you like. Just be sure you get approval from your teacher or professor ahead of time to ensure you meet the requirements of the assignment prompt. Do you have any more suggestions? Or perhaps you would like to get more ideas? We always like to hear from you!

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