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The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

by John Steinbeck

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
29,25140572 (4.13)1 / 1374
"Traces the migration of an Oklahoma Dust Bowl family to California and their subsequent hardships as migrant farm workers."--Amazon.com.
  1. 90
    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (John_Vaughan)
  2. 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.
  3. 101
    East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Booksloth)
  4. 60
    Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (tcarter)
  5. 50
    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.
  6. 73
    The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (chrisharpe)
  7. 30
    The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (tcarter)
  8. 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.
  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. 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.
  11. 20
    The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two stories of migrations of the working class in the US.
  12. 20
    Whose Names Are Unknown by Sanora Babb (TomWaitsTables)
  13. 20
    Harpsong by Rilla Askew (GCPLreader)
  14. 20
    Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (caflores)
  15. 10
    America's Great Depression by Murray Rothbard (sirparsifal)
  16. 10
    Raised from the ground by José Saramago (razorsoccam)
  17. 21
    The Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Theme of workers' rights
  18. 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.
  19. 10
    Missing Soluch by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Called the Iranian Grapes of Wrath.
  20. 65
    Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Patangel)

(see all 27 recommendations)

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» See also 1374 mentions

English (371)  Italian (10)  Spanish (6)  Dutch (6)  French (3)  Swedish (2)  Danish (2)  Catalan (2)  Vietnamese (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (404)
Showing 1-5 of 371 (next | show all)
There are some writers or books you may need to read at certain points in your life to be meaningful. I read The Red Pony and The Pearl in high school, and I'm pretty sure I read Grapes of Wrath around then too, and of course saw the movie with Henry Fonda. But it didn't really make an impression. Now, more than a few decades later, it does. Steinbeck is a wizard. I marvel at how he writes dense, lush prose that is still simple and clear. I marvel at how "Okie" dialect becomes poetry in his hands. I marvel at how he weaves Biblical tales and ideas with a sure and yet light hand. And I despair at how nothing has changed in the US: the very words, the exact taunts and insults hurled at native-born, poor white American migrants in the 1930s are now used verbatim by the Current Occupant of the White House against desperate Latinx migrants.

Grim, depressing, gorgeous, vivid, tragic, and beautiful. ( )
  JulieStielstra | May 17, 2021 |
By good fortune, I happened to be in the middle of the book during the weekend NPR was running a centennial celebration of Woody Guthrie, who famously immortalized the protagonist Tom Joad in one of his songs and left a proud legacy of music immortalizing these times that Steinbeck was able to capture through words. I had somehow never been assigned this book to read during high school, and having read it so much later in life I feel cheated in a way (even if I did see the fairly good 1940 movie version in college), because it was excellent, easily deserving of all the fame it's gotten over the years. In the background, of course, this is a book about the effects of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression on the people of the lowland South and Great Plains, but Steinbeck's skill as a writer is how he's able to smoothly work in the economic transformations convulsing the country - the farm crisis, the rack-rents, deflation, Hoovervilles, company stores, wage-cutting, police corruption, and union-busting - while placing the reader's main focus on the transformations of the Joad family, their own moving emotional arcs from hope to hurt and back again. It's a story about what the Depression did to people, the things they had to do to survive as their land was taken from them and they suffered loss upon loss, and the layering of the themes of sin and redemption were quite well-done, easily on the level of Victor Hugo or Emile Zola. I've read a few books about the Depression era recently, and the human faces here definitely hit me more effectively than any number of charts and graphs. One thing that struck me during my reading was what a great hidden history of the Scotch-Irish this was as well; many of the migrants streaming into California during this time period were re-enacting the flight of their ancestors from Ulster after similar economic troubles afflicted them. David Hackett Fischer's book Albion's Seed went into a good amount of detail about the hardscrabble life these strongly religious people both escaped from and set up again in the hills of Appalachia, and the Okies in this book were seemingly just playing out another ironic act in that story. Having only read the extremely short Of Mice and Men before, I can't really say how typical this level of writing is from Steinbeck, but I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for more of his works. I saw that there were somehow negative reviews of this masterpiece of American literature, and after reading a few of those I can only conclude that those people don't enjoy books with memorable characters, great dialogue, strong narratives, or vivid portrayals of everyday life. I can see where Charles Portis got a lot of his writerly tricks from here, and this would certainly place highly in any list of the best American novels of the 20th century. ( )
1 vote aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |

This is turning into my year of audiobooks. Lately I have been unable to find time to read, but I can listen to books as I do housework, and especially as I drive, and driving is what I do. My husband and I are farmers in an isolated area in the Canadian prairies. The closest town is 80 km away, and trips to various towns for machinery parts, doctor appointments, banking or groceries are part of my life. So for the past few days now I have been listening to The Grapes of Wrath as I drive through fields of wheat and canola just a couple of weeks ahead of harvest.
This area was also hit hard by the drought and economic depression of the thirties. People packed their belongings and left behind houses and barns, plows, stoves, old cars. The skeleton of many of those farm yards are still there. The trees planted for windbreak still survive, and the odd rhubarb or horseradish plant is still thriving. Although these people were not driven away from the land by banks or homeowners, the way the cropsharers in the book were, still people here were victims of the economic catastrophe that were the 1930’s and the farming practices of the time. But, driving by those old shacks day in and day out, it is so easy to group all these families and histories into one big mass of “collateral damage”, and to forget the pain and desperation that finally moved them away from the land.
My husband’s family is among those that stayed and survived the bad years. There is a deep rooted pride in these act of defiance that can be heard in the stories that are retold over and over: how they fed the cattle with the tumbleweed that got caught on the fence wire; how the young men in the family did leave to find work elsewhere and rode in the train freight wagons jumping before arriving at a bigger town not to pay the ticket; how nothing was ever wasted, be it a button, a rag or the blood from a butchered pig that could be cooked into blood sausages.

But the stories of those that left are missing from the local lore. Their passage through here wiped away every time another old shed collapses in the middle of what is now a pasture, or the line of old trees that some woman watered and made thrive in the hot prairie finally dies out.

I have tried to take pictures of those old buildings before they are all gone. So here is some of what I see as I drive fast to town to pick some bearing or belt for a tractor or salt for the cows and listen to The Grapes of Wrath. As for the book, I am about half way through it. If my heart does not break very soon, I will finish it and come back here to post something else. If I don’t it is because it became too close to my heart and I could not even finish it. We shall see…


Well, it is done! I finished it. What else is there to say? It was a very intense and emotional book for me. The first half of the book especially: the connection to the land and the heartbreak of leaving it, then the journey through the countryside and the deaths and separation that followed. The second part dragged a bit. It felt like propaganda at times. Not enough to damage the book overall, but to my 21 century ears the litany of the self-government felt old. Worst, at times the discourse of bad rich people and good poor people felt too black and white, but I am too distant from it, with layers of social policy and legal rights to deafen me from their cries.

The end - or the lack of a more conventional ending - gets to some people. I actually think that it added to the book. Certain stories just don’t end well, or don’t end at all. It would be a relief to see the Joads settled or with lives that have some resemblance of normality. It would come 10 years later, with the economic boom generated by the WW2, and they still had too much ahead of them. I hope they made it back to suburbia somewhere, that All opened a garage, that Ruth got to go to school, that Rose of Sharon had other children, that Tom found his way back to the family…
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
4.5* ( )
  courty4189 | Mar 24, 2021 |
As a self-proclaimed Steinbeck fan, I feel comfortable saying this is one of his best books. The setting is great, the dialogue always moves the story forward and is well written in my opinion, and the chapters detailing the other families in the U.S. is a great refresher from the long chapters about the Joads. Sometimes it can be difficult to read the dialogue because the accent is "thick" and sometimes I had to reread a quote but other than that it was fine. There are a lot of characters in this book, and so I don't blame Steinbeck for not fleshing all of them out, but it really only feels like Mama, Tom, and Casy were real people. Everybody else seems kind of one dimensional, but it's not that big of a problem.
This is practically a must-have for any Steinbeck readers. I also recommend it to anyone who wants to read a semi-historical story about what it was like being a migrant worker during the Depression. ( )
  taishang | Mar 14, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 371 (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)

» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Steinbeckprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baker, DylanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benton, Thomas HartIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Christensen, BonnieIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coardi, CarloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coindreau, Maurice-EdgarTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crofut, BobIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
DeMott, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giron, de Maria CoyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hewgill, JodyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perroni, Sergio ClaudioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sampietro, LuigiIntroductionsecondary 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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"Traces the migration of an Oklahoma Dust Bowl family to California and their subsequent hardships as migrant farm workers."--Amazon.com.

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