As evidenced by the titles alone, biblical allusion is central to John
Steinbeck’s two most acclaimed works, The Grapes of Wrath (1939) [Afterwards
referred to as GOW] and East of Eden (1952) [Afterwards referred to as EOE].
The novels are also replete with biblical symbolism, motifs, and undertones. In
fact, key Steinbeck scholars, such as Leonard Slade and Mimi Gladstone, have
devoted much of their research to uncovering and unpacking these allusions.
Others have argued that in structure, as well, the novels recall or revise central
Biblical narratives (see Eckert). Winner of the National Book Award and of the
Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, GOW directly recalls the Israelites’ journey and
Redemption in the book of Exodus, while EOE takes chapters from the book of
Genesis as its model in order to explore central issues of family and sibling
rivalry. Biblical narrative plotting is as important to the novels’ success as other
kinds of allusions.
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