The Grapes of Wrath Kindle Edition by John Steinbeck Click Here to Download the Book John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression follows the western movement of one family and a nation in search of work and human dignity. Perhaps the most American of American classics. The novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of sharecroppers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in financial and agricultural industries. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they were trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other "Okies", they sought jobs, land, dignity and a future. When preparing to write the novel, Steinbeck wrote: "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects]." The book won Steinbeck a large following among the working class, perhaps due to the book's sympathy to the workers' movement and its accessible prose style. The Grapes of Wrath is frequently read in American high school and college literature classes. A celebrated Hollywood film version, starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford, was made in 1940.
Reviews "The Grapes of Wrath" follows a family of Oklahoma farmers who have been displaced from their land during the Dust Bowl period of the 1930's. Unable to pay off their debts to the bank, the family gives up its land as collateral and heads westward to California in search of work. The journey down Route 66 is slow and arduous, and the family finds itself beset by a series of trials which test its solidarity and its members' sense of hope. While the narration focuses narrowly on the individual family's experience, Steinbeck injects the story with essays describing the general economic and social conditions of the depression era. These chapters are incisive and evocative. They not only act to provide a sociological background, but they are also positioned so that we can understand the family's plight more fully. Even though most people who read "The Grapes of Wrath" read it in high school (I didn't), I think that is too early to appreciate its emotional poignancy or its intellectual clarity. John Steinbeck is my favorite author, the one who writes as I would write if only I could.
This was one of the best fiction books portraying reality that I've read. Set during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joads, a family from Oklahoma displaced from their land by economic hardship and drought, who migrate to California in search of a better life. At the same time, it adopts a macro perspective and describes the experiences faced by thousands of other migrants. I was fascinated by how the chapters alternated between the two, the description of events cum social commentary dovetailing so nicely with the Joads' story. I think the author had a powerful message on migration to convey, which remains applicable today. Even though the migration happened within the same country, the divide between the locals and migrants was no less acute. Just like how Singaporeans complain about foreign workers taking away their jobs and driving down wages, the Californians deeply resented 'Okies' who were willing to work for lower wages out of desperation. The 'Okies' too had their hopes and dreams - Al wanted to work in a garage, Connie wanted to take night classes and set up a radio shop, Ma just wanted a roof over their heads - but the odds were stacked too highly against them. One could also witness the effects of capitalism and industrialisation at work - banks driving farmers off their rented land and replacing them with tractors, the acquisition of farms by major corporations etc. I didn't quite understand the ending though. I felt that wasn't really a proper resolution. My guess is that they continued to struggle.
The Grapes of Wrath opens with thick descriptions of the Dust Bowl of America, interwoven metaphors alongside descriptions of the folk attempting to make a living and keep a sense self there, alongside loving descriptions of
the very earth itself. It is only after drawing the reader to empathise with the small landowners, with the families, with the Joad family in particular and their way of life and their way of relating to other people, that the slow-burning horror of the situation comes to a head and forces them off their land. It is Steinbeck's notion of pace - not pushing too quickly but allowing the reader to fall in love with the land as though they themselves were the cultivators striving to keep unbroken that chain of succession, that feeling of belonging to the land as it belongs to them, which makes this book a 'classic'. The Joads must flee, escaping hunger and seeking a new place to call a home in sunny California, known to them from glossy magazines showing white painted houses and ripe oranges. As history tells us, that is not what these desperate migrants found. This story is not just about one family, it is about all families who were driven from their land in the Dust Bowl leading to and during the Great Depression. Steinbeck dips into the wider arc of the story, using short chapters dotted between the tale of the Joads to show that their story was indeed the story of all. The Grapes of Wrath is many things, it is a political tract, it is a deep examination of the concept of the American family of that time, it is an explanation of economics, it is a lush description of the Dust Bowl and of California, it is a crushing indictment of the state's response to a humanitarian crisis. Riding high through these messages are those speaking of the power of humanity to push through crisis; of the ability of folk to pull together, the poor helping the poor. Today, it is often difficult to view the Great Depression as anything other than a historical event like any other children learn of in school. However reading the papers, catching the news, looking at the situation faced by many people around the world and indeed in America, we can see that The Grapes of Wrath is still vital. This is not just a snapshot of one time lost forever, the danger faced by families unable to support themselves due to the push of big business is ever present. Here is a book that can teach us lessons, make us laugh, and make us cry.
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