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The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

by John Steinbeck

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
28,03738172 (4.13)1 / 1349
"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
    Whose Names Are Unknown by Sanora Babb (TomWaitsTables)
  12. 64
    Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Patangel)
  13. 20
    The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two stories of migrations of the working class in the US.
  14. 20
    Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (caflores)
  15. 20
    Harpsong by Rilla Askew (GCPLreader)
  16. 10
    America's Great Depression by Murray Rothbard (sirparsifal)
  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
    Raised from the ground by José Saramago (razorsoccam)
  20. 10
    Missing Soluch by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Called the Iranian Grapes of Wrath.

(see all 27 recommendations)

1930s (2)
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English (349)  Italian (9)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (5)  French (3)  Swedish (2)  Danish (2)  Vietnamese (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (378)
Showing 1-5 of 349 (next | show all)
The Grapes Of Wrath presents a hard to read book. The storyline jumps serval times from telling of a diner, to chapters just of descriptions (which take away from the story completely), to that of a family. Overall a lack of relatability, and connection to any character as well as characters at points just disappearing from the story and an ending that just stops and doesn’t actually end the story makes this book hard to get through and honestly in my opinion could be truly updated for modern society and readers. ( )
  Preston.Kringle | Jul 4, 2020 |
The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family after they have lost their tenement farmland in Oklahoma to California where they are told there are jobs waiting for those who are willing to farm the land out there.

The book starts out with Tom Joad who is finally paroled from prison. Tom has been dreaming of home for years and is shocked to see his family's home is abandoned. He runs into a former preacher, Jim Casy who explains that all of the people have lost their homes and land. Eventually running into a former neighbor Tom begins to hear about how the crops started to fail and how dust (apparently this is a thing in all of the books I read now) has ruined the crops and the land. Making his way to his family's new home he manages to catch up to them before they set out for California.

The entire Joad family came fully alive to me as I read because Steinbeck took such care to make all of them come alive. And it is not just them. As the family travels to California they meet and make mini-families with fellow travelers trying to do what they can in order to keep their families alive.

I have to say that Tom of course was my favorite followed by Ma Joad. Maybe because she wasn't taking any crap for anyone and she did what was necessary in order to try to keep her family together as long as possible.

I kept hoping throughout that of course things would work out for the family, but reading about how they were paying people barely anything and how many children/men/women were starving to death, I wonder how anyone back then was able to look another man in the eye and know that what they were paying them was nothing for them to exist on.

Steinbeck's writing flowed beautifully. In between each chapter doing what I would consider a status update on the Joads, readers get a almost lyrical essay about the Dust Bowl, Great Depression, mass immigration, working, starving, etc. I loved those chapters and though the whole book as a whole just worked.

I definitely needed some lightness while reading, and there was no lightness to be found.

Steinbeck just systematically tears away the readers blinders to what is happening in the United States during this time period, and how many farmers were still slow to recovery from this ordeal even though according to economists, the U.S. started to recover from the Great Depression by around 1938.

The setting comes truly alive and you are right there with the Joads as dust descends covering everything in it's path, sleeping in trucks/trailers trying to keep yourself going as long as you can with no food or water in order to just find a place to sleep for a few hours. I realized after the fact I was constantly eating while reading this book, just taking a nibble of food and drinking some water. I think it was a way to reassure myself that food was nearby and there was no chance that I could starve to death.

To sum up, I am sure that better reviews for this book have been and will be written.

I just have to say that I found this book from beginning to end wonderful.

It breaks your heart and puts it back together a million times while you are reading this story of the Joad family.

Towards the end I just felt a sense of dread for what would be coming their way and how would the family once again do their best to try to stay together and keep surviving. With an open ending, I would like to think that the Joad family managed to keep themselves going, and were able to just find a place where they could settle. That Ma Joad eventually got her little white house. That the men got to have meat and coffee with a little bit of sugar. That they had a piece of land that they could call their own. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
Absolutely brutal window into the Great Depression and what it did to the working class and working poor in America, and probably around the world. A beautifully written treatise on class struggle, and surprisingly "red" considering the era it was published in. Brilliant work. Extremely relevant in our modern age of economic migrants, steadily advancing automation, and widening gap between the 0.1% and the rest of the world. If everyone in the American south read this book and understood it, they might feel a lot different about what's going on around them, and the scam that's been pulled on them. ( )
  yazzy12 | May 17, 2020 |
Some have classified this quintessential 20th century American literary classic as historical fiction, but it isn't. Steinbeck was so moved by the contemporary plight of the refugees from the Dust Bowl located in the 1930s Southern Plains states that he wrote a fictional tale of the Joad family, driven off their small farm in Oklahoma, and their lengthy trek along Route 66 to California to eke out a living. During the journey the encounter farms paying low wages, strikebreakers, and other businesses trying to take advantage of the Joads and other families. Periodically, Steinbeck intersperses short chapters detailing nefarious business practices by bankers, car salesmen, and farm owners.

As I read, I kept thinking if the Joad family would ever catch a break. Once I began to think that things were looking up for the the Joads, some event would happen that would return them to a life struggle. However, even in their darkest days, the Joads, especially Ma Joad, would express hope. Although there were a number of depressing events, the mood was tempered somewhat with humorous moments. One such example was one of youngest children's (Ruthie) bedtime prayer:

"Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. An' when she got there the cupboard was bare, an' so the poor dog got none. Amen."

The characters were so well developed, especially with the dialect that the dialogue was written, I was immediately taken in by this family and the cohesiveness of this extended family. I can see why America fell in love with the book when it was released during the late Depression. Although it received the Pulitzer Prize the year after it was published, John Steinbeck didn't receive the Nobel Prize for this book until 1962.

I am thankful that one of my book discussion groups chose this book to read or I might not have ever done so. There is a reason that this book is considered a literary classic. It still speaks today as it did 80 years ago. One could make a parallel between the plight of some of the undocumented immigrants today. The primary theme of this novel is the importance of family as a buffer against the trial and tribulations of this world. If you don't read classics believing that they are stuffy and out of fashion, I would recommend strongly that you read The Grapes of Wrath. You will find it as easy to read and a page-turner as it was almost a century ago. ( )
  John_Warner | Apr 12, 2020 |
This is a powerful book about a period of American history seen through the eyes of a simple family from Oklahoma. The is tremendous economic and environmental hardship at the time the book is set, and the Joad family have decided that as the crops have failed and they have decided to head west to find work in California, having seen lots of handbills promising that it is the land of plenty.

The family of Ma, Pa, grandparents and children and an retired preacher set off. They have a slow, but eventful journey, and eventually cross the state line. Buy doing this one of the main characters breaks his parole terms, but he decides to take the risk.

They end in in several camps with lots of other families from Oklahoma. There are government camps that are well run, and another camp that isn't. The work that was promised isn't there, partly because of the massive influx of people, but also because there is a a cartel of farmers who are limiting wages. There is huge resentment from the locals, and the police are looking to pick on the people in the camps.

I found it to be a powerfully written book. It is a tragic and melancholy tale. These character have so very little hope, just this opportunity in another state, and that is what they cling to. There journey is fraught, and the parents try to hold everything together, even though they are pushed to their absolute limits.

It was obviously a book written to prove, and from what I have read since it did just that. The vested interests labeled it as 'a pack of lies' and it was branded 'communist propaganda'. I think that it showed that the American dream was just a hollow ideal.

I did struggle a little with the language, though I think that it was fairly accurate to the time and demographic. I could hear the same voice of the author that I read in Of Mice and Men, which I read many, many years ago.

It was a book that made me uncomfortable, and for fiction that is sometimes a good thing. I cannot say that I enjoyed reading it, it was tough, but I am glad that I have read it. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 349 (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 (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steinbeck, JohnAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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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