The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Farming is about life, cultivation, and growth. However, with advances in technology and science, we watch farming transition from a human-run to a machine-run art. In this novel we watch this transition, and we see how farming becomes influenced by scientific advancements. We watch farmers fight against this change, "for nitrates are not the land, nor phosphates; and the length of fiber in the cotton is not the land. Carbon is not a man, not salt nor water nor calcium. He is all these, but he is much more, much more; and the land is so much more than its analysis" (11.1).
Farmers recognize that the machines that begin to take over their farms and that literally kick them out of their homes are essentially non-living things that can never understand the land. These farmers feel that, "the machine man, driving a dead tractor on the land he does not know and love, understands only chemistry; and he is contemptuous of the land and of himself. When the corrugated iron doors are shut, he goes home, and his home is not the land" (11.1). We witness the art of farming trapped in a war between old and new, between human and machine.