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The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

by John Steinbeck

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
32,48745877 (4.12)1 / 1501
"Traces the migration of an Oklahoma Dust Bowl family to California and their subsequent hardships as migrant farm workers."--Amazon.com.
  1. 121
    East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Booksloth)
  2. 100
    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. 83
    The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (chrisharpe)
  6. 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.
  7. 30
    The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (tcarter)
  8. 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.
  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
    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. 00
    American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California by James N. Gregory (eromsted)

(see all 28 recommendations)

1930s (3)
Read (74)
AP Lit (112)
100 (20)

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» See also 1501 mentions

English (412)  Italian (10)  Spanish (8)  Dutch (6)  Catalan (3)  French (3)  Swedish (3)  Danish (2)  Vietnamese (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Greek (1)  All languages (450)
Showing 1-5 of 412 (next | show all)
In 1939 Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath in which, for the most part, the idyllic side of poverty has been blown away along with the dust that covers the fields of the Oklahoma that the Joad family leaves behind as they move to California in search of an Eden. While they do not believe that their journey is doomed, at least at the beginning, they seem to exist in a world where Nature is strong and often dark and where god is a bit player.

The picture of Oklahoma we see on the opening page of the novel is filled with color, but even in the first paragraph the dark side of nature is seen as, "The weeds grew darker green to protect themselves, and they did not spread anymore." Followed in the next paragraph by, "The weeds frayed and edged back toward their roots." they seem to be waiting for better days. The corn and the flowers fare even worse.(p 1)

The view of capitalism portrayed is one that is dark and foreboding in the images presented to the reader. This presentation is not direct, but one can infer from the people and actions presented the worldview behind it. The first member of the Joad family we meet is young Tom Joad as he is released from a prison and approaches a truck with a windshield displaying the welcoming "No Riders" sign. This is the face of capitalism, ameliorated slightly by the trucker who takes a chance on losing his job to give Tom a ride. In Chapter 5 we see the "owners of the land", all of whom were "caught in something larger than themselves."(p 31) Namely, the mathematics of the capitalist system, a system that breeds monsters:

"The tractors came over the fields and into the fields, great crawlers moving like insects, having the incredible strength of insects. . . Snub-nosed monsters, raising the dust and sticking their snouts into it, straight down the country, across the country, through fences, through dooryards, in and out of gullies in straight lines." (p 35)

So much for the world of idyllic poverty. The Joads were on the road west, for better or worse, toward California. What can we make of such a world that is turned upside down? Perhaps further thoughts on this reading will reveal some clues as to the meaning of such a stark beginning. ( )
  jwhenderson | Apr 9, 2023 |
I'm sure I can't say anything about his that hasn't already been said, so I'll stick to my personal impressions.

Stephen King says that even the villains are heroes in their own lives and he writes them that way. They might not be likeable, but you know why they do what they do. Not so here. I am a bit surprised that Steinbeck made the capitalists completely unsympathetic. Completely. Unsympathetic. Evil, in fact.

The Joads are heroic in their struggle to find work to make money to have food. They are not all likable, but I identified strongly with them, which is what Steinbeck meant for the reader to do. This is an unrelenting journey of hardship and more hardship. It's not a happy story in any sense of the word. I actually found myself starting to pray for them at one point, that's how strongly this story affected me. ;-) When Tom speaks his mind, I cheer. The only comic relief is Tom telling someone to suck it up or joking about weather predictions. There is a certain humor that comes out of people when they are at the end of their rope and it comes across here, intentional or not.

The workers' plight is made abundantly clear and sympathetic. Steinbeck wrote from his research of meeting and staying amongst people like the Joad's in labor camps, so you can believe what you're reading.

An interesting thing to me was the structure of the novel. For the most part it is told in 3rd person omniscient from the Joads' point of view. But that is interspersed with sections of a kind of overview of the situation, for example showing the used car salesmen's point of view as they put sand in transmissions so the car will seem okay for a while and sell. Steinbeck uses repetion to give these sections a poetic or lyric kind of feel. They are brilliant and give a kind of an impersonal, panorama wide angle view of things.

I give it four stars because it gives all it has to make the reader feel for the workers, but most of the characters are not really developed, which would make it a better story.

I will never forget this and I highly recommend it. These things still go on. For migrant workers (yes there still are migrant workers) and to all of us in one way or another. Please never forget that money (greed) is the root of all evil. ( )
  naturegirlj9 | Mar 26, 2023 |
The best book that I've ever read. ( )
  kaylacurrently | Mar 5, 2023 |
A well told saga. Not the brightest times in California history. ( )
  mykl-s | Mar 2, 2023 |
Not a book I would have picked up by myself, but as with all school books probably something I would have enjoyed more if I had? However, I have to admit reading it from a political ecology perspective was interesting: we do see a lot of the themes like land grabbing and capitalism forcing people to work for slave wages still today.

I do think some editing of it would have been nice. Hey, I'm not gonna say a nobel prize winner can't write, Steinbeck obviously does and has a way with words that on occasion even made me laugh. But dude, COME ON, your characters do not have to repeat the same statement over and over and over again, you don't need to describe fivehundred different fields just because they have different crops growing on them. Just, come on. Book could have been 1/3 shorter and still have the same plot. The between chapters setting the tone were also kind of weird to me, especially the dialogue written without markers.

The ending was also super-weird, but I guess it's meant to be open and let you imagine what happens next. I assume they all starve to death during the winter. Even so, it was a weird fucking place to end it in, if you ask me.

Title still a bit of mystery. Not a single angry grape in entire book. Very confusing. ( )
  upontheforemostship | Feb 22, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 412 (next | show all)
35 livres cultes à lire au moins une fois dans sa vie
Quels sont les romans qu'il faut avoir lu absolument ? Un livre culte qui transcende, fait réfléchir, frissonner, rire ou pleurer… La littérature est indéniablement créatrice d’émotions. Si vous êtes adeptes des classiques, ces titres devraient vous plaire.
De temps en temps, il n'y a vraiment rien de mieux que de se poser devant un bon bouquin, et d'oublier un instant le monde réel. Mais si vous êtes une grosse lectrice ou un gros lecteur, et que vous avez épuisé le stock de votre bibliothèque personnelle, laissez-vous tenter par ces quelques classiques de la littérature.
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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