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The Grapes of Wrath (Audio Library Classics)

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers. First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to tr The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers. First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from 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. 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. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.


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The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers. First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to tr The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers. First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from 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. 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. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.

30 review for The Grapes of Wrath (Audio Library Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm Logan

    Whenever I revisit a classic I'm struck by how much more I get out of it now than I did when I was 24 or 19 or, God forbid, 15. Giving a book like the Grapes of Wrath to a 15 year old serves largely to put them off fine literature for the rest of their lives. The depth of understanding and compassion for the human condition as communicated by a book like this is simply unfathomable to those who haven't lived much life yet, but after you've gotten a healthy dose of living, it comes across like fi Whenever I revisit a classic I'm struck by how much more I get out of it now than I did when I was 24 or 19 or, God forbid, 15. Giving a book like the Grapes of Wrath to a 15 year old serves largely to put them off fine literature for the rest of their lives. The depth of understanding and compassion for the human condition as communicated by a book like this is simply unfathomable to those who haven't lived much life yet, but after you've gotten a healthy dose of living, it comes across like fine music to a trained ear. My heart doesn't bleed for the Joads today as it might have 25 years ago. Yes, it's grim and unfair, but it's no longer shocking or disturbing, and I can see now that Steinbeck didn't intend sensationalism to be the main point. What he's about is revealing the human dignity, the innate goodness and unbreakable pride of these people, and by extension the American people in general, something that still resonates today, especially with reference to the working classes. When the Joads and their kind decline government hand outs, requesting instead the simple opportunity to work hard and be rewarded commensurate with their labor (even if it means a grueling cross-country journey to a place they don't know) one can hear today's white working poors' exasperated disdain for government, insisting that they simply be allowed to keep more of their pay and not be held back in their efforts by nit-picking legalities and cultural trivialities that disapprove of their lifestyles. Sadly, most such people will never read the Grapes of Wrath. Worse yet, many liberal lawmakers won't read it again after high school and won't glean from it an essential understanding about the pride and perseverance of the American working class which the far right is playing like a fiddle much to the detriment of the entire nation. A book like the Grapes of Wrath should be required reading - for every American over 30.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie *Extremely Stable Genius*

    If you are an American you need to read The Grapes of Wrath. It scares the poop out of me because, my fellow Americans, we are repeating history. If live anywhere else read it as well as a guide for what not to do. In the Grapes of Wrath Mr. Steinbeck tells the tale of the first great depression through the Joad family from Oklahoma, who has been displaced from their family farm through no fault of their own. You see, there was a big bad drought which made farming impossible. In those days If you are an American you need to read The Grapes of Wrath. It scares the poop out of me because, my fellow Americans, we are repeating history. If live anywhere else read it as well as a guide for what not to do. In the Grapes of Wrath Mr. Steinbeck tells the tale of the first great depression through the Joad family from Oklahoma, who has been displaced from their family farm through no fault of their own. You see, there was a big bad drought which made farming impossible. In those days the family farm fed the family and what they had left over they sold. But when the drought hit the only thing that would grow was cotton, you can’t eat cotton, and that crop sucked the life right out of the soil so no other crop could grow in it for a very long time. “These things were lost, and crops were reckoned in dollars, and land was valued by principal plus interest, and crops were bought and sold before they were planted. Then crop failure, drought, and flood were no longer little deaths within life, but simple losses of money. And all their love was thinned with money, and all their fierceness dribbled away in interest until they were no longer farmers at all, but little shopkeepers of crops, little manufacturers who must sell before they can make. Then those farmers who were not good shopkeepers lost their land to good shopkeepers. No matter how clever, how loving a man might be with earth and growing things, he could not survive if he were not also a good shopkeeper. And as time went on, the business men had the farms, and the farms grew larger, but there were fewer of them.” Some guys with a lot of cash came along and bought up all the struggling family farms and leased the land back to the former family farmers and when they couldn’t produce, the new Owners kicked the families out of their homes. Put them on the streets, children and elderly and all……..who cares, right? Poor people are less than. From California came hand bills, pamphlets promising jobs and urging the homeless to drag their whole lives via barely moving junk heaps to the golden state where grapes grew in bunches by the side of the road. What choice did they have? They drove across deserts and mountains, losing loved ones along the way, they answered those hand bills in droves. What else could they do? What happened when they got to California? They didn’t get jobs, they got ridicule. They were called Okies and shitheals and were looked down upon. “How can they live like that?” The people with money would ask, as if being poor was a choice. As if they were just lazy and all it would take to get out of poverty was to get a job……but there were no fucking jobs. The owners sent out more handbills then they needed to. Why? Because the more men begging for a job the less the owners would have to pay them. Supply and demand. The greedy sons a bitches wanted to pay as little as possible, and that is exactly what they did. The Okies did not have a union of course. “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. The great owners ignored the three cries of history. The land fell into fewer hands, the number of the dispossessed increased, and every effort of the great owners was directed at repression. The money was spent for arms, for gas to protect the great holdings, and spies were sent to catch the murmuring of revolt so that it might be stamped out. The changing economy was ignored, plans for the change ignored; and only means to destroy revolt were considered, while the causes of revolt went on.” Who are the “great owners” today? The Walton family (of Walmart), six of them, have the same amount of money as the bottom 40% of Americans. That is 124,720,000 people, people. $93 billion…..BILLION and they want more, more money than could be spent in several lifetimes. They don’t need it all, but the rest of America does. Do you think the Walton’s might have an interest in keeping people poor? Go check out who’s in that store at 3am. Let’s also take a look at who is running against President Obama. Mittens is so rich that he doesn’t even know what a doughnut is, and he’s fighting for the Waltons and all of the 1 %. He’s so rich he thinks he is entitled to the office and “us people” do not need to see his tax returns……the nerve of us, move on. We need to sit down, shut up, and stop asking questions because he, being a rich bastard, is an “owner” and we should know our place. Not bloody likely. “Our people are good people; our people are kind people. Pray God some day kind people won’t all be poor. Pray God some day a kid can eat. And the associations of owners knew that some day the praying would stop. And there’s the end.” Also posted at Shelfinflicted

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is another review-as-I-go, which helps me capture my thoughts of the moment, before I forget them! One thing that strikes me in these early pages is Steinbeck's technique of focusing on things that are supposedly "tangential" to the main narrative of the Joad family but yet are central to their fate. I'm thinking of the descriptions of the natural world like that wonderful chapter about the turtle, who eventually gets scooped up by Tom. You see the world through the turtle's eyes for a mome This is another review-as-I-go, which helps me capture my thoughts of the moment, before I forget them! One thing that strikes me in these early pages is Steinbeck's technique of focusing on things that are supposedly "tangential" to the main narrative of the Joad family but yet are central to their fate. I'm thinking of the descriptions of the natural world like that wonderful chapter about the turtle, who eventually gets scooped up by Tom. You see the world through the turtle's eyes for a moment and you see how the indifference of the characters to nature is a larger phenomenon that leads to their own ruin. Steinbeck reinforces this theme later when he talks about how farmers can no longer afford to feel and relate to nature, that they're basically chemists dealing in nitrogen and machine operators dealing with tractors. But, he says, when the "wonder" is gone, people are doomed. And of course the entire book is about the doomed nature of the dust bowl, and this--he says--is how we got there, through this kind of moral breakdown. There's another, similar type of moral breakdown at work in the wonderful passage about the car dealers talking about how to rip people off. Here we see other forces--greed, capitalism, deceit--that also serve as a form of human self-sabotage. This is what I appreciate so far: that this book is ABOUT SOMETHING! That Steinbeck has something to say about the human endeavor. I find this element missing in so much contemporary fiction, which doesn't really seem to be about much of anything at all. As it gets closer to California, and the landscape changes, the first ominous whisperings appear that California will not be the paradise the Joads expect. Still they carry on, feeling like they have no choice, swept up in this tide of history. At first the Joads encounter only the cruelty of capitalism--that the large field owners want to have hundreds of thousands of poor workers to choose from because it will keep wages low. Then in the government camp, they finally meet with simple human kindness--really the antithesis of all that. Steinbeck is showing how important kindness is and how it is crushed in the capitalist machine. Money becomes like an ideology, a mask that shields the owners from the consequences of their bad actions. But it's also become necessary for survival. No longer can small farmers work their own land. They are forced into the larger economy, forced to earn wages and participate in the world of money in order to survive. Thus, the Joads are eventually forced to leave the government camp in search of work. Where? They don't know. Somewhere vaguely north. Eventually they find work picking peaches, but they soon become caught up in labor unrest that spills into fatal violence, and they're forced to leave. I won't give away much of what follows. Suffice it to say that the harrowing ordeals don't end there, nor the emphasis on simple human kindness as the antidote to the capitalist machine. Simple human kindness becomes, by the end, the mother's milk that can sustain them, but only barely and uncertainly, and we're left with the indelible portrait of people trying to survive, unsure how it might turn out. A brave, fierce work that brims with the sense that it doesn't have to be this way--that people have made choices to be cruel but can make choices to be kind, as well. That something has to change because for most people, this architecture and logic of cruelty brings no relief and no joy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Luca Ambrosino

    ENGLISH (The Grapes of Wrath)/ITALIANO The Great Depression, told through the journey of one of the many families of farmers fallen on hard times in the 1930s. The exhausting search for work, food and a roof over the head, put a strain on human dignity, and degrade the soul, making unexpected even genuine attitudes of solidarity by those who share the same destiny. But hunger and ENGLISH (The Grapes of Wrath)/ITALIANO The Great Depression, told through the journey of one of the many families of farmers fallen on hard times in the 1930s. The exhausting search for work, food and a roof over the head, put a strain on human dignity, and degrade the soul, making unexpected even genuine attitudes of solidarity by those who share the same destiny. But hunger and very poor living conditions sow grains of desperation, from which gems of gall immediately sprout."In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage" seems to be more a statement than a warning. We are human, and we are destined to fight the injustice by the uprising."And this you can know, 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"And then Tom Joad, one of the protagonists of the biblical exodus, who is unable to tolerate the anguish that his loved ones suffer, becomes the symbol and the incarnation of the human being of John Steinbeck. However, readers have a bitter pill to swallow at the end.Vote: 8,5 La Grande Depressione americana, raccontata attraverso il viaggio di una delle tante famiglie di agricoltori che caddero in rovina negli anni trenta. L'estenuante ricerca di lavoro, cibo e un tetto sotto cui dormire, mette a dura prova la dignità umana, abbrutisce l'anima, rendendo inattesa e insperata perfino la solidarietà da chi condivide lo stesso destino. Ma l'estremo disagio e la fame seminano chicchi di disperazione, dai quali germogliano subito gemme di fiele."Nei cuori degli umili maturano i frutti del furore e s'avvicina l'epoca della vendemmia" più che un monito, questo estratto lapidario rappresenta una semplice constatazione. Noi siamo esseri umani, e siamo destinati a combattere il sopruso con l'insurrezione."Sconfortante sarebbe notare che l'Umanità rinuncia a soffrire e morire per un'idea; perchè è questa la qualità fondamentale che è alla base dell'Umanità, questa la prerogativa che distingue l'uomo dalle altre creature dell'universo"E allora Tom, uno dei protagonisti dell'esodo biblico della famiglia Joad, con la sua incapacità a tollerare le angherie che subiscono i suoi cari, diventa il simbolo e l'incarnazione dell'essere umano di John Steinbeck. Tuttavia, alla fine, masticano amaro i lettori.Voto: 8,5

  5. 4 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    During the bleakness of the dry, dust bowl days as the suffocating particles fall everywhere ...you can't breath... in your nose, eyes, clothes, food, house, the darkness at noon unable to see the Sun during a dust storm, the top soil flying away carried by the winds never to return in the Depression, when people ... farmers lost their homes and land to the banks incapable to repay their loans , (no crops no money) symbolized by the Joad family of Oklahoma in the 1930's . Seeing black and white During the bleakness of the dry, dust bowl days as the suffocating particles fall everywhere ...you can't breath... in your nose, eyes, clothes, food, house, the darkness at noon unable to see the Sun during a dust storm, the top soil flying away carried by the winds never to return in the Depression, when people ... farmers lost their homes and land to the banks incapable to repay their loans , (no crops no money) symbolized by the Joad family of Oklahoma in the 1930's . Seeing black and white pictures tell only a small portion of this, the real story that John Steinbeck wrote about masterfully in his novel The Grapes of Wrath. Where a hungry large group of people, travel to the promise land of California a distant 1,500 miles away but find more starvation, abuse and death. In an old dilapidated automobile the Joad's , Ma the de facto leader and Pa, Tom, just released from prison for killing a man in self defense ( it didn't help that both were drunk) . Rose a teenager married to a lazy, shiftless dreamer Connie and pregnant, Uncle John who likes the bottle and his late wife he mourns too much for, their ancient parents and four other children. And last but not least the preacher Reverend Jim Casy who doesn't want to preach any more, having lost his faith the thirteenth member ( some will not get to their goal) . He's now after walking around searching for a purpose, in fact living like a bum decides since the people have left for the Golden State , why not him too ? Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and at long last crossing the Colorado River into the paradise of California, with high mountains and hot steaming deserts, discovering more desert wastelands and still hundreds of miles to the fertile, prosperous , pretty, fabulously wealthy valley of San Joaquin the richest one on the planet. But not for the 300,000 Okies , ( a misnomer, since many are not from Oklahoma) an unknown name to the newcomers as they're scornfully called here, unfriendly natives and police hate , greatly distrust these poor needy miserable folks and frightened of them, most assuredly. The affluent farmers keep cutting the wages 30 cents an hour, 25, 20 and dropping how can the workers survive? Tom is angry , tired of the endless struggle going from place to place in search of work, lack of food, housing, especially the treatment by the well off... like he is scum . Nevertheless believes that nobody is above him and will fight back if necessary. Deadly strikes, deputies burning down the laborers camps, violence and starving the old and the young, the vulnerable will not endure. A strong statement about man's inhumanity to his fellow being ...A little kindness sought but will it be found ?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage. This book really gets my goat. Those poor, dirty Joads. So poor and so, so dirty. After being displaced from their Oklahoma farm following the Dust Bowl storms that wreck their crops and cause them to default on their loans, the Joads find themselves a family of migrants in search of work and food. They join a stream of hundreds of thousands of other migrant families across the United Sta In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage. This book really gets my goat. Those poor, dirty Joads. So poor and so, so dirty. After being displaced from their Oklahoma farm following the Dust Bowl storms that wreck their crops and cause them to default on their loans, the Joads find themselves a family of migrants in search of work and food. They join a stream of hundreds of thousands of other migrant families across the United States to what they believe to be the prosperous valleys of California. Only once they arrive, they discover that there is nothing prosperous about it—not only is there a serious shortage of work (mostly caused by an overabundance of labor that came with the influx of so many other migrant families), but they also have to contend with growing anti-migrant sentiment among the local population and wealthy landowners who think nothing of taking advantage of them in their state of vulnerability. Without proper labor laws protecting worker’s rights and no trade unions to represent their interests, the Joads are severely underpaid for whatever work they do manage to find, and they simply fall deeper and deeper into despondency. The reason this gets my goat is ‘cause it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, the Joads are uneducated and wouldn’t qualify for anything more than basic manual labor. Yes, it is the Great Depression and this is not an easy time to find a job even for skilled workers. And yes, they are a family of 47 and they probably look pretty ridiculous all crammed up in the back of their makeshift pickup truck. But gosh darn it, if only they had unions! If only they had fair labor standards to guarantee them a minimum wage! If only they had the protection of government legislation to prohibit wealthy landowners from colluding to keep prices high and wages low! Which leads me to wonder… what would Ayn Rand think of all this? After all, aren’t labor unions and economic regulation precisely what she argues against? By that account, if Atlas Shrugged is the supposed Bible of right-wing thinkers, then I’d have to say that The Grapes of Wrath might just be its antithesis. But the real difference, as far as I can tell, is that while Atlas Shrugged represents a crazy woman’s vision of a whack job world that could never actually exist, John Steinbeck tells it like it is, and how it was, for so many hard working Americans who were taken advantage of under a system that did nothing to protect them. And what’s even more remarkable is that Steinbeck’s characters (whom, by the way, Rand would refer to as “moochers”—just thought we should be clear on that) make Dagny Taggart and Henry Reardon look like a couple of pussies. What is it Ma Joad says? That if you’re in trouble or hurt or need, to “go to poor people—for they’re the only ones that’ll help.” This is a novel about the working poor, and it should serve to remind us what can go horribly wrong in an unregulated economy.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Man-made environmental catastrophe and its (in)human cost - a study in inequality and injustice! Imagine having to leave your country because it is a wasteland created by a decade of dust storms? Imagine having nowhere to go, but still crossing the desert in hope of finding a future after your past was wiped out by human failure, greed and environmental carelessness? Imagine not being welcome when you arrive, with nothing but what your family vehicle can carry ... “How can we live without Man-made environmental catastrophe and its (in)human cost - a study in inequality and injustice! Imagine having to leave your country because it is a wasteland created by a decade of dust storms? Imagine having nowhere to go, but still crossing the desert in hope of finding a future after your past was wiped out by human failure, greed and environmental carelessness? Imagine not being welcome when you arrive, with nothing but what your family vehicle can carry ... “How can we live without our lives? How will we know it's us without our past?” Imagine nobody caring about those thousands of "us" who lost their identities with their farms and livelihoods. Immigrants are always also emigrants, and they carry the memory of being somebody, somewhere, in a distant past. To treat them as if they existed in a historical vacuum is as cruel as it is common, and it is the recurring topic of Steinbeck's heartbreaking writing. Steinbeck is one of those authors that I love unconditionally, more and more with each reading experience. I once travelled from where I lived in Texas to visit Steinbeck country in California - looking for his traces in Monterey and Salinas, always accompanied by his complete works, from hilarious short novels to the heavy epic novels of good and evil. In the end, I discovered his characters in the faces I saw on the road, I smelled his descriptions of nature in the humid or dry, dusty air, I heard his dialogues in the everyday exchanges on markets and in hot small town streets. I love them all, each one in my carefully kept Steinbeck collection. Asked by one of my children the other day which Steinbeck had influenced me most, I thought I was going to give an evasive, diplomatic answer, not making a statement for or against any specific story. Instead I heard myself say: "The Grapes of Wrath!" And the moment I said it I knew that I meant it. It may not exactly be my favourite Steinbeck, but definitely the one I feel uncomfortably, chillingly getting under my skin immediately. Just recalling the voices of the characters makes me shiver - as they suffer through the ordeal of fleeing from the Dust Bowl, that environmental catastrophe caused by greed and paid for by individual families, to a Californian paradise which doesn't welcome newcomers. The poverty, the suffering, the love and despair - it is tangible in each sentence, in each story line! Family saga, social study, historical document, political standpoint, ethical statement on compassion and greed - it is all there, but invisible under the masterfully crafted story, which has its own quality, beyond the message on the essential needs and worries of poor, common people without protective networks. I don't know how to close this review, as I am not done with this novel at all, despite having read it several times. But one quote shall stand as a warning to those who believe their wealth protects them against being humans, and feeling poor for behaving poorly: “If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it 'cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he's poor in hisself, there ain't no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an' maybe he's disappointed that nothin' he can do 'll make him feel rich.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    *Review contains a partial spoiler* If you read enough reviews, you'll notice that most of the people who gave this book 1 or 2 stars had to read the book for a high school class. Most of the 4 and 5 star ratings came from those who read it as adults. I recommend listening to those who read it as adults. Many people hate the ending, but I thought it was great. Creepy? Yes, but there was an immense amount of beauty and generosity in that creepy little ending. At one point in the story, *Review contains a partial spoiler* If you read enough reviews, you'll notice that most of the people who gave this book 1 or 2 stars had to read the book for a high school class. Most of the 4 and 5 star ratings came from those who read it as adults. I recommend listening to those who read it as adults. Many people hate the ending, but I thought it was great. Creepy? Yes, but there was an immense amount of beauty and generosity in that creepy little ending. At one point in the story, Ma tol' Rosasharn that it ain't all about her (most high school kids think everything is all about them, which is probably one reason they couldn't enjoy this book or most other classics they are forced to read). Realizing this at the very end made Rosasharn crack her first smile in ages (at least that's my take on the mysterious smile). I wasn't disappointed in the lack of closure at the end, because the closure came in the middle when Ma said, "Rich fellas come up an' they die, an' their kids ain't no good an' they die out. But we keep a'comin'. We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out; they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people." So you know they will be fine whether life continues to be a struggle or not. They will be better off than the rich man with the million acres they talked about - "If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it 'cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he's poor in hisself, there ain't no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an' maybe he's disappointed that nothin' he can do'll make him feel rich." Another good quote is "I'm learnin' one thing good...If you're in trouble or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones." I saw a special on 20/20 around Christmas time about how the lower class are more generous overall than the middle and upper class, so this still applies today. Would anyone like my savings account? I think I'm going to give poverty a shot : )

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    At 17, I bought The Grapes of Wrath, cracked it open, and, after reading a few pages, declared it BOR-ING. Yawn. I was off to the mall with my tight abs to find some jeans that would accentuate my vacuous mind. The same copy then sat on my various book shelves ever since. I've never been able to sell it or give it away, so finally, at 42, with far looser abs and a pair of fat jeans in the closet, I decided to give it an actual try. Now, the ladies at my book club will tell you. . . I'm not At 17, I bought The Grapes of Wrath, cracked it open, and, after reading a few pages, declared it BOR-ING. Yawn. I was off to the mall with my tight abs to find some jeans that would accentuate my vacuous mind. The same copy then sat on my various book shelves ever since. I've never been able to sell it or give it away, so finally, at 42, with far looser abs and a pair of fat jeans in the closet, I decided to give it an actual try. Now, the ladies at my book club will tell you. . . I'm not easily won over by any book, though I do believe that a good book is a good book. . . merely because YOU like it. A good book may not have any other merit other than you thought the protagonist was sweet. Or cute. But, a great book? Well, a great book is a whole different story. A great book has nothing to do with YOU, or at least not YOU individually. A great book pays tribute to the collective YOU, our collective consciousness. A great book garners the support of Divinity and has the staying power of the people through multiple generations and years. And this is a great book. One of the best ever written. This is the rare Great American Novel, up there with Lonesome Dove, The Catcher in the Rye and Gone with the Wind. I can only imagine that Steinbeck's hands were shaking as he removed the last page from the typewriter (yes, writers used something called typewriters back then). I picture a silent room as he experienced a true moment of awe. I like to think he had tears in his eyes, or that they slid slowly down his face, just as mine did throughout this read. As Frost would say, "no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." Believe me, if you are over 35 and have a heart, you can not read this novel without tears, laughter, anger and awe. This novel is better than approximately 95% of novels currently on this planet. I'd like to travel back in time and cup Steinbeck's face in my hands and say, "You did it, John. You did it."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? The Grapes of Wrath won John Steinbeck both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, firmly engraving his name on the stone tablet featuring the canon of Great American Writers. Published in 1939, it is arguably Steinbeck's best known work and is still widely read today. Admirers praised Steinbeck for writing an epic tale of Biblical proportions, singing songs of the common men a How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? The Grapes of Wrath won John Steinbeck both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, firmly engraving his name on the stone tablet featuring the canon of Great American Writers. Published in 1939, it is arguably Steinbeck's best known work and is still widely read today. Admirers praised Steinbeck for writing an epic tale of Biblical proportions, singing songs of the common men and women and their struggle against exploitation by the rich and powerful, the strength of a family and the endurance human spirit in the Great Depression and the tragedy of the Dust Bowl, which forced many families to abandon land which was their livelihood for generations. Detractors accuse Steinbeck of being sentimental and one-sided, of greatly exaggerating the effect that the period and the surrounding had on the people he describes, of being a socialist, a Marxist, a communist and a propagandist (sometimes not all at once). Associated Farmers of California called the book "a pack of lies" and "communist propaganda", while Burton Rascoe writing for Newsweek added that The Grapes of Wrath was nothing more than superficial observation, careless infidelity to the proper use of idiom, tasteless pornographical and scatagorical talk. Criticism didn't stop at negative reviews. The book was banned across the country and sometimes publicly burned by enraged citizens; Steinbeck received hate mail and death threats. The book made him a lot of powerful enemies. The Associated Farmers have begun an hysterical personal attack on me both in the papers and a whispering campaign, he said, I’m a Jew,a pervert, a drunk, a dope fiend. A whispering smear campaign against Steinbeck was set in motion by his new enemies, aiming to defame him and turn him from a celebrated author into a figure of hatred: they accused him of being a Jew, who wanted to deliberately undermine the economy and acted in Zionist-communist interest. The Associated Farmers are really working up a campaign, he wrote to his agent, I have made powerful enemies with the Grapes. They will not kill me, I think, but they will destroy me if and when they can. He was right. When Lewis Milestone, author of the screenplay for Mice and Men came to central California to explore possible locations for the movie, Steinbeck never stopped at any ranches in fear that they might get physically assaulted by their residents. The undersheriff of Santa Clara County was a friend of Steinbeck, and warned him to never stay in a hotel room alone: the boys got a rape case set for you. You get alone in a hotel and a dame will come in, tear off her clothes, scratch her face and scream and you try to talk yourself out of that one. They won’t touch your book but there’s easier ways. Steinbeck found himself under enormous stress and strain as he realized that Associated Farmers controlled the sheriff's office in California, and were "capable of anything"; he was also investigated by the FBI under president Hoover, which saw him as a dangerous subversive. He had to adopt an alias while visiting Los Angeles and keep secret files. He was aware that most of the people who hated him have themselves been victims of propaganda used precisely by those who accused him of being a propagandist; he told his agent that The articles written against me are all by people who admit they haven’t read Grapes, indeed wouldn't dirty their minds with it. John Steinbeck in 1939, when the book was published. Still, at the same time, many other readers found The Grapes of Wrath to be enthralling and necessary - a book which attracted attention to the plight of poor migrant farm workers to the West, showed the brutality and harshness of their condition and challenged the nation to do better for those people. Earle Birney called the book a deed - the act of a man out of the pity and wrath of his heart, and it was read and loved as such. It captured the turbulent period of American history and provoked a reaction. It made an impact, a real and lasting one - which is its greatest achievement. Interestingly enough, within months of its publication journalist Carey McWilliams published his own work on treatment of migrant workers in California. Factories in the Field: The Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California was a landmark study which exposed the social and environmental damage inflicted by the growth of corporate agriculture in California, and a condemnation of both the politics and consequences of large-scale agribusiness. McWilliams documented the social and economic trends which led to establishment of huge land holdings in California and the constant need for cheap migrant labor; he found that the "Okies" were only the latest group to be exploited by the invisible owners of California's first industry. The previous groups included Native Americans and immigrants from China, Japan, Mexico, India, Armenia and the Philippines. Shortly before the publication of Factories in the Field, McWilliams became the head of California's Division of Immigration and Housing where he focused on improving wages for agricultural workers and their living conditions; he increased inspections of labor camps owned by the growers, as he felt that on-farm housing made the workers more dependent on their employers, and changed the formula which was used to deny relief to workers who refused to accept farm work at prevailing piece wages, effectively forcing some of the growers to increase their piece rates. Understandably, McWilliams and his work were also not well received by California growers; they called him an Agricultural Pest Number One, worse than pear blight or boll weevils, and accused of conspiring together with Steinbeck to ruin their reputation. Funnily enough the two never met, and did not arrange the release dates of their work in any way. (McWilliams was also involved in the committee led by senator Robert La Follette Jr., which became known as La Follette Civil Liberties Committee and which has performed the most extensive investigation in American history into employer violations of the rights or workers to organize and bargain collectively. Between 1936 and 1941, the committee conducted extensive hearings and collected a vast number of testimonies. These hearings exposed the tactics used by America's leading corporations to prevent their workers from forming unions: employment of extensive industrial espionage and strikebreaking services, stockpiling munitions such as submachine guns, rifles and tear gas, and even subverting local law by hiring their own police forces. The committee closed its hearings in late 1939 and early 1940, when it traveled up and down the California coast and collected testimonies of more than four hundred labor organizers, growers and farm workers. McWilliams ghostwrote the committee's report, a stern indictment of California's agricultural factory system, but it was not presented to Congress until October 1942, without much impact: no one was listening and no one cared, for we were at war. McWilliams felt that the War enabled both growers and state officials from implementing a reform which they would almost certainly would have been forced to implement otherwise, and that the whole country went to sleep until a young black girl named Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. He, however, did not stay silent and stop working. On the contrary, failure to implement recommended reforms seemed to give him more strength to combat injustice: he published Prejudice: Japanese Americans, Symbol of Racial Intolerance, a sharp critique and a chronicle of internment of Japanese-Americans during the War, and was active in opposing McCarthyism. In 1960 Carey McWilliams became the first American reporter to reveal that the CIA was training a group of Cuban exiles in Guatemala to serve as guerrillas in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. His article appeared in October, five months before the invasion happened. He died in 1980.) Carey McWilliams, a good man. The copy of The Grapes of Wrath that I read had a great introduction by Robert DeMott, who provided plenty of excerpts from Steinbeck's journal and revealed his ambitions and doubts as he was composing the book. Steinbeck was convinced that if he could "do the book properly", it would be a truly American book and "one of the really fine books". At the same time, he was constantly thinking about what he perceived to be his own lack of ability and limitations as a writer, which greatly troubled him. Honesty was what he saw as the answer and the way to write the book - if he could keep the honesty in, everything would be fine. Steibeck had plenty of opportunity to do exactly that. While his initial writings have not been successful, he struck a chord with 1935's Tortilla Flat which tells the story of Danny and his friends, a group of paisanos who live in post-war Monterey. But real success came with a series of California novels, stories of common people trying to make it during the Great Depression - In Dubious Battle, Of Mice and Men and the most important one, The Grapes of Wrath. The severe drought of the early 1930's resulted in a massive agricultural failure in the southern region of the Great Plains, above all in western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle, where the fields have been heavily overcultivated by wheat farmers after the first World War. The area consisted of millions of acres of exposed topsoil, no longer anchored by growing roots as the crops withered and died from lack of rainfall. Constant sunshine dried the soil and turned it into dust, which then blew away in amounts sufficient to black out the sky and reduce visibility to a few feet; these immense dust storms centered on the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas, and the adjacent areas of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. By the mid 1930's countless families have been deprived of means to earn their livelihood, pay their mortgages and buy equipment necessary to stay competitive with growing industrialization. Dust Bowl victims were forced to leave their lands, and without any real prospects of employment move to California - the promised land. A dust storm hitting Boise City, right in the panhandle of Oklahoma on April 14th, 1935. This storm was particularly severe, and was one of the worst dust storms in American history, causing immense economic and agricultural damage - it is estimated to have displaced 300 million tons of topsoil in the Great Plains. It became known as the Black Sunday. (Right click - open in a new tab for a bigger photo) In 1936 Steinbeck was hired by the San Francisco News, which commissioned him to write a series of articles on the Dust Bowl migration. To write the seven articles, published as The Harvest Gypsies, Steinbeck traveled to California and visited local labor camps, shantytowns and Hoovervilles - migrant settlements named so after President Herbert Hoover, who was widely blamed for the Depression. There he met Tom Collins, manager of the Weedpatch Camp who became a major source of information and a travelling companion. Collins collected statistics on camp life which Steinbeck used as primary material for his articles, and both traveled together on three trips through California. They visited the settlements, went to meetings, stayed on camps and ranches, worked in the fields. After the publication Steinbeck and his wife drove west along Route 66, from Oklahoma to California, like countless migrants before them. These experiences provided Steinbeck with more than enough material to depict the lives of poor farmers forced to migrate west. He set out to write a novel, conscious of the importance of what he saw and experienced. I am not writing a satisfying story, he told his editor, Pascal Covici. I've done my damnedest to rip a reader's nerves to rags, I don't want him satisfied...I tried to write this book the way lives are being lived not the way books are written. All through the process, Steinbeck remained aware of the fact that he was creating a literary work. DeMott describes The Grapes of Wrath as an engaged novel with a partisan posture, many complex voices, and passionate prose styles. Steinbeck saw the composition process of the novel similar to the composition of a symphony - he wanted his chapters, voices and styles speak to each other, resonate with recurring themes, the total impression far more powerful than its individual parts. Steinbeck wrote of events and people he himself experienced and knew, and his concern was humanitarian: to do justice to the migrant men and women, their desire to work and their efforts to retain their dignity and settle in the Promised Land, be an advocate for the common working people whose abuse by their corporate employers was largely a silent tragedy. Men willing to work were hungry and starved in the land of plenty, which for Steinbeck (and any moral human being) was unacceptable; He sided with David rather than Goliath, and set out to write an epic which would surpass all of his other work. This must be a good book, he wrote in his journal, it simply must. I haven't any choice. It must be far and away the best thing I have ever attempted - slow but sure, piling detail on detail until a picture and an experience emerge. Until the whole throbbing thing emerges. Steinbeck was aware of his ambition and consciously employed imagery from and parallels to the single best read epic text in the US - the Bible. The exodus of the Joad family to California was written with the attention and momentum of the Biblical Exodus of the Isrealites, led by Moses out of Egypt. California is the Promised Land, a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:7-9). The Okies arriving at the border of California are stopped by the border patrol guards, who refuse to let them enter (except for when the labor is needed) - much like the Israelites faced persecution and cruelty from the Amonites, Moabites and Edomites when they were trying to enter Caanan. Tom Joad can be seen as Moses - he killed a man who spoke bad about Jim Casy, like Moses killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave, and both served as leader figures for their people. Jim Casy is a Christ figure, down to the same initials - a preacher who questioned the established religion and fought the temptations of flesh, and lead the twelve Joads like Christ lead his twelve disciples. Like Jesus, he disappeared and wandered alone; He taught the gospel of social and spiritual unity: love for all men, sympathy for the poor and oppressed. (view spoiler)[Casy believed in his mission to save the suffering workers so much that he was willing to give his life for it, and his death is exactly like that of Christ - he dies a martyr, killed because of his beliefs, murdered by an agent of power with a piece of wood. (hide spoiler)] . The Joads depend on their car like Noah depended on his ark, and like Noah gathered all the necessary species to preserve life on earth they gathered all their important things to ensure their own survival. The old Testament practically jumps off the page - there's even a literal flood in this story. It is also interesting to see from the perspective of a contemporary reader how the novel reads like a perfect example of a dystopian novel: large banks took hold over the land of the Joads and evicted them from it, forcing them to leave their native land of Oklahoma where society has collapsed and migrate towards a new, better world. The theme of large corporations and financial institutions effectively assuming control over lives of individual people is a classic dystopian theme, and so is the journey of a group of those who survived the collapse of society - classic example being The Stand, more recent being the Pulizer winning The Road. Steinbeck's landscape is bleak and hostile, his protagonists experience real life-threatening risks and deprivations which forces them to cross many boundaries. The Grapes of Wrath became the most successful social protest novel of the 20th century, and its message remains fresh and accurate even today, especially today. We live in a period characterized by growing income inequality and the widening gap between the richest and the poorest, where certain institutions of the financial sector have been deemed "too big to fail" effectively making them more dangerous than ever. Corporations lobby the politicians to ensure that their own interests are met, and enjoy a wide range of big government subsidies and tax breaks, sponsored by ordinary citizens. While the big corporations enjoy all the benefits guaranteed by a big, nanny state ordinary citizens are being told that they don't deserve it and that they have to help themselves and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps; politicians and pundits use the words "welfare" in pejorative context when it comes to their own viewers and constituents, as if it was something shameful instead of an extended hand, which helps the ordinary working people stay afloat. A welfare state is inconsiderable if it could actually benefit those who need it most - the poor and struggling ordinary citizens, who are left to walk on their own and slowly cross to the other side. In this vision of society all that I regard as a vice is turned into a virtue: greed, selfishness and no care for the weaker, a world where people push forward with sharp elbows and know the price of everything and the value of nothing. American economist Robert Reich recently made a succinct post on his Facebook page, which I quote here in its entirety (emphasis mine). Play us out, Mr. Reich. "One of the legacies of the Reagan-Thatcher era -- which is very much still with us -- was to denigrate the very idea of the "public good." Anything preceded by the adjective "public" -- public schools, public transportation, public parks, public libraries, public welfare -- was (and is) suspect. The private sector, it was assumed, could do it better; competition and the profit motive would generate savings and efficiencies; citizens would be better served if they were treated as "customers" and "clients." Well, we now have three decades to assess the results. What happened? "Privatization" has meant more profits for the private sector, better services for those wealthy enough to pay more for them, and poorer services and higher taxes for almost everyone else. The rich have seceded into their own private schools, private jets, private health clubs, and privatized communities; most Americans must now pay individually for what previous generations paid for collectively, through their taxes. Certain public goods, like higher education, have morphed into private investments. But the biggest loss, I think, has been our sense of the common good itself: out understanding that we are all in it together, that we are bound together by an implicit social contract involving obligations to one another that define a decent society, and that much of what we have and enjoy in life depends on what we achieve in common with others."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    Oklahoma, 1939. Tractors invade the barren plains, ruining crops, demolishing houses, stripping farmers of their livelihood, leaving only billows of dust and ransacked land behind. Bewildered families choke with disbelief at the lame excuses of the landowners who blame a monster bigger than them. Not the severe droughts, not the iron machines, not their useless greed, but the bank, the bank forced them to do it. And so a pilgrimage of thousands of destitute families to the promised land of California Oklahoma, 1939. Tractors invade the barren plains, ruining crops, demolishing houses, stripping farmers of their livelihood, leaving only billows of dust and ransacked land behind. Bewildered families choke with disbelief at the lame excuses of the landowners who blame a monster bigger than them. Not the severe droughts, not the iron machines, not their useless greed, but the bank, the bank forced them to do it. And so a pilgrimage of thousands of destitute families to the promised land of California where the valleys are ripe with fresh hope and sweet grapes begins, and the roads become a limbless reptile hauling an endless tail of wrecked trucks and rootless people who have exchanged their living heritage for the expectation of honest jobs and decent lives. A debunked list of thwarted illusions and betrayed promises awaits the Joads, the protagonists of Steinbeck’s tale of protest and epitomization of countless second rate Americans who had to endure the degradation of being treated like cattle, the marginalization of inhuman living conditions and the bigoted treatment of their fellow citizens as a result of the Great Depression’s climatic, social and economic debacle. More than seventy years later, Steinbeck's denouncement of the effects of an abusive system that endorses laws of supply and demand over humanity and social justice mirrors the precarious situation of many developed countries that are struggling against unmanageable unemployment rates and massive migratory movements, which elevates the writer’s prophetic voice of protest to an enduring literary classic that speaks on its own. “The Grapes of Wrath” is composed of juxtaposed symphonic alternating movements. Short, jazzy and lyrical chapters combining journalistic language with spiritual rhythms give an atemporal view on the migrant drama, which in turn arise as premonitory for the interweaved longer narrative chapters depicting the Joad family’s exodus to California and their symbolic plight for moral equity. Framed in bold dialogue and raw dialectical jargon, a menagerie of styles, dissonant voices, folk wisdom and biblical imagery gives shape to the mystic soul of the book, which orbits around two concentric points: land and family. When the Joads are obliged to abandon their farm they are also deprived of their dignity, of their ancestry, of their roots. Once the land is lost, drastic developments threaten the family unit but Ma Joad, tough and vulnerable mother, resilient and respectful wife, gentle and brawly cornerstone of the Joads' collective willpower, and her son Tom, the male counterpoint to Ma’s ability to adapt, personify the indignation that fuels the spark of revolt to preserve self-respect in front of implacable adversity. But when hope becomes desperation, desperation melts in prayer, prayer degenerates into hunger and hunger ferments in wrath and the skies break lose in floods of misfortune and a mother caresses the disfigured face of her son in the dark, the debilitated bonds that kept the family together shatter silently in fragmented impotence and paralyzing vexation, leaving only one absolute, pulsating soul that speaks for all people, the ghost of Tom Joad: “Then it don’t matter. Then I’ll be aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where – wherever you look. 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. 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.” And this is how Steinbeck’s polivalent epic evolves from socio-economic determinism to numinous spirituality, for the fury of losing land and lineage metamorphoses into a chant of redemptive love for mankind that overcomes individual boundaries, temporal limits and material needs and rekindles a perdurable harmonious faith that can only be born of the most inexhaustible and universal compassion. “The people in flight from terror behind – strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    OMGOSH! Powerful and Tragic.......with an ending NEVER to be forgotten!In THE GRAPES OF WRATH, hard times plague the Joad family from beginning to end, and chronicle the Great Depression of the 1930's. No rain, dust storms and the dreaded "monster" bank ended a much-loved and long-lived way of life forcing farmers to become migrant workers traveling from one unwelcome place to another; and No work + No money = No food, but the Joad's never give up despite being tired, beaten down, angry and sad. They shared their lives, what littleforgotten!In OMGOSH! Powerful and Tragic.......with an ending NEVER to be forgotten!In THE GRAPES OF WRATH, hard times plague the Joad family from beginning to end, and chronicle the Great Depression of the 1930's. No rain, dust storms and the dreaded "monster" bank ended a much-loved and long-lived way of life forcing farmers to become migrant workers traveling from one unwelcome place to another; and No work + No money = No food, but the Joad's never give up despite being tired, beaten down, angry and sad. They shared their lives, what little food they had and gave everything of themselves as you will see by the remarkable conclusion of this 1939 classic. "Jus' try to live the day, jus' the day." While not a particularly fast read, Steinbeck (my #1 favorite author) creates realistic characters and devotes several (short) interim chapters (including Chapter 1) to developing an atmospheric description of the time, and.......While EAST OF EDEN continues to be one of my all-time favorite reads, I definitely felt THE GRAPES OF WRATH deserving of a 5 Star rating as well. "It is a work conceived on a completely different plane."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    “I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the house they build, I’ll be there too…” - Tom Joad in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath “And the angel thrust/>“And “I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the house they build, I’ll be there too…” - Tom Joad in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath “And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God…” - The Book of Revelations 14:19 (King James Version) For as long as I can recall, I have loved reading. But that love has been tested before. I am speaking, of course, about school, and in particular, about a succession of uninspired English teachers foisting uninspired syllabi upon their disinterested students. It only takes one fourth-rate translation of Crime and Punishment to make you foreswear the written word in favor of the videogame console. Maybe it was the very fact that I was being forced to read that did it. Whatever the reason, I spent most of high school and college absorbing very little of value from my literature courses. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was the exception. You can keep To Kill a Mockingbird and (especially) Catcher in the Rye. It was Steinbeck’s sturdy portrayal of the itinerant Joad family, leaving the dustbowl of Oklahoma for the green fields of California, that captured my imagination. My reasons for enjoying The Grapes of Wrath are probably the same reasons that this perennially-assigned book has so many critical detractors. I loved the simplicity of the language, which eschewed formal daring (i.e., pretentiousness) in favor of a lyrical plainness that brought to mind Robert Penn Warren. I also appreciated the blunt-force of the message. There is very little subtlety here. Instead, it is a parable, filled with obvious symbolism and rife with meanings. Steinbeck does not try to hide his message; he is not endeavoring to get you to spend the rest of your days attempting to translate the runes. This summer, I decided to test my recollection with a reread, while also consuming another bona fide classic. Coming on the heels of Les Misérables, the 528-page Okie epic felt practically brisk. A summary of The Grapes of Wrath is incredibly straightforward (which was probably another reason I appreciated this as a student). It opens with Tom Joad on his way home from prison, where he has served four years for manslaughter. The home he finds, however, is changing fast. Dry weather is destroying the crops, and corporate-owned tractors are driving off the tenant farmers. Soon enough, Tom and the Joad family (Pa and Ma; Granpa and Granma; Uncle John; brothers Al, Noah, and Winfield; and sisters Rose of Sharon and Ruthie), along with former preacher Jim Casy, hop in a beat-up old truck and hit Route 66. In their journey to California, and their encounters once they arrive, we experience themes – the white working class; economic inequality; migration – that seem as relevant as ever. Perhaps the most striking thing about The Grapes of Wrath (which is otherwise proudly straight-down-the-middle), is its use of intercalary chapters. It is a structure that can possibly determine – on its own – your reaction to Steinbeck’s opus. The intercalary chapters are cutaway scenes that are inserted throughout the central narrative. They have nothing to do with the Joad family whatsoever and consist of descriptions of the weather; vignettes between unrelated characters; and towards the end of the novel, a fierce denunciation of merciless profiteering: 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 quick-lime, 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. As you might have guessed already, I am fine with these chapters. In fact, some of them I really liked. One clever chapter, for instance, is told in stream-of-conscious style from the perspective of a used car salesman as he gulls the hicks and rubes who wander onto his lot. Of course, one can view this quite differently, as mere filler that needlessly swells an otherwise spare storyline. I will acknowledge that it is an arguable point. Yet in adding these sections, Steinbeck is able to create the larger context through which the Joad family is moving, adding a mythic overlay to their journey, making it into a modernized version of westward pioneers in their covered wagons. For me, the most impressive thing about Steinbeck’s writing is his uncanny and immersive powers of description. When he paints a scene, he fills out the canvas, all the way to the edges. You know what a thing looks like; how the heat feels; what sound the wind is making: A gentle wind followed by rain clouds, driving them northward, a wind that softly clashed the drying corn. A day went by and the wind increased, steady, unbroken by gusts. The dust from the roads fluffed up and spread out and fell on the weeds beside the fields, and fell into the fields a little way. Now the wind grew strong and hard and it worked at the rain crust in the corn fields. Little by little the sky was darkened by the mixing dust, and the wind felt over the earth, loosened the dust, and carried it away. The wind grew stronger. The rain crust broke and the dust lifted up out of the fields and drove gray plumes into the air like sluggish smoke. The corn threshed the wind and made a dry, rushing sound. The finest dust did not settle back to earth now, but disappeared into the darkening sky… The characters are admittedly archetypes, which is a fancy way of saying they are built from the feet-up with clichés. Still, Steinbeck draws everyone, even side characters like Uncle John, with great vividness. The lodestar of the group is Ma, fierce and tough as a cob, willing to do anything to keep the family together, and imbued with a pragmatic wisdom: “Ain't you thinkin’ what’s it gonna be like when we get there?” [Al asked]. “Ain't you scared it won’t be nice like we thought?” “No,” [Ma] said quickly. “No, I ain't. You can’t do that. I can’t do that. It’s too much – livin’ too many lives. Up ahead they’s a thousan’ lives we might live, but when it comes, it’ll on’y be one…” One of the ways you know an author has done a good job with a character is when you feel yourself hating him or her with great passion. In that regard, Steinbeck also succeeds, as selfish Al, senseless Winfield, whining Rose of Sharon, and hopeless Ruthie all drove me nuts. Now, you might say that’s the bulk of the cast. That is correct. Things are helped along, however, by a lot of witty dialogue, ribald humor (including a couple Tom Joad penis jokes), and genuinely tense confrontations. (There is also the general implication that human beings, on occasion, engage in sexual relations, a fact that caused at least one contemporary critic to label this “pornography.” It is not, dear reader, pornography). The Grapes of Wrath has always been attended by controversy. Some of it stems from the aforementioned earthiness. More of it comes from Steinbeck’s alleged politics. The charge, as is often the case if someone gives the free market the side-eye, is that Steinbeck was espousing Communism. Certainly, he was a pro-labor leftist, and accordingly showed some sympathy with the cause. But Steinbeck really tried to avoid being pigeonholed into one ideology. At the end of the day, he was interested in people, and the only theory that he delineates with any kind of coherence is the belief in the power of people working together. To be sure, there is within these pages a critique of capitalism and the way it – in its purest form – can wring a person’s life for a bigger margin of profit. This came from an honest place, as Steinbeck covered migrant workers during the Great Depression as a journalist. He went to Hoovervilles and government camps. He collected the stories. His sympathies were with the worker and their mistreatment served as the wellspring of his anger. Near the end of The Grapes of Wrath, when he finally unleashes a barrage at unrestrained corporate capitalism, it still feels raw, eighty years after it was published. Steinbeck believed a revolution was coming. Ultimately, he was wrong about the shape history was taking. Perhaps he misread the tea leaves. More likely, the sudden explosion of the Second World War, which created millions of jobs, cut the revolution off at the knees. (The irony is that the Joad family, derided by Californians as “Reds,” are innately conservative people who were intent on avoiding government handouts. After Pearl Harbor, they likely found decent defense industry jobs and got Ma that white house she was always dreaming on. Heck, the next generation probably voted for Reagan. Commies, indeed!). Unpacking the controversies and the politics and the symbolism and even the timelessness are beside the point. What makes The Grapes of Wrath a great novel is that it transports you into a fully-realized world, with fully-realized characters. When I finished the final page (even with its whacky ending), the story did not end. I continued to think about the characters, to imagine where they might go next. And even when I stopped actually thinking about them, I still remembered them. It has been twenty years since I read this last, and upon reading it again, it struck me that I had never forgotten it in the first place.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters

    I’m listening to the Audiobook. It’s sooooo good!!!! I’ve read the book. I’ve seen the stage production, but I never listen to the audiobook.... and the narrator’s are so so terrific!!!!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    Chirst. This was a tough one to read. I don't just mean it was depressing. It was, obviously - a book about a poor family being forced from their home during the Great Depression and having to beg for the chance to pick cotton at fifteen cents per hour can't be anything except depressing - but it wasn't the most depressing book I've ever read. That honor probably goes to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, although I guess Angela's Ashes is a close second. This was hard to read, not because it was a p Chirst. This was a tough one to read. I don't just mean it was depressing. It was, obviously - a book about a poor family being forced from their home during the Great Depression and having to beg for the chance to pick cotton at fifteen cents per hour can't be anything except depressing - but it wasn't the most depressing book I've ever read. That honor probably goes to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, although I guess Angela's Ashes is a close second. This was hard to read, not because it was a portrayal of a horrible period of history that actually happened. That contributed to the tragedy of the book, of course, coupled with the knowledge that there were not just a few Joad families during the Great Depression, but millions of them, so your percentage of possible happy endings is going to be pretty low. It wasn't even sad because Steinbeck was using the backdrop of the Great Depression to illustrate the greater problems in America - the disparity between rich and poor, the way low-level laborers have to fight tooth and nail to achieve the most basic human rights, the fact that the people who run the major banks and farms are horrible unfeeling shells of human beings, etc. The Grapes of Wrath is sad for all of these reasons, but here is what makes it sadder than anything: not the fact that Steinbeck is writing about a horrible period in history that's behind us now. It's because that horrible period went away, and then it came back. We aren't in the middle of a second Dust Bowl, but make no mistake: we are living in the second Great Depression. If you haven't read yet and have always been meaning to, there's no better time than now. Steinbeck's book was written in the late 1930's, but just about everything that happens here is happening right in your state - possibly in your neighborhood - as you read this. You read about the banks in the Great Depression sending men to bulldoze people's houses while the family stood outside, and find yourself thinking, "Well, at least now they just pile all your stuff on the curb after you get foreclosed on." You read about migrant families accepting offers to work all day at pitiful wages, because fifteen cents an hour is still better than zero cents an hour and the kids have to eat, and you think about the immigrants who pick your food in exchange for shitty wages. You read about the Joad family and the others being called "Okies" and forced out of their camps by the cops, and think about politicians who scream about "illegals" taking away the good American jobs and deporting kids' parents. Is this review getting too politcally-minded? Good. That's how Steinbeck would have wanted me to talk about his book, because let me assure you - The Grapes of Wrath is extremely fucking political. Another reviewer called it the anti-Atlas Shrugged, which is pretty damn apt. It's all about unions and the rights of the worker and how poor people need government assistance because sometimes life just sucks for no fucking reason. It's sad and it's searing, and beautifully written, and unrelentingly depressing. But it should be read. (the only reason this gets four stars instead of five is because of the ending. Look, I know that Steinbeck didn't have to give the Joads a happy ending, and I'm not saying he gave them a sad one either - he gave them a weird one instead. I was already pretty sick of hearing about Rose of Sharon and her magical pregnancy, so it was just the cherry on top of a shit subplot sundae that the ending (view spoiler)[had her breastfeeding an old man after her baby died. First: allow me to turn into a middle-schooler for a second and say ewwwwwwwwwww. Second: I kind of get what Steinbeck was trying to say with his ending, because it kind of tied into his idea that the only ones who help poor people are other poor people, and Rose of Sharon was literally feeding a dying man with her own body and oh my god personal sacrifice...but on the other hand, she was breastfeeding an adult man. And it was weird and gross and then the book was over. Nope. (hide spoiler)]

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This novel is amazing. The Grapes of Wrath is one of those books that for years I'd been embarrassed I hadn't read yet. I was familiar with other works by John Steinbeck, but somehow I hadn't gotten around to this classic of American literature until now. Pardon my language, but holy shit is this book good. I was blown away by the scope of the work, how it followed not just the Joad family traveling from Oklahoma to California, but it also meditated on the problems of all the displaced fam This novel is amazing. The Grapes of Wrath is one of those books that for years I'd been embarrassed I hadn't read yet. I was familiar with other works by John Steinbeck, but somehow I hadn't gotten around to this classic of American literature until now. Pardon my language, but holy shit is this book good. I was blown away by the scope of the work, how it followed not just the Joad family traveling from Oklahoma to California, but it also meditated on the problems of all the displaced families of the Great Depression, and on all the poor farmers who were driven from their homes and their lands by Big Banks and Greedy Corporations. Many of those farmers ended up in California, hoping to find work and a decent living, but instead found menial wages, prejudice, hunger and disease. It's a devastating chapter of American history. I listened to this on audio, read by the talented actor Dylan Baker, and I would highly recommend his performance. I also recommend the 1940 film version directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda, which was mostly faithful to the book. In the movie, Fonda seems to be carrying the entire weight of the Depression on his shoulders. I think what is most alarming about reading The Grapes of Wrath in the early 21st century is recognizing how relevant the themes are today, because the country is still run by big banks and greedy corporations. Karl Marx was right: The working class is oppressed, y'all. Five stars for the impressive John Steinbeck. Five stars for the Joad family, searching for a new life. And five stars for Dylan Baker's excellent narration. Favorite Quotes "There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do." "And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed." "Muscles aching to work, minds aching to create - this is man." "She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt or fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build laughter out of inadequate materials....She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall." "If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it 'cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he's poor in hisself, there ain't no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an' maybe he's disappointed that nothin' he can do 'll make him feel rich." "Sure, cried the tenant men,but it’s our land…We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it’s no good, it’s still ours….That’s what makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Vellacott

    This was a library book. I didn't get on with it at all despite trying to read it twice. I gave up about a third of the way through in the end. It is about the life of one American family during the Great Depression. There is some beautiful creative writing in places but the story itself is so very slow. It just didn't hold my interest due to the lengthy dialogue between the characters who were talking about nothing in particular. It was like being a fly on the wall at a really dull tea party wh This was a library book. I didn't get on with it at all despite trying to read it twice. I gave up about a third of the way through in the end. It is about the life of one American family during the Great Depression. There is some beautiful creative writing in places but the story itself is so very slow. It just didn't hold my interest due to the lengthy dialogue between the characters who were talking about nothing in particular. It was like being a fly on the wall at a really dull tea party where everyone is making small talk. It seems they were allowing waves of nostalgia to sweep over them--forcing everyone to listen as one by one they recounted monotonous tales from their youth. I guess I probably shouldn't make such comments about something labelled a classic, but for me it was not. As a Christian, I also found the language, particularly the regular blasphemy, offensive and would probably have stopped reading earlier for that reason had it not been a classic. I also didn't appreciate the early scenes where the local vicar was using his position to bed all of the young women in his parish. I don't recommend this book due to the language, the sexual content and the monotony, I'm sorry I wasted a few hours on it. I consider that I have carried out my duty by advising you, fellow readers, not to do the same.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    This book was incredibly scary; especially because it was so realistic. John Steinbeck has a way of depicting society and people in a raw and honest way that leaves you with a hollow feeling inside, and yet you devour his books because they are so amazing. In "The Grapes of Wrath" we meet Tom, who has just been released from prison on probation, as well as his family who's about to move to the West because banks and tractors have evicted them from their own home and land. It's USA in the middle This book was incredibly scary; especially because it was so realistic. John Steinbeck has a way of depicting society and people in a raw and honest way that leaves you with a hollow feeling inside, and yet you devour his books because they are so amazing. In "The Grapes of Wrath" we meet Tom, who has just been released from prison on probation, as well as his family who's about to move to the West because banks and tractors have evicted them from their own home and land. It's USA in the middle of the Great Depression and times are changing. Everyone is moving from East to West in order to find work and survive these new and abhorrent circumstances. In many ways, the writing of this book is very straight-forward, but at the same time it digs deeper when you read between the lines and look behind the characters' behaviour and dialogue. I was especially fond of how Steinbeck, at every other chapter, stops up to depict the conditions in America at that point in time; whether it be about a car seller and his greediness, the devastating conditions for the workers in the fruit fields or a turtle. I was a big fan, and especially the ending left me speechless. Until now, "East of Eden" has been my favourite of Steinbeck's, but "The Grapes of Wrath" is a close runner-up.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Renato Magalhães Rocha

    The Grapes of Wrath is a story about the pursuit of power by a few selected individuals and its domino effects on the society and the lives of thousands of people. While the story itself is set on the times of the Great Depression, back in the 1930s and 1940s, we can still trace parallels with the contemporary world we’re living in more than 60 years later. Sadly, still to this day, we can see in the news that there are people working for less than the minimal wage and under slave labor conditions.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    NEW DELHI: There has been an upward trend in cases of farmer suicides in Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka and Punjab recently, besides reporting of instances in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, says an Intelligence Bureau note submitted to the Modi government late last week. The December 19 report, marked to national security adviser Ajit Kumar Doval, principal secretary to the Prime Minister Nripendra Mishra, and agriculture ministry, among others, has blamed rising farmer sui NEW DELHI: There has been an upward trend in cases of farmer suicides in Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka and Punjab recently, besides reporting of instances in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, says an Intelligence Bureau note submitted to the Modi government late last week. The December 19 report, marked to national security adviser Ajit Kumar Doval, principal secretary to the Prime Minister Nripendra Mishra, and agriculture ministry, among others, has blamed rising farmer suicides on erratic monsoon (at the onset stage) this year, outstanding loans, rising debt, low crop yield, poor procurement rate of crops and successive crop failure. It also linked the agriculturists' woes to a depleted water table, unsuitable macro-economic policies with respect to taxes, non-farm loans and faulty prices of import and export. - The Times of India, Dec. 26, 2014 More than 270,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves since 1995. Campaigners say a contributing factor may be the high price of genetically modified seeds flooding the market, which is piling pressure on poorly paid growers, forcing many into a cycle of unmanageable debt. - The Guardian, May 5, 2014 There are some books which hit you with an impact like a sledgehammer. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is such a book. I read it during a period of recuperation after a severe bout of viral flu during my late teens. I never knew who Steinbeck was before I read this book, and I had only a sketchy idea of what the Great Depression was. After I finished it, I had become a fan of the author, and my political views had shifted permanently to the left of the spectrum. The Western States nervous under the beginning change. Texas and Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, California. A single family moved from the land. Pa borrowed money from the bank, and now the bank wants the land. The land company--that's the bank when it has land--wants tractors, not families on the land. Is a tractor bad? Is the power that turns the long furrows wrong? If this tractor were ours it would be good--not mine, but ours. If our tractor turned the long furrows of our land, it would be good. Not my land, but ours. We could love that tractor then as we have loved this land when it was ours. But the tractor does two things--it turns the land and turns us off the land. There is little difference between this tractor and a tank. The people are driven, intimidated, hurt by both. We must think about this. One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a single tractor took my land. I am alone and bewildered. And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlarge of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here "I lost my land" is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate--"We lost our land." The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first "we" there grows a still more dangerous thing: "I have a little food" plus "I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the thing is on its way, the movement has direction. Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side-meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women; behind, the children listening with their souls to words their minds do not understand. The night draws down. The baby has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It's wool. It was my mother's blanket--take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning--from "I" to "we." If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin, were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into "I," and cuts you off forever from the "we." The Western States are nervous under the beginning change. Need is the stimulus to concept, concept to action. A half-million people moving over the country; a million more restive, ready to move; ten million more feeling the first nervousness. And tractors turning the multiple furrows in the vacant land. Has there been a change? I don't think so. The news items quoted above are only a sample. The tractors of capitalism are still mowing the vacant land. ...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. Let's hope the world sees sense before the grapes of wrath are harvested.

  21. 5 out of 5

    James

    Book Review 3 out of 5 stars to The Grapes of Wrath, written in 1939 by John Steinbeck. I might have an unpopular opinion when it comes to this book, as it was fine but nothing fantastic for me. I admit, I read this in middle school, nearly 25 years ago, and never went back to read it again. I tend not to like books about awful things as the main plot. I don't mind when bad things happen, or circumstances change, but when the entire book is about the pain and suffering of a family, it doesn't usually rise to the t Book Review 3 out of 5 stars to The Grapes of Wrath, written in 1939 by John Steinbeck. I might have an unpopular opinion when it comes to this book, as it was fine but nothing fantastic for me. I admit, I read this in middle school, nearly 25 years ago, and never went back to read it again. I tend not to like books about awful things as the main plot. I don't mind when bad things happen, or circumstances change, but when the entire book is about the pain and suffering of a family, it doesn't usually rise to the top of my TBR. I might consider giving this one another chance, but you have some major convincing to do. I like Steinbeck, too, so it's not so much an issue with the author as it is with the topic. The writing is strong. The imagery is good. The characters are well drawn. The setting is very detailed. But when it comes to the plight of a family against the hardships all around them, it's a difficult read. Part of my issue may have been a connection with the story. While I certainly don't have a real-life connection with my favorite books (mysteries, thrillers...), you need to have an understanding and recognition between what's happening and how you live. Coming from the northeast, in a major metropolitan city, 50+ years after these times, it doesn't start off as something I'm familiar with. I usually don't read things about this time period or space for those reasons. If the characters called to me, I might have liked it more. Don't get me wrong... it's a good book. And it's got a place in the world of classics. And it helped highlight a lot of wrongs that people weren't aware of. And maybe because I learned those lessons from other books and other places, this one just didn't seem all that top notch to me. That said, it's Steinbeck, so there is something of value here. No one can tell reality like he can. About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    “Now Tom said, "Mom, wherever there's a cop beating a guy Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries Where there's a fight against the blood and hatred in the air Look for me, Mom, I'll be there Wherever somebody's fighting for a place to stand Or a decent job or a helping hand Wherever somebody's struggling to be free Look in their eyes, Ma, and you'll see me" And the highway is alive tonight nobody's foolin' nobody as to where it goes I'm “Now Tom said, "Mom, wherever there's a cop beating a guy Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries Where there's a fight against the blood and hatred in the air Look for me, Mom, I'll be there Wherever somebody's fighting for a place to stand Or a decent job or a helping hand Wherever somebody's struggling to be free Look in their eyes, Ma, and you'll see me" And the highway is alive tonight nobody's foolin' nobody as to where it goes I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light With the Ghost of Tom Joad” from the song The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen This was a buddy read with Stepheny and Erin. One thing Springsteen’s song proves is that not only the plight of the migrant worker hasn’t changed much but that the gulf between the haves and the have nots is as wide as ever. Steinbeck set this book during the Great Depression, when poor tenant farmers were driven from their land by a combination of drought, dust storms and poor soil management. They headed to California in hope of a new life, instead their hardships multiplied. Tom Joad, as played by Henry Fonda, is the face of John Ford’s excellent film version from 1940; however, Ma Joad is the heart and soul of the book. As the male characters give in to fear, rage and depression, Ma Joad tries desperately to hold her family together. It’s easy to see why this is a revered classic. Steinbeck’s writing is brimming with tension, poignancy and some of the greatest characters in American literature. When I home schooled my son, this was one of his favorites and as a measure to its greatness, we still talk about it today, especially the quasi-mystical symbol-laden ending. That’s the power of books and reading.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Infection in Literature: "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck (Original Review, 2002) There's no reason why we should judge a film on the basis of how faithful or otherwise it is to the book: it should be judged by how good it is as a film. The ending of the book could not be depicted on film in those days because censorship would not have allowed it, but there's no reason to ass If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Infection in Literature: "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck (Original Review, 2002) There's no reason why we should judge a film on the basis of how faithful or otherwise it is to the book: it should be judged by how good it is as a film. The ending of the book could not be depicted on film in those days because censorship would not have allowed it, but there's no reason to assume that Ford would have filmed Steinbeck's ending had he been able to. The artistic vision Ford was expressing was not Steinbeck's, but his own. My own view is that Steinbeck was a fine novelist, but that Ford was a great film-maker. Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" is a fine novel, but Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" is a great film.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    The Pulitzer Prize winning novel of 1940, this is the story of the Joad family, Oklahoma tenant farmers displaced from their land by the combined effects of ecological disaster, rampant capitalism and the Great Depression. The narrative follows the family as they travel from Oklahoma to California in search of work, along with hundreds of thousands of others in the same situation. Woven into the story of the Joads are chapters dealing with issues such as the attitude of Californians to the influ The Pulitzer Prize winning novel of 1940, this is the story of the Joad family, Oklahoma tenant farmers displaced from their land by the combined effects of ecological disaster, rampant capitalism and the Great Depression. The narrative follows the family as they travel from Oklahoma to California in search of work, along with hundreds of thousands of others in the same situation. Woven into the story of the Joads are chapters dealing with issues such as the attitude of Californians to the influx of migrant workers and the exploitation and mistreatment to which they were subjected. There is nothing about this novel which I don't love: Steinbeck's wonderful use of language, his ability to create memorable characters, his descriptions of the natural world, his use of symbolism and - probably most of all - his passion. Steinbeck is not a writer who hides himself behind his words: his humanism, his left-wing political views, his compassion for those whose story he tells are all right there in the text. Listening to the audiobook - which is superbly narrated by John Chancer - I felt I was getting to know Steinbeck as well as his characters. One of the things I most like about Steinbeck's writing is the sense that he wrote what he knew, not just what he had imagined or researched. When Steinbeck writes about displaced people, the reader is sure that he knew such people personally. When he describes a land turtle, it's because he had observed how a land turtle moves. When he has his characters carry out repairs to their truck, he knows what they would do because he's carried out those same repairs himself. Steinbeck lives and breathes in his writing. While this is the story of "Okies" in depression-era California, it's also the story of all those who have been forced to leave their homes - whether because of natural disaster, economic crisis, or conflict - and found themselves poor, hungry and desperate in a place where they are not welcome. It's a story which is repeated over and over, all over the world. The novel made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me angry and it made me sad. However, it also gave me hope. There is an essential humanity and a deep vein of hope in Steinbeck's characters: bad things happen to them, but they work hard to survive. And they know the power of love, of loyalty and of connectedness to each other. I will be forever grateful that a stopover in Monterey during a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles prompted me to finally start reading Steinbeck. I'd give this book ten stars if I could. It's quite simply a masterpiece.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rae Meadows

    I had read The Grapes of Wrath before, and I purposefully didn't re-read it while writing a novel set in the same period for fear I would somehow be influenced by it or be so intimidated I'd be paralyzed. So with my own book behind me I finally had the pleasure of reading The Grapes of Wrath again. Does it hold up? It does, though it's not perfect. The story of the Joads is fantastic, and Ma Joad is a rich and surprising character. Steinbeck's prose is deft and evocative, and those famous bits l I had read The Grapes of Wrath before, and I purposefully didn't re-read it while writing a novel set in the same period for fear I would somehow be influenced by it or be so intimidated I'd be paralyzed. So with my own book behind me I finally had the pleasure of reading The Grapes of Wrath again. Does it hold up? It does, though it's not perfect. The story of the Joads is fantastic, and Ma Joad is a rich and surprising character. Steinbeck's prose is deft and evocative, and those famous bits like the turtle crossing the road and the ending, when Rose of Sharon nurses the dying man, are great. At times the novel is a bit overwrought. This jaded reader had to stretch to accommodate some of the characters' naivete, particularly that of Rose of Sharon who is so dim she's a little hard to believe. (The John Ford film version takes the melodrama a little far for my taste.) The interspersed chapters, where Steinbeck attempts to go broad and tell the larger story about what is happening in America at that time works less well and structure ends up feeling a little clunky. However, Steinbeck was not just writing a novel, he was writing for social change and I am not the intended audience. But the journey of the Joads, as poor, struggling migrants who have not where to go, no where to make a life for their family, but who deserve dignity and fight for it, is particularly resonant right now. And for that I am grateful.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kellyn Roth

    WARNING: this is an extremely long and ranty review because I hate this book more than life itself. MORE WARNING: Spoilers, but I don't think you should read this book, so who cares? FURTHER WARNING: if through some strange twist of people having different opinions you loved this book and can't stand a salty, angry, comedic review of it ... well, this might not be for you. Forced by her mother, a young girl listened to an audiobook version of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It was something like/>FURTHER/>MORE WARNING: this is an extremely long and ranty review because I hate this book more than life itself. MORE WARNING: Spoilers, but I don't think you should read this book, so who cares? FURTHER WARNING: if through some strange twist of people having different opinions you loved this book and can't stand a salty, angry, comedic review of it ... well, this might not be for you. Forced by her mother, a young girl listened to an audiobook version of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It was something like forty hours long … and all 144,000 seconds were moments of extreme torture. Let’s dig into this so-called classic and see what really ticks at the heart of high school’s biggest monster. Part 1: Themes There are some books that become “classics” for no reason whatsoever. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair was one of those. However, at least every so-called “classic” I’ve read before has had a reason for existence or at least one or two logical points. The Jungle showed the world the terrible conditions of meat processing factories bringing about safer conditions, cleaner food, and less disease. The Grapes of Wrath, though? As far as I can tell, it can only lead to negative consequences - blaming the government for everything that goes wrong in your life, insistence and later dependence upon Welfare, and some very incorrect very unwise views of the world. There are many things wrong with The Grapes of Wrath. I’m not the kind of person who easily understands things I can’t touch and feel - like theories and symbolism - so everything I understood about the themes comes from what I’ve read. I’m told there’s a great deal of metaphorical speaking and such - personally, I didn’t pick up on the greater half of it. I think people over analyze things like paintings and books that really were pretty simple - and pretty dumb. The first obvious belief in this novel is that everyone is part of a community of some sort - the “Emersonian Oversoul” is the correct term, that everyone is connected and owes everyone else their money, time, and thoughts. At the same time, Steinbeck hints that only poor people are capable of being a part of this oversoul - as Ma states, “If you’re in trouble or hurt or need - go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help - the only ones.” (Stupid rich people who are all evil. Every single one of them.) Through this connection, there’s supposedly a kind of continuity to life. The turtle in chapter three symbolizes the perpetuation of the life circle, as does that whole creepy thing at the end with Rose of Sharon and the old guy. (I’ll talk more about that in the “Stupid Dumb Okies” section.) As a commentary I read explains, “Jim Casy’s reference to sin and virtue being part of one thing prefigures his concept of the oversoul, the belief that all souls are just small parts of one large soul.” First of all, what a load of garbage. (My apologies to anyone who believes this, I respect you, but … nope. Sorry. Individualism in Jesus Christ for me!). Second, let’s talk a little bit about Jim Casy. Casy is an immoral, stinking old man who seduces young women while masquerading as a preacher. Sounds like a special guy, right? Honestly, I can’t understand why this would be acceptable, even in the 1930s. Maybe even more so in the ‘30s as far as the sleeping around side of it; less so as far as the age discrepancy probably present, etc. Now, back to the government. In this book, “government camps” are treated like a kind of Heaven. Who is paying for the government camps? The government. Why? Because the government’s sole responsibility is to provide every need and comfort to the sojourners from Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest. Who … the government wronged? Let’s do a quick breakdown of what actually happened to the Midwesterners beneath all the subterfuge of Steinbeck’s prose (more on that later). 1: Stock market crashed in 1929. -Let’s stop for a moment to note that it crashed because of the greedy American people who invested in it. -But that’s not the government’s fault, really. -The government shouldn’t be involved in trade and business. It’s not the government’s job. 2: The banks all failed and there was no money to loan to folks. -Again, not the government, but whatevs. 3: In the Midwest, over-worked lands and dry weather created the Dust Bowl. -OH NO DID THE GOVERNMENT RUIN THE WEATHER??? -Stupid government. -#GlobalWarming 4: New equipment got invented that could make farming easier. -Stupid government. Inventing new farming equipment. 5: Land-owners actually wanted to efficiently harvest crops rather than give charity to a whole ton of farmers. -I HATE THE GOVERNMENT. -THE GOVERNMENT SUCKS. -DOWN WITH THE GOVERNMENT. -(or rather gimme some more government, because only government can make this right, let’s all be Communists together.) 6: Farmers got kicked off the land that they didn’t own and had no right to stay on. -(It’s kinda weird that they have such loyalty to land they don’t even own, but whatever.) 7: Farmers moved West to California because they were uneducated and could not do anything but farm. -Dang, government. You’re so mean. Look … I hate the government myself. But for the exact opposite reason of this book. I hate the government because it seeks more power than it should have … and people rely on it more than they ever should. The government is there to govern. Not to provide us good lives. The American dream is not “and then the United States gave us a good life free of charge.” No, it’s “The United States gave us the opportunity to work hard and, from the sweat of our brows, to build a good life.” Sometimes that has been harder than others … but for this particular event/issue you can’t blame the government! Also, I want to take a moment to say that though Connie is a terrible wishy-washy idiot, he kind of had the right idea with what the novel treats like ‘crazy dreams.’ If he got an education and went into some sort of technical line of work, he would have done well. Part 2: Writing Style I read that Steinbeck’s style was influenced by the King James Version of the Bible. Uh … no. The KJV isn’t quite so dead and hopeless. The Grapes of Wrath’s style is dry, rambling, and boring. There’s nothing happy, uplifting, poetic, or good about it. It’s a lifeless droning. There’s no real feeling in it - no real grasp of humanity. Most of the book consists of the meaningless conversations of one character with another character. They talk about everything under the sun - but it never gets anywhere. The rest of the book is extremely long descriptions which was sure to make you fall asleep. Only the fact that I was driving while listening to this story kept me awake - that’s for sure! Another literary technique Steinbeck uses often is repetition. It’s particularly evident in chapter seven. As my commentary says, the chapter “… is a staccato monologue delivered by a used car salesman pitching jalopies to dispossessed croppers.” Well, it does show well how the salesman is manipulating the farmers, but it’s still boring and could be cut down to maybe a few paragraphs. In fact, I’d say most of the book could be cut down to just a few paragraphs - the repetition isn’t used just as a literary device, but rather the whole book is repetition. It’s true that repetition ingrains things into peoples’ heads. I think The Grapes of Wrath is trying to ingrain the Joad’s whiny story into our heads. There is no main character in this book. At first you say, “Well, Tom, of course!” But really, every minor character is the main character. It’s confusing and makes it impossible to truly sympathize with everyone. You’re left in apathy, not caring what happens to the characters. Which brings us to … Part 3: Stupid Dumb Okies In California, they hate people from Oklahoma and call them “Okies,” usually with five or six cuss words/profanities attached. However, Steinbeck does nothing whatsoever to counteract this. In fact, the “Okies” are incredibly dumb! Uh … good job grinding the reputation of Oklahoma into the ground …? All of the Joad family and most of the characters we meet are incredibly dumb. They do dumb things; they say dumb things; they personify dumbness! Honestly, is anyone in this book likable at all? Let’s see … There’s Tom. He’s a many-time murderer who hates everyone and everything and isn’t afraid to show it. He has a terrible temper and is known for lashing out at everyone in sight. He also sleeps around. A lot. Then there’s Ma. On the surface, she seems pretty cool, the calm and controlled one of the family. However, she is also pretty dumb, seeming to think that Tom is actually a good guy. Sorry, weak-willed mother. Your children mostly suck? She was probably the best character of the story. Also, you let your mentally disabled son wander off and didn’t even go looking for him. Good job. Jim Casy is the former preacher who makes fun of the Bible, of God, and basically everything related to Christianity. He sleeps around even more than Tom, seducing young women who he was supposed to be a spiritual guide to. So likable. He also doesn’t believe that morals are a thing. Though neither does anyone else in this book, to be fair. Rose of Sharon Joad (or Rosasharn, haha). She’s a great character. Whines about anything, thinks about nothing but herself, is generally weak-willed and annoying. At the end, she decides to nurse an old man who’s dying of hunger. And I don’t mean “nurse back to health.” I mean, nurse, like one would nurse a baby. That’s not creepy and disgusting at all … (Another point against Ma: she let that happen and in fact encouraged it. Ma is actually a pretty bad Ma, to be honest?) Pa Joad is weak-willed and annoying and has no idea how to lead his family, leaving them hanging and letting Ma take over. Al, the Joad’s teenage boy, could be summed up in two words: Wants Girls. He loves having sex, and he has sex all the times with multiple girls and brags on it. I just love this guy … one of my favorites! Granpa Joad. He cusses, walks around with his clothes unbuttoned … and I mean even his underwear … and is basically dirty filthy, inside and out. No grief when he dies. I didn’t even care. Granma Joad. She prays, but since Christianity is a ridiculous stupid silly thing this is just ridiculous and leaves her open to ridicule. Though to be fair she is 100% senile. But they treated this as comical and make fun of her, kinda? But when she dies, again, I wasn’t that sad. Like, okay, now we don’t have to deal with her extremely annoying voice. Uncle John. Can’t get over himself. *eye roll* He needs Jesus’ grace to move past his life, but of course no one in this novel will offer that to him. Even when he almost asks for it. People in this book suck. Ruthie. Bossy and domineering little girl. Winfield. Spoiled brat. Noah. Actually, he’s kinda sweet … I like him. But then in the end he wanders off. Because the Joad family are jerks and won’t take care of their son who has a mental disability. Yay for Noah? Even though Noah is only a good guy because his father bashed his brains out when he was a newborn? Part 4: Plot (Is there one?) The basic “plot” of the book goes like this. ( Spoilers included, of course.) 1: Tom gets out of jail (for murder). Comes home, picks up Filthy Casy on the way. Finds his family home abandoned. Eventually makes his way to his Uncle’s farm more or less where his family is preparing to leave for California. 2: After chapters and chapters of absolute boring dry sentimental nonsense that is no help to anyone, let alone the plot, they head out to California. They slowly get there in another boring, long section. Granma and Granpa both die, by the way. No one really cares, though, let alone me. 3: They get to California. The work they thought they were going to get - even after they were warned several times by multiple people that there would be no work - isn’t there. 4: They live at a bad camp, then they move to a government camp which is nice except there’s still no work, so they don’t have food. Eventually they leave the government camp and go to another place where they pick peaches. Connie abandons “Rosasharn,” his wife and Tom’s sister, at this point, and she whines a lot. Even though she’s the one who married the shiftless idiot. Whatever. 5: Anyway, at some point in here, Tom’s temper flares up once again. And now he’s SERIOUSLY in trouble and runs away from the family. Good riddance to bad rubbish. 6: Then they end up living in these abandoned boxcars as they pick cotton. And the river floods. And Rosasharn’s baby is stillborn, but at this point I couldn’t care less. And after a couple days of living on a platform they built above the water in the boxcar, they decide to leave. Although Al stays behind. And at this point Casy isn’t around anymore, by the way. #dead 6: So they (everyone but Al and the dead people and the people who have run off) walk down the road and it starts to rain. They go into this barn, there’s a starving guy, and Rosasharn offers him her breast milk, it is disgusting. 7: The End? Okay, isn’t that the most exciting, interesting, intriguing plot, EVER?! I know, it’s dry as a bone. I frankly don’t know why or how anyone would enjoy it! Part 5: Negative Content This is the most disgusting part about the book. The content. It’s absolutely ridiculous! How could one book be so packed full of cussing, profanity, sexual innuendoes and references and acts, filthy people, cruel and immoral men and women, and all manners of sin and evilness and darkness? It’s like a hell hole in there. The whole moods of this book is made doubly dark by the content. I would say 18+, but it’s more like 92+. Even then I wouldn’t recommend it. 92-year-olds don’t need their minds pervaded by this filth, either. Just to give you a small selection of what is contained between the pages of this book - as it would take me almost a full book to list every little thing - here’s a few things I remember off the top of my head. Profanity/Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain: G*ddamn in all its forms, G*d in all its forms, Chr*st, J*sus Chr*st, and several other forms of those words taken in a vary light way. Tom’s favorite expression, in fact, was “Chr*st.” Thanks a lot for using my Lord and Savior’s name like that, Tom. I appreciate it. So much that I wanted to vomit about a hundred times every page due to it. Cussing: d*mn in all its forms, sh*t in all its forms, h*ll in all its forms, various other words. B*tch (and related words) in all its forms. No f-bombs that I remember (and I probably would have remembered), but the frequency of the other words was SUPER high. As in, high enough to more than make up for it. There wasn’t a single character who didn’t spew profanity every time they spoke. Sometimes they were cussing more than they were using actual words! It was ridiculous and unnecessary and gross. Sexual: Lots of kissing/necking/petting, etc. Never described in great detail, but it’s there. There’s one scene where I believe Rosasharn (can’t be bothered with typing out her whole name) and Connie have sex or at least it’s alluded to very heavily, and basically talk about afterwards and beforewards and wanting each other and what not. Tom, Casy, and Al all talk about sleeping with women, how much they want to sleep with women, etc. for hours on end. Many, many sexual jokes and innuendos and references. Lots of similar filthy talk. It was pretty constant. Other: Death, destruction, murder, violence, scary scenes, police violence, mobs, scummy living conditions. Take your pick, I’ve got more! (Not that all of that is necessarily something that shouldn’t have been included, but it added to the dark and dim and hopeless feeling of the book.) Would you believe that’s only a small selection? It is indeed a super filthy book. Not one anyone under eighteen should ever pick up - poor high school students, how can you be expected to thrive when you must read this trash? - and even after that why would an adult want to read this? Ever? Too filthy for words, and all for no reason whatsoever. Part End: Conclusion Now, you can say whatever you want to me. You can say I didn’t understand it. You can say I’m just a silly highschooler who doesn’t know a thing about fine literature. But this is a 1-star book! It’s six hundred pages of absolute nonsense delivered in a boring, dry way. Who would I recommend this book to? Absolutely no one. Don’t waste your time. If you can get out of it, get out of it! Your life is too precious to waste on The Grapes of Wrath. Why are so many high school students forced to read this? For no reason whatsoever that I can see? Because people nowadays think the government needs to take care of them? Because Satan wants to make young folks hate all classics, not read them, and therefore not be inspired to be good people? That’s taking it a tad too far, but it feels almost true! Thanks for reading, ~Kellyn Roth, Reveries Reviews

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Isn't THE GRAPES OF WRATH just wonderful!!!!???? You've not read it??? Shit!!!! You don't know what you're missing!!!!!!!! If you've read it, then you will know exactly what I am talking about. I have lived on, or close to old route 66 for over 20 years of my life. I love the history of THE MOTHER ROAD. However, believe it or not, it was only in the past few years that I finally read this book! I had read other Steinbeck,and loved it,and for some reason, after owning a copy of the bo Isn't THE GRAPES OF WRATH just wonderful!!!!???? You've not read it??? Shit!!!! You don't know what you're missing!!!!!!!! If you've read it, then you will know exactly what I am talking about. I have lived on, or close to old route 66 for over 20 years of my life. I love the history of THE MOTHER ROAD. However, believe it or not, it was only in the past few years that I finally read this book! I had read other Steinbeck,and loved it,and for some reason, after owning a copy of the book since the 1980's, I just never got around to reading it. One of my life's regrets. Once I plowed in, I did nothing, but read till I finished it.....totally spellbound! I love the story of the Joads, with chapters mixed in on life,and history on the highway. The way he describes everything just makes me feel like I was an Okie myself, living it, breathing it, I was on that truck! After reading it for the very first time,and being totally blown away by the ending, I had to finally see the movie. However,after I finished that last page, for the very first time, I immediately turned back to the front of the book,and started reading it again, a 2nd time! Then ,not surprising to me, was the movie's ending is not at all like the book, but the movie is awesome as well. Nobody could have portrayed Tom Joad better then Henry Fonda. I have since read the book numerous times,and then we did it for our bookclub one month. I've rewatched the movie. I've traveled parts of the mother road. I can also recommend to you a fantastic history book on the history of Route 66. I've seen people at Ted Drews in St. Louis with copies of the history book clutched to their chests, because they are doing the route 66 vacation. I will ask them if they have been doing that type of vacation,and if they say yes, the next thing out of my mouth is... "Have you read THE GRAPES OF WRATH??" In most cases their response is yes. If it's no, I tell them they must rush to the nearest bookstore,and get a copy,and read it while on the road. I've had people ask me directions to the nearest bookstore so they can get a copy of the book. I had to buy a 2nd copy of the book because my original copy is about in shreds. I can't bring myself to throw it away, because when my eyes first experienced this mouth watering, rebel rousing story, it was that copy of the book!! There's also a book on the history of the novel,and how people in California burned it , if you'd like to know about that other book to read. Take care! Thanks for putting up with my enthusiasm for a classic piece of literature , such as this! Gary

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kinga

    Dear John, There is no doubt in my mind that you are an excellent writer. And I am sure you know this. There is the Pulitzer and there is the Nobel. There are hundreds of editions worldwide and swarms of five star reviews. “The Grapes of Wrath” is a book of great weight (literally and metaphorically). It’s epic and as timeless as the history which repeats itself with a stubborn regularity. There have always been changes and there have always been people left behind, people who found themsel Dear John, There is no doubt in my mind that you are an excellent writer. And I am sure you know this. There is the Pulitzer and there is the Nobel. There are hundreds of editions worldwide and swarms of five star reviews. “The Grapes of Wrath” is a book of great weight (literally and metaphorically). It’s epic and as timeless as the history which repeats itself with a stubborn regularity. There have always been changes and there have always been people left behind, people who found themselves outside the whatever brave new world which had no place for them. And there have always been people who didn’t want to know about them, who didn’t want to hear about them. John, I know you wrote this book for them, so that no one could feign ignorance. And I get it, John, your heart is in the right place. You did all the right things. Those ever so gentle shifts in the patriarchal society? Brilliant. You know how to warm my feminist heart with the portrayal of Ma who takes the reins over from Pa. Although, are you trying to say it’s a good thing that women take over when the world has gone to dogs or that it is another symptom of the world going to dogs? I don’t know. Never mind. According to new goodreads review guidelines I can’t judge you as a person, so let’s leave it. Let’s talk about your writing. A chapter about a turtle crossing a road? How did you pull that off? It should be proverbially boring and yet, I read it with a bated breath. Will the turtle make it to the other side of the road? Or that last final scene? Worth the seven hundred pages it takes to get to it. I grew to love the Joads, John, even though I know they’re just pawns in your game. But again, I forgive you because your intentions are good. You’re not calculating. You really do feel for all the Joads of the world and you want the world to feel it, too. You want us all to spare a thought for all the dispossessed of the world, those who loved earth and were one with it but they were forced to quit and abandon their land, to break that sacred bond and were replaced by soulless tractors and faceless banks and corporations. You’re preaching to the choir, John. My heart is in the right place, too. But you know what, John? And please, don’t take it the wrong way, I did love your book, but you weren’t subtle. I like my men subtle.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Absorbing and maddening and depressing. Incredible that a book with so much anti-migrant sentiment against fellow Americans is timely in a way Steinbeck didn’t intend for 2017, I’m sure. There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gautam

    Men squatted in their dooryards in a meditative trance, scrawling on the ground the reflections of their befuddling thoughts. The dust sifted up by the sweltering wind sought refuge on their dingy shoulders and hair. Women stood at the door, casting a tentative glance at their men with their bewildered eyes. Children stood docilely beside their Ma, showing restrained obedience: they knew when to play and when not to; their instinct prodded them to respect the silence pervading the air.

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