The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Whoever said a road is just a road has not read The Grapes of Wrath. From the minute we watch Tom Joad return home after four years in prison, roads take on great meaning. His "dark quiet eyes became amused as he stared along the road" (2.53), the road that will take him home at last. Then, Route 66 is "the mother road, the road of flight" (12.1), and it is the lifeline, the thing that allows thousands of families to pursue their hopes and dreams. But it is also the road that leads to their misery in California.
We think it's interesting to note that Route 66 never really intersects with any other major highway or road – it goes in two directions only. When you are on Route 66, you can either go forward in search of opportunity, or you can go backwards and return to the poverty you came from.
We also learn that roads are dangerous places. If you are a turtle or a dog trying to cross the road, there's a good chance that you will get run over. In the world of this novel, drivers like to create road-kill. The road can also be dangerous if your car breaks down far from the next town.