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The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Classics) by…

The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Classics) (original 1939; edition 2006)

by John Steinbeck, Robert DeMott (Contributor)

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21,12627967 (4.16)1 / 929
Title:The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Classics)
Authors:John Steinbeck
Other authors:Robert DeMott (Contributor)
Info:Penguin Classics (2006), Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:To read

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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

1001 (94) 1001 books (74) 1930s (122) 20th century (269) America (139) American (343) American fiction (84) American literature (511) California (326) classic (746) Classic Literature (82) classics (554) depression (152) Dust Bowl (309) family (142) fiction (2,359) Great Depression (553) historical fiction (239) literature (494) migrant workers (89) novel (401) Oklahoma (157) own (89) poverty (167) Pulitzer Prize (157) read (272) Steinbeck (117) to-read (278) unread (121) USA (157)
1930s (3)
  1. 81
    East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Booksloth)
  2. 70
    Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's the Grapes of Wrath by Rick Wartzman (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: Centers around the controversy that exploded in California's central valleys when The Grapes of wrath was published.
  3. 60
    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (John_Vaughan)
  4. 72
    The Heart is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (chrisharpe)
  5. 50
    Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (tcarter)
  6. 73
    Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Patangel)
  7. 40
    The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway by Ernest Hemingway (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: The only 20th century American writer who rivals Steinbeck in economy and forcefulness of language.
  8. 30
    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (JudeyN)
    JudeyN: Set in a different time and place, but similar themes. Examines the different ways in which people respond to hardship and upheaval.
  9. 30
    Farming the Dust Bowl: A First-Hand Account from Kansas by Lawrence Svobida (nandadevi)
    nandadevi: Svobida´s book movingly describes the conditions in the Dust Bowl (he clung on for six years of crop failures) that the Joad´s left behind in their trek to California.
  10. 20
    Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: As much a story about the trials of individuals as a sweeping portrait and critique of an era.
  11. 20
    Harpsong by Rilla Askew (GCPLreader)
  12. 20
    The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (tcarter)
  13. 21
    The Tortilla Curtain by Tom Coraghessan Boyle (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Theme of workers' rights
  14. 10
    America's Great Depression by Murray N. Rothbard (sirparsifal)
  15. 10
    Missing Soluch by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Called the Iranian Grapes of Wrath.
  16. 10
    Whose Names Are Unknown by Sanora Babb (one-horse.library)
  17. 11
    A Working Stiff's Manifesto: A Memoir of Thirty Jobs I Quit, Nine That Fired Me, and Three I Can't Remember by Iain Levison (Babou_wk)
    Babou_wk: Description de la vie d'un travailleur itinérant.
  18. 11
    The Bottom of the Sky by William C Pack (LoriMe)
    LoriMe: Mr. Steinbeck wrote a gritty family saga embedded in the early to mid part of the 20th Century. Mr. Pack wrote a gritty family saga embedded in the end of the 20th Century. The characters and stories moved me equally. Both are written beautifully.
  19. 00
    America and Americans by John Steinbeck (mensageiro)
  20. 00
    American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California by James N. Gregory (eromsted)

(see all 24 recommendations)


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Showing 1-5 of 257 (next | show all)
A favorite of mine. The struggles of an Oklahoma family forced to move where the agricultural jobs are - California where they encounter the mass of similarly suffering people competing for the same work. The depiction of the Depression and the inhuman economic system of producing for the lowest cost which drives down wages and increases unemployment is here in all its unintended consequences. Steinbeck is awesome. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
Grapes of Wrath
Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. His style can be recognized throughout his writings. It is timeless, moving yet has an easy flow.
The Grapes of Wrath is a story written in the depression era. This is a moving tale of a poor farming family who are getting kicked off their land.
The characters and the story come to life with each word. This could easily be a true story of its time. It is a time in history we need to contain knowledge of. Though fictional, The Grapes of Wrath is a good choice for a history student to read as they turn the pages in their history book to The Great Depression. Many hard-working families suddenly became penniless, homeless and hopeless during this wretched era.
The term “sharecroppers” was nearly said with a sneer.Many Americans were duped into traveling out west with promises, hope and dreams of a bountiful land filled with wealth and riches untold. Yet upon their arrival, they like all the other hundreds of starving families find themselves living in camps and begging for work on a day to day schedule.
The people were treated as if they were a blemish on society because they were poor and hungry.
This is a moving story and a must read. It is an excellent example of a very hard time in history which our grandparents and great-grandparents endured. ( )
  ReneeRobinson | Jun 29, 2014 |
I read a lot because I enjoy it, I guess you could call it escapism. This is not escapism. This is thought provoking fiction that stays with you long after you have put it down. It took me nearly a month to get through it but boy, I'm glad I did. The ideas and themes laid down by Steinbeck still have so much relevance today and sadly, probably will continue to for years to come. ( )
  cathymoore | Jun 18, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.


The Jalopy of the Joads

Let me tell you why this book is important to me. Let me tell you first how I came upon my copy. When I first attended the meetings of our book club, I brought an Anais Nin book with me for the book exchange. One of them, the moderator Jzhun, expressed interest in it. He showed me the little stack of books that he brought for the exchange, then I chose this.

Tina, now one of the moderators, heard my choice and said, oh, serious books. Well, that sealed my reputation in our book club: a reader of serious books. I don’t mind that at all, but I sometimes flinch when I hear it because people might expect me to always have luminous thoughts on every book that I read.

And then a couple of months later, Atty. Monique and I read this book together. Book buddies was a hit fad then; there was always a pair or more reading books together. So yes, we made the reading plan and prepared for the struggle of reading a serious book.

So the book is important because through it I found book buddies. And enough of that already. I am drawn to this book because of its title. There is something forceful in the choice of words. I like grapes the fruit, but when you say grapes of wrath, my taste buds tingle, expectant of some utterly sour flavor to flood them. And wrath is too strong a word. And why grapes? Why not apples or oranges?

The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

This novel is about the Joad family. Set during the dust bowl tragedy, it tells us the journey and struggle that the family undertook from Oklahoma to California. Why that journey? The unforgiving land of the midwest would not yield anything despite the seeds sown into it. People’s loans are defaulting, families’ houses are being sold back to the banks. There’s nothing left for them to do except eat the dust until they die.

But all is not lost. California, on the west edge of the American bowl, gleams like a bursting sunset filled with dreams of orchards heavy for picking. The Joads hear of this and take the chance; they sell everything that they have to take that journey in a persistent jalopy, a term that I first encountered here. And while they are on the road, they realize that everyone in their town, in their state, and in the surrounding states, are flocking and filling up the interstate roads.

Will they manage to settle in a new house? Will they manage to find jobs? Will they manage to get food?

Unfortunately, no one in this novel is going to sit down a comfortable sofa with a plate of oatmeal cookies and a glass of warm milk. The most luxurious thing that they will experience in California is a federally funded resettlement camp. It will do, but it is not much. So what happened to all the hopes and dreams, the fruits heavy for picking?

The landowners are threatened by the overwhelming arrival of migrant workers. They fear that they will take over the land that their ancestors have worked hard to acquire. So what they do is that they hire these migrants at impossible wages. There are just too many people who need jobs to feed rumbling stomachs, so they take these impermanent jobs. It is abusive and inhumane for the landowners to wreak more misfortune on the dispossessed migrants, and the circumstances are added weight to the already unmovable burden that tests their sense of self-respect and dignity.

And no, the problems do not end there. Family structures shift, and the smell of death strengthens after each page. One just can’t help wondering if these people will have a break. They have all the right to be angry; their cup is filled to the rim, threatening to spill over anytime. Sooner or later, the anger will be released. It is long overdue. The divide between the landowners and the migrants will have to be redrawn.

And through all these circumstances, the Joads still manage to reach out to their fellow starving people and give whatever that they can to help them fend off hunger further. What is good about this novel is that it does not attempt to be overtly sentimental. Everything is narrated with stark realism.

The universality of the novel’s theme is magnified further in the way the novel is structured. The chapters alternate between cinematic stories from around the town to focused stories about the Joads. This makes the reader view the story through a camera that first rolls up the sky, then swoops down low, then captures scenes here and there, and then finally settles on a fixed angle inside the Joads’ household or jalopy.

It takes a lot of skill to perform this alternating chapters thing. The same is true with recording a now almost forgotten part of the American history. And before I forget, I want to share one more thing: my favorite character in this novel is not one of the Joads, but a random old turtle. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.

I loved John Steinbeck in high school, but somehow The Grapes of Wrath never made it onto one of my reading lists. It’s been sitting in my TBR pile for years, and when I saw that it was the book’s 75th anniversary in April, I decided it was about time I read it.

Tom Joad has just been released on parole to find that his family’s farm has been repossessed by the bank – the family had been unable to keep up with their payments after the dust bowl caused year after year of failed crops. The Joad family is preparing to go West, to California, where word is there’s plenty of well-paid work to be had on the great farms. As the family strikes out, they soon come to find that a whole state’s worth of displaced farmers are headed West for the promise of bountiful crops and good work. The Grapes of Wrath is the story of this journey, from East to West, but also from naiveté to realization, and what the Joads find when they get there – an overabundance of cheap labor, constantly falling wages, and a furor of hatred worked up among the local community at the influx of “Okies”.

Possibly the most political of Steinbeck’s books, The Grapes of Wrath earned Steinbeck both a Pulitzer Prize as well as the label of “socialist” from critics and politicos who were uncomfortable with the book’s depiction of labor exploitation and its prediction that such oppression could only lead to a worker’s revolution. I’m somewhat saddened that I waited so long to read this book, but also wonder if I could have truly appreciated it when I was younger, or before the current trends in globalization made all of these issues salient again. A truly excellent read, Steinbeck is still in my mind one of only a handful of literary masters. A must-read. ( )
  philosojerk | Jun 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 257 (next | show all)
Seventy years after The Grapes of Wrath was published, its themes – corporate greed, joblessness – are back with a vengeance. ... The peaks of one's adolescent reading can prove troughs in late middle age. Life moves on; not all books do. But 50 years later, The Grapes of Wrath seems as savage as ever, and richer for my greater awareness of what Steinbeck did with the Oklahoma dialect and with his characters.
added by tim.taylor | editThe Guardian, Melvyn Bragg (Nov 21, 2011)
It is Steinbeck's best novel, i.e., his toughest and tenderest, his roughest written and most mellifluous, his most realistic and, in its ending, his most melodramatic, his angriest and most idyllic. It is "great" in the way that Uncle Tom's Cabin was great—because it is inspired propaganda, half tract, half human-interest story, emotionalizing a great theme.
added by Shortride | editTime (Apr 17, 1939)
Steinbeck has written a novel from the depths of his heart with a sincerity seldom equaled. It may be an exaggeration, but it is the exaggeration of an honest and splendid writer.
Mr. Steinbeck's triumph is that he has created, out of a remarkable sympathy and understanding, characters whose full and complete actuality will withstand any scrutiny.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times, Charles Poore (pay site) (Apr 14, 1939)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Steinbeckprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baker, DylanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coardi, CarloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schrijver, AliceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Terkel, StudsIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To CAROL who willed it.
To TOM who lived it.
First words
To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.
Now the going was easy, and all the legs worked, and the shell boosted along, waggling from side to side. A sedan driven by a forty-year-old woman approached. She saw the turtle and swung to the right, off the highway, the wheels screamed and a cloud of dust boiled up. Two wheels lifted for a moment and then settled. The car skidded back onto the road, and went on, but more slowly. The turtle had jerked into its shell, but now it hurried on, for the highway was burning hot.

And now a light truck approached, and as it came near, the driver saw the turtle and swerved to hit it. His front wheel struck the edge of the shell, flipped the turtle like a tiddly-wink, spun it like a coin, and rolled it off the highway. The truck went back to its course along the right side. Lying on its back, the turtle was tight in its shell for a long time. But at last its legs waved in the air, reaching for something to pull it over. Its front foot caught a piece of quartz and little by little the shell pulled over and flopped upright. The wild oat head fell out and three of the spearhead seeds stuck in the ground. And as the turtle crawled on down the embankment, its shell dragged dirt over the seeds. The turtle entered a dust road and jerked itself along, drawing a wavy shallow trench in the dust with its shell. The old humorous eyes looked ahead, and the horny beak opened a little. His yellow toe nails slipped a fraction in the dust.

[Penguin ed., pp. 15-16; Chapter 3]
"The cars of the migrant people crawled out of the side roads onto the great cross-country highway, and they took the migrant way to the West. … And because they were lonely and perplexed, because they had all come from a place of sadness and worry and defeat, and because they were all going to a mysterious new place … a strange thing happened: the twenty families became one family, the children were the children of all. The loss of home became one loss, and the golden time in the West was one dream."

A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of it's going.
"They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat."
"The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine John Steinbeck's original 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath, with any film treatment, critical edition, notes (Monarch, Barron's, Sparks, Cliff, etc.), screenplay, or other adaptations of the same title. Thank you.
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This novel is the story of a family and their journey across the United States during the Dust Bowl era. It is a tale of hardship and struggle. It does not portray a pretty scene. As the family travels in hope of finding hidden wealth in California, they come across more and more broken people. They come to realize that California is not all they thought it would be. It is the struggle of their life and the reality of heartbreak. 

This book was so sad to me. I thought it was written really well. Until this book I didn't so know so much care would be taken about the travels of a turtle through the dirt. But it made me face the hard reality of what happened in California during that time period and the brokenness of all the people. I don't like seeing that side of life.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142000663, Paperback)

When The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939, America, still recovering from the Great Depression, came face to face with itself in a startling, lyrical way. John Steinbeck gathered the country's recent shames and devastations--the Hoovervilles, the desperate, dirty children, the dissolution of kin, the oppressive labor conditions--in the Joad family. Then he set them down on a westward-running road, local dialect and all, for the world to acknowledge. For this marvel of observation and perception, he won the Pulitzer in 1940.

The prize must have come, at least in part, because alongside the poverty and dispossession, Steinbeck chronicled the Joads' refusal, even inability, to let go of their faltering but unmistakable hold on human dignity. Witnessing their degeneration from Oklahoma farmers to a diminished band of migrant workers is nothing short of crushing. The Joads lose family members to death and cowardice as they go, and are challenged by everything from weather to the authorities to the California locals themselves. As Tom Joad puts it: "They're a-workin' away at our spirits. They're a tryin' to make us cringe an' crawl like a whipped bitch. They tryin' to break us. Why, Jesus Christ, Ma, they comes a time when the on'y way a fella can keep his decency is by takin' a sock at a cop. They're workin' on our decency."

The point, though, is that decency remains intact, if somewhat battle-scarred, and this, as much as the depression and the plight of the "Okies," is a part of American history. When the California of their dreams proves to be less than edenic, Ma tells Tom: "You got to have patience. Why, Tom--us people will go on livin' when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we're the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people--we go on." It's almost as if she's talking about the very novel she inhabits, for Steinbeck's characters, more than most literary creations, do go on. They continue, now as much as ever, to illuminate and humanize an era for generations of readers who, thankfully, have no experiential point of reference for understanding the depression. The book's final, haunting image of Rose of Sharon--Rosasharn, as they call her--the eldest Joad daughter, forcing the milk intended for her stillborn baby onto a starving stranger, is a lesson on the grandest scale. "'You got to,'" she says, simply. And so do we all. --Melanie Rehak

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:51 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

The Grapes of Wrath is a landmark of American literature. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man's fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman's stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. First published in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath summed up its era in the way that Uncle Tom's Cabin summed up the years of slavery before the Civil War. Sensitive to fascist and communist criticism, Steinbeck insisted that: The Battle Hymn of the Republic be printed in its entirety in the first edition of the book-which takes its title from the first verse: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck's fictional chronicle of the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930's is perhaps the most American of American Classics.… (more)

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