The Presence of Darkness in The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath, is perhaps one of the greatest pieces of American literature ever written. In his tale of a family from Oklahoma whom must leave their land, due to the hardships of American economy, Steinbeck demonstrates his skill in writing. Steinbeck uses a southern dialogue, language all people can understand, and he uses archetypes to help develop his story. In literature, an archetype can be defined as configurations of the author's unconsciousness, a reoccurring image or motif, and finally archetypes represent configurations in the reader's unconscious. In The Grapes of Wrath, an archetype that Steinbeck often illustrates is that of darkness. Darkness is an archetype that meets all of the standards previously listed. In The Grapes of Wrath, the presence of darkness is represented by descriptions of the characters; the character's feeling of security during the night, and finally the presence of darkness are seen through death.
Throughout the novel, the presence of darkness is represented by the descriptions of the characters. From the early get go of the novel we see Steinbeck illustrate his character, Tom Joad, through darkness. "His eyes were very dark brown and there was a hint of brown pigment in his eyeballs."ÃÂ Through the description of Tom, a person can tell that he is a cold person. He is plain, and not that noticeable. Without reading to far into the novel, a perceptive person can deduce from the facts that Tom is an ex-con. Though Steinbeck uses the darkness to describe Tom's personality as cold, and dark, he also uses the darkness to describe Tom's situation differently. "His gray cap was so new that the visor was still stiff and the button still on"ÃÂ¦His suit was cheap and gray, so new that there were creases in the trousers."ÃÂ The author uses darkness as way to find the light. What this means is that he brings everything in the story from darkness. If anything good, anything new will happen for this man dressed in gray he will have to come out from dark. Perhaps Steinbeck's illustration of darkness through character description is best seen through the unforgettable character Muley Graves. Muley has a small but significant role in the story. He is the one whom first tells the reader what has been happening. It almost seems as if Muley and darkness are two parallel running characters. His name alone represents darkness. Muley Graves. Muley is an appropriate name because he is stubborn and wont leave his land. His last name, however, is what runs parallel to darkness. Graves obviously representing death shows how his situation is dark. When we meet Muley it is at night. It is pitch black outside, and Muley is living in hiding. His appearance is dark as well. He is unshaved, dirty, and is going crazy. Through the many character descriptions, Steinbeck illustrates darkness, through his character descriptions.
Darkness is almost always perceived as an evil element. Hell is dark, and so are the plots of many horror films. However, in The Grapes of Wrath, the author uses darkness as a form of security amongst many of his characters. Along the long and winding trip on highway 66, the Joad family experiences most of their hardships during the day when they encounter police car troubles etc. However during the darkness of the night things often change for the family. It is nighttime and the Joad family is driving along, when the car hits a bump fast and they stop dead in their tracks. A man walks outside, "Well I guess we can fix you. Got any camping stuff?"ÃÂ The man sees the family's troubles and during the night when no one is watching he feels that he can be nice, leaving his selfish side to daytime. The nighttime will also serve as a secure time for Tom to travel. Later in the novel when Tom is wanted for murder, it is only during the night when he can see his family and travel, for during the day; it is too dangerous for him to be seen. The night is also when people express love to one and other. Under the dark stars, Connie and Rose of Sharon make love on the truck, while Ma and Pa have a real conversation. In the back of the truck, Granma is telling tall tales to the children. The darkness serves as a blanket. The blanket is covering all that is wrong in society and under this blanket people feel secure and free to be themselves. Under the darkness people act as children whom often lay under tables dreaming of superheroes and candy. Instead of candy and superman, however, people on the road dream of making it to destination nowhere. People dream about finding a home. Under the starlit moonlight, in the dark of it all the characters in this novel feel secure. The darkness is not only seen through the characters descriptions and feelings of security but also through death in the novel.
As with many novels, death is a reoccurring theme. Through death, the reader is able to see, and even feel the darkness. The novel starts in darkness, the novel ends in darkness. The end, those famous words that always put closure to something. Death, another form of closure. In the novel we first see how death illustrates darkness when we get our description of the land. "Part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth."ÃÂ The earth is dry and the crops all are either dead or dying. Because of the death all around the author sees the land as gray. No feeling, no emotion, everything is dead. Death later comes to the Joad family when they are on the road. First Grandpa dies. Grandpa's death can easily be related to darkness, because he dies at night. However if you look into his death deeper the darkness is even darker. Because of his death the reader can feel the hardships to come. Prognosis's can be made about the future of the Joad family along the road to California. Death hits the Joad family once again, when Grandma dies. She too dies during the night. Her death brings upon more darkness than Grandpa's did. When Grandma died, the only true believer in faith and God was now gone. The family now would have to appoint a new so called, "believer,"ÃÂ however finding that person could be hard. As death continues in the novel, we witness the climatic scene where Jim Casey is murdered. In the scuffle where he is killed Tom Joad kills a man. Because of the death of Jim, Tom became enraged and killed a man, meaning that he would be a fugitive, and would have to live his life in the dark. Through death, the archetype of darkness can easily be seen.
In John Steinbeck's novel, he uses darkness to help his story go along with more ease. Darkness is an archetype that's importance is hard to parallel. From ash to ash, dust-to-dust, everything fades to black. Whether good or bad, Darkness is from what everything begins and from what everything ends. In John Steinbeck's novel, he uses darkness to help his story go along with more ease. In The Grapes of Wrath, darkness is clearly seen through character descriptions; emotions felt at night, and through death.