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The Grapes of Wrath. What an eye opener,…
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The Grapes of Wrath. What an eye opener, this story is! It's so hard to… (original 1939; edition 2006)

by John Steinbeck, Robert DeMott (Introduction)

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23,42732447 (4.14)1 / 1146
Member:nilbett
Title:The Grapes of Wrath. What an eye opener, this story is! It's so hard to believe human beings could have been treated that way in the 1930's. The labour, the pay cuts, the hours and conditions, and the way fellow man treated their own kind. These people from Oregon continue to battle on against all ods and the story ends that way, with battles that have not yet been won. The basic things that we tend to take for granted, such as money in our pockets and food on the table, and petrol in the tank. So well writ
Authors:John Steinbeck
Other authors:Robert DeMott (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2006), Edition: Revised, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

  1. 101
    East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Booksloth)
  2. 90
    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (John_Vaughan)
  3. 90
    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.
  4. 60
    Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (tcarter)
  5. 82
    The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (chrisharpe)
  6. 40
    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.
  7. 73
    Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Patangel)
  8. 30
    The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (tcarter)
  9. 41
    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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 20
    The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two stories of migrations of the working class in the US.
  13. 42
    Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen (sturlington)
  14. 20
    Harpsong by Rilla Askew (GCPLreader)
  15. 10
    Whose Names Are Unknown by Sanora Babb (TomWaitsTables)
  16. 10
    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.
  17. 10
    America's Great Depression by Murray N. Rothbard (sirparsifal)
  18. 10
    Missing Soluch by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Called the Iranian Grapes of Wrath.
  19. 21
    The Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Theme of workers' rights
  20. 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.

(see all 26 recommendations)

1930s (3)
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Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
'Maybe we can start again in the rich new land - in California, where the fruit grows', 15 Jun. 2013

This review is from: The Grapes of Wrath (Paperback)
An incredibly powerful work; it took me a couple of chapters to like it at all, but soon I was hooked.
Young Tom Joad has just been released from prison but returns to his home in Oklahoma to find his family and many others) packing up to leave their sharecropping lifestyle - new tractors have made them surplus to requirements. They head off in an old jalopy to the 'promised land' of California, where fruit picking jobs have been advertised...
Although we simply observe the characters' actions and conversation - Steinbeck never tells you their thoughts - they soon become incredibly vivid: Pa and Ma, the grandparents, Tom and younger siblings Al (whose life revolves around cars and girls); self-centred pregnant sister Rose of Sharon; and the 'little fellas', Ruthie and Winfield.
As they travel they strike up close relationships with other families in the same plight, and Steinbeck's thoughts on the benefits of unions and socialism to the working man are illustrated.
Recommended. ( )
1 vote starbox | Jul 9, 2016 |
“Certain events such as love, or a national calamity, or May, bring pressure to bear on the individual, and if the pressure is strong enough, something in the form of verse is bound to be squeezed out,” said the author John Steinbeck via The Paris Review.

A personal calamity brought pressure on a woman and evoked not verse, but a poetic, transcendent message. The Stanford rape victim released her court statement to the general media and it continues to impact women and men everywhere through its extraordinary content and courageous tone. The statement concludes as follows:

“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought every day for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you… To girls everywhere, I am with you.”

As her refrain, “I am with you,” resonates, we hear echoes of the signature “I’ll be there” passage of Steinbeck’s 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath, when Tom Joad tells his mother:

"Whenever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there... I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an'-I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build-why, I'll be there."

Who can forget Henry Fonda’s performance of this passage in John Ford’s 1940 adaptation of the novel? Steinbeck himself was so struck he said that Fonda “…made me believe my own words,” according to The Telegraph.

The scene became “…one of the most famous speeches in film history,” according to Scott Simon of NPR. Film critic Shawn Levy amplified that appraisal of the scene: “…the way [Fonda] delivers the line--the kind of breathy, halting quality and, of course, the timbre of his voice, you know, is so--there's really no other way to describe it--it's so American. There's, like, hickory and flint and molasses in it.”

One could say that the Stanford student’s statement is very American through its passionate, compassionate and careful consideration of the judicial process and the foundations of justice, and the individual’s inalienable rights of safety and dignity—the conviction that it doesn’t have to be this way, and we can change it. She has the fortitude and the vision to soar above pain, shame and anger, and her wings were the written word. As a result, hers is not just a Stanford story.

Susan Shillinglaw told Lynn Neary that for Steinbeck, who attended Stanford on and off between 1919 and 1925, universality was the aim:

"He saw dispossession as a theme and as a story much larger than, you know, the California story… So I think he always knew what he was about in terms of the sort of mythic parallels. Tom Joad's exit from the book, for example — you know, he exits saying, ‘I'll be there wherever people are hungry’— so he kind of says: Throughout time, there's going to be a need for me.”

The Swedish Academy in 1962 awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature to Steinbeck, calling out The Grapes of Wrath as “…the story of the emigration to California which was forced upon a group of people from Oklahoma through unemployment and abuse of power. This tragic episode in the social history of the United States inspired in Steinbeck a poignant description of the experiences of one particular farmer and his family during their endless, heartbreaking journey to a new home.” In this presentation speech, Anders Österling said, “Dear Mr. Steinbeck…you have become a teacher of good will and charity, a defender of human values…"

In accepting his prize, Steinbeck said, “… the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit - for gallantry in defeat - for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation.

The Stanford woman has triumphed by reeducating us about human values and the eternal challenge to defeat the abuse of power. She didn’t have to progress from Me to We for the trial, but she did. She wrote and distributed her statement rather than grant an interview or post a video, podcast or series of tweets. If she names herself, she will be honored; even if she chooses not to, her statement testifies to humanity. In evoking The Grapes of Wrath, she reminds us why, at least sometimes, we need something like verse, something poetic.
  MichaelMenche | Jun 16, 2016 |
Was a buddy read with Jeff and Stepheny

Another classic under my belt (Go me.) After being impressed by Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, I was happy to dig into this one. At first I was worried it wouldn't be for me, with the rustic dialogue and slow opening, but I pushed through it and ended up finding out another winner from Steinbeck.

It's not a book you can read quickly or fly through, as its subtle magic slowly works but does ultimately work well. The characters are forced from their homes onto the torturous trail to California, where promises of land, riches, and food await. At least they think they do. Because even if man advertised salvation, it's wrapped up with usual misdirection and downright deceit.

While Steinbeck tells the tale through the focus of one family, it was a hardship that affected thousands of others. The main family is ... interesting. Mama Joad is the backbone of the clan and ends up playing a bigger part than who I thought would be the main hero of the story, Tom. Some of the characters have hidden strength, others are ready to brawl at the tip of a hat. Some are weak but find their strength, while others literally lay down and die long before the book is over.
And yes, one just ditches the group and his pregnant wife completely!

What makes this book shine isn't the terrible hardships (although that needs to be read about and acknowledged), but the perseverance of the human spirit and staying loyal to family through trial. When I started out reading this book, I saw how miserable their situation was and mused how fortunate we are in today's times with all we've blessed with here. At the end of the book I'm thinking how much stronger these people seem compared to us. If we fell now, this generation, into the predicaments they're facing, I think we'd handle it worse, weaker. Not as much pride now in that ending thought.

I was totally for an uprising, no matter how fruitless it may seem. The people branding the controlling whip were nauseating and I had no sympathy for them.

The odd ending leaves the book a strange note - there's no guaranteed promise since we know they may very well still die and succumb to starvation or the cruel people running the cruel show. I'm thinking it's more of a take on supporting life and helping out your fellow man when things go upside down. Either that, or Steinbeck just wanted to write a strange shocking ending that he knew would raise reader eyebrows.

No matter how simple and straightforward this family is, all people hold their unique complexities. This piece of history was yet another shadow of shame on the history of humankind. ( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
One of the finest novels of all time, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is also undoubtedly one of the most important. It is an eloquent and hard-hitting audit on that most venerated of concepts: the American Dream. Steinbeck addresses the failure of the nation to live up to this dream during one of its most severe tests - the Great Depression. Using the Joad family - tenant farmers driven from Oklahoma by the Dust Bowl to California in search of work - as a vehicle, Steinbeck notes how the increasing mechanisation of agriculture has removed the connectivity between mankind and the land he farms. He expands on this concept to encompass business and the American economy in general. For businessmen the land and the farms are only numbers on a piece of paper: the feel of soil and sweat and physical labour is completely alien to them. The book addresses this loss of one's soul in the zero-sum game that is the increasingly frantic chase for the almighty dollar. When the protagonist Tom Joad says on page 219 that he wishes there was some way to make a living without taking it away from somebody else, he is illuminating the central flaw in the American capitalist dream.

Steinbeck suggests that America had reached the stage where too much power/land/money had been acquired in the hands of too few people. And the masses, in stark contrast, have far too little. For every manload to lift, five pairs of arms extended to lift it; for every stomachful of food available, five mouths open." (pg. 280). It is this increasing divide between rich and poor which most concerns the author, and the wrath and anger of the poor is the force propelling The Grapes of Wrath. Families starve on the roads while rich, fruitful land is left unfarmed because it belongs to a bank or a corporation. Food goes to rot in fields because in the eyes of the number-crunchers it would cost too much to pick; meanwhile, entire families, including children, starve to death in makeshift shanty towns and subsidised government camps. For Steinbeck - and, indeed, for any human being with a conscience, it must be said - this is "a crime... that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize." Tellingly, he adds: "There is a failure here that topples all our success." (pg. 411). For all the United States' fine qualities and achievements (of which there are many), Steinbeck is saying: No, it's not good enough. This cannot be allowed to happen. We're better than this.

The author's solution is socialism or, rather, an embrace of some socialist principles rather than a set doctrine. This is a brave stand by Steinbeck, and one which was controversial back in the 1930s and 1940s (sadly, it still is nowadays). This is the 'wrath' alluded to in the title; the idea that the poor won't stand for this much longer, that something has to give. Tom Joad is the voice advocating this change to the reader, but it is one which is echoed by the other characters, even those with no interest in politics or economics. In one mischievous passage in Chapter 22, one worker tells an anecdote in which a landowner says: "A red [communist] is any son-of-a-bitch that wants thirty cents an hour when we're only payin' twenty-five!" To which the baffled worker scratches his head and muses that if that's what a 'red' is, then everybody is a red. Everybody wants thirty cents an hour rather than twenty-five (pg. 350). Steinbeck attempts to reverse the demonization of socialism in American political discourse. He attempts to show that a complete ignorance of and negligence towards the rights and well-being of the workers will, in the long run, come back to haunt those in positions of power and wealth. In one telling analogy used a few times, including on page 513, it is noted that if a landowner used horses to work the land, he wouldn't even think of turning them out to starve when they weren't working. So why would you do that to your fellow man? Steinbeck suggests that, in the striving for the maximisation of profits and the chase for the almighty dollar, the businessmen and the landowners and the employers have forgotten the other side of the balance sheet: the duty of care owed to the workers.

For, above all, Steinbeck's message is just one of common decency to your fellow man. He speaks as early as page 28 of a common human spirit or bond shared by everyone - an interconnectivity between souls. He warns of the threat the growing rich/poor divide in America poses to this connection, that "the quality of owning [something, i.e. land] freezes you forever into 'I', and cuts you off forever from the 'we'." (pg. 177). The poor, on the other hand, are driven together by their shared hardship (there is a neat little phrase used on page 102, that "every one [migrant worker is] a drum major leading a parade of hurts"). To return to the passage on page 177, by sharing their trials, sharing their food and shelter, the attitude of the poor changes from "I lost my land" to "We lost our land". Steinbeck's assertion that there is a major change coming has, perhaps, been proved erroneous (or at least premature) by history, but he is right to note the danger. To appropriate his phrase from page 412, the grapes of wrath do, in times of economic hardship, grow heavy for the vintage - Steinbeck was just wrong about the urgency of the harvest.

This is not to say Steinbeck's message is wrong; it is most emphatically not. It is an incredibly perceptive commentary on economics (and surprisingly engrossing, considering this is economics we are talking about here) and one which, even 75 years after it was first published, has important and timely lessons for modern-day America. Even non-Americans like myself can find these lessons to be relevant. I don't mean to equate my own experience with the horrible hardships suffered by the 'Okies' in the Depression but, as a job-seeking graduate, the offhand piece of dialogue by an exasperated worker on page 398 - "Jesus Christ, pretty soon they're gonna make us pay to work." - reminds me a bit of how I have been advised in the past to take on unpaid full-time internships to get ahead, even after the thousands of pounds of debt racked up in proving myself by earning a good degree. And Tom Joad's wearily candid lament on page 413 that going out looking for work when you know you're not going to find it "puts a weight on ya" struck a chord with me. Again, I don't mean to equate the two experiences, because being a graduate in the modern-day West is significantly better than being a malnourished, homeless migrant worker in the 1930s, but it does show that our societies still have problems yet to be resolved. Steinbeck's novel carries universal messages; I believe The Grapes of Wrath will always have timely, important lessons for our Western societies, even another 75 years from now.

This is all heavy stuff to be sure, and talking about economics and using words like 'audit' will no doubt turn off many potential readers. I concede that a novel about economic depression might not immediately sound gripping but, aside from the importance of the central message, Steinbeck is also an excellent storyteller. All of the Joad family are fully-realised characters that you care about, and there is a diner scene in Chapter 15 which is just heartbreaking in its raw humanity and goodness. Steinbeck is particularly adept at noting the changes in mentality of the workers as they are brutalised and dominated and, for some, conquered by the hardships and the horrors they endure. On page 279, in one of Steinbeck's many hard-hitting passages, he asks: "How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him - he has known a fear beyond every other."

The prose, while denser than I had been exposed to in my two previous Steinbeck experiences (Of Mice and Men and The Moon is Down) was still very agreeable. The book took me longer to read than other novels of comparable length, but this was because I was marvelling at the novel rather than struggling to get through it. Because, you see, in The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck has written many jaw-dropping passages of prose. Usually when writing these reviews, I pick out one or two choice passages that illustrate the quality of the prose or the main thrust of one of the writer's arguments. But I struggle to do this with The Grapes of Wrath; there are so many great passages that it's impossible to choose between them. Of course, there is Tom Joad's famous farewell speech ("Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there... An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build, why, I'll be there." (pg. 495)), but for me it was the whole 'Manself' passage on pages 175-6 which stood out, ending with the admonition that one must "fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe." This was just one of many passages to stir the blood, and though I am not religious I admired the sort of Biblical quality and majesty The Grapes of Wrath possessed. (Indeed, the phrase 'the grapes of wrath' comes from the Bible.) There were times when I was amazed just by the structure and the integrity of Steinbeck's prose.

I've talked at length here and yet barely covered even a fraction of the good qualities of the novel. And if I've not covered any
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
The Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck
4 stars

I have to say that this book was more interesting to me for its place in history than for the actual story. That’s probably because I already knew the outlines of the story from the excellent movie and a barely remembered reading of a bad abridgement more than 40 years ago. I also struggled with reading the dialect of the characters. A great deal of the book was repetitious. I understand that this was intended as it reflected the life of the characters, but I found it hard to remain attentive.
I had the audible version performed by Dylan Baker, who sounding a bit like Henry Fonda, helped me with the dialect. (Not to mention the harmonica interludes between chapters that helped to set the mood.) But mostly I read my Penguin kindle edition with introduction and notes by Roger Demott. The literary analysis of the introduction and the historical notes gave me more to think about than the story itself. There’s considerable ongoing discussion about where this book falls within legitimate literature as opposed to socialist or even communist propaganda. I see it as both important literature and social propaganda. For me, the propaganda value of this book, decreases its literary value. From my own experience of Steinbeck, I prefer The Pearl, The Red Pony and over all East of Eden.
That’s not to say the book didn’t affect me. I wanted more than anything to rescue the Joads; buy them a meal, let them put a tent on my land, give them a job. There’s nothing in the message of this book that isn’t just as relevant in this century as it was in the last.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 298 (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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Dedication
To CAROL who willed it.
To TOM who lived it.
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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.
Quotations
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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Book description
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.
Haiku summary

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:03 -0400)

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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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