The Grapes of Wrath Online Download 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 John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is an epic novel in many ways, but ultimately has a simple message that anyone who has had setbacks or struggles can relate to. It’s the story of the underdog. This underdog is fighting for a piece of the American Dream during the harsh 1930s Depression. Those migrant “Okies” who trekked west weren’t out to conquer; they just wanted to make ends meet, to be able to work, to survive, to provide for their families. In our current state of economic woes, we can identify with crisis these people faced-- the risks, the work involved, picking up and leaving everything: possessions, cherished items, homes. All this for the prospects of a better future that California and the West seemed to symbolize. It was a difficult journey and many didn’t make it; those who did often found out that the “land of milk and honey” wasn’t as rosy as the handbills indicated. The conflicts of this journey West, the spiritual fight, is what Steinbeck depicts in a raw, poetic, realistic way that it is no wonder The Grapes of Wrath has become such an important novel for its historical perspective as well as literary merit. Within the framework of the novel, we follow the Joad family—a microcosm of the displaced family having to head out West. The novel also shifts from the Joad’s story to “bigger concept” chapters dedicated to illustrating what the migrants were facing. Tom Joad, after being released from prison, finds Jim Casy, former preacher, and they discover that everyone from the Joad clan appears to be heading out. With little prospects, they make the journey with the family, and we follow along, encountering the many conflicts along the way. There are those who cling to their roots, who are skeptical about the prospects of California, those like Grandpa Joad and Muley Graves, who believe leaving is a form of defeat. However, with bleak prospects, the move is imminent and necessary, even though they realize it will be a tough road ahead. Among the characters, Ma Joad, Jim Casy, and Tom Joad emerge as prominent figures. Ma Joad, the leader of the family who holds down the fort when things begin to falter or break apart; Jim Casy, the former preacher and spiritual man who sees the deeper soul of humanity; and Tom Joad, the rebel who makes strides to transform his character, to carry on Casy’s fight and the fight for his people, who speaks for an entire group when he says “I’ll be there.” The Grapes of Wrath, on one level, connects Depression era migrants with the dream of heading west and finding some semblance of an idyllic existence. Although many dreams are dashed, it is the struggle of this journey that becomes a main symbol. On another level, this novel is a picture of a time period, people trying to make it and survive, something we all relate to, which Steinbeck aptly and poetically captures. This is a timeless novel on many levels.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I hated Steinbeck when I lived in CT but since coming west I find there's no other author who captures the landscapes and tensions of the Golden State in the same way. Somehow I escaped high school and college without reading this one, but I don't think I would have appreciated it earlier. I was expecting this to be about the UFW (maybe because of the ongoing grape boycott
controversies) but it's not, another case of "this book is so famous that I have invented my own meaning for it without actually having read it." Well, now I have. I will probably watch the movie too. An incredible story drenched in the injustices of classism and corporate capitalism that are still bringing pain and suffering to farmers and so many others. I couldn't stop reading, but at the same time, every time I picked it up to continue, I was struck with fear in anticipation of what would happen next. What stuck with me most were the hypocrisies of hatred for the poor: "Don't give 'em hot water, then they'll expect hot water," combined with "They can't be human, living that way. We'd never live that way." The dialect also really sunk into my brain. Maybe it's time to try reading "The Red Pony" again and see if I understand it better than in 7th grade.
I dodged this somehow, all the way through high school and college, and am glad I did. Too much would have been lost back then. Now, as a person who works, as a person with children, this is about the saddest book I’ve ever read. This is tragedy, but one of a different kind. There is no hubris, no fool’s quest on the way to downfall, nothing Shakespearean or Greek about it, at all. Instead it is a tragedy about common, decent people trying to do that most common and decent of things: feed themselves, put a roof over their heads. The act of tenderness and nourishment, all born of desperation, in the book’s last scene (I won’t spoil it here) is tremendous. Steinbeck earns this great ending, not to mention the staying power of this book, with crisp writing, line-by-line, throughout; a genuine love for characters he gives shape to (even when things are as bleak as they can get, the Joads crack jokes and bicker like the rest of us), and an awareness of the social forces stack against them. Yes, at times the whole thing borders on the preachy, but even I wonder if Steinbeck wasn’t aware of that potential complaint. Look, after all, at the fate the Casy, the man who once was a preacher. “Woman got all her life in her arms. Man got it all in his head. Don’ you mind.”
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