“ Author: John Steinbeck / Format: Hardback / Date of publication: 18 March 1993 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Everyman / Title: The Grapes of Wrath / ISBN 13: 9781857151541 / ISBN 10: 1857151541 / Alternative EAN: 9780141185064 „
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This famous book appears notable for its portrayal of American history but upon reading I found it set for a long-lasting place in my own memory through the portrayal of the family we follow through the book.
Steinbeck is just so deft at dialogue and realism that when he writes and arranges his fiction, the detail and power shine through in condensed, gripping senses of reality that he is fully in control of... And this control comes down on the subtle tendency to oppression that will emerge in poorly organised occurrences of history such as the migration of workers to California. We are given a grass roots view that is broken by chapters of hind-sight. But it's the family ties; the unsung heroines that are Mothers and daughters everywhere; the courage and resilience summoned within the fathers and sons that strives onwards but can give out at sudden moments.
A pivotal, farewell scene between the two characters fighting hardest to keep the family together - Ma and her eldest son - is both defeated and triumphant.
The understanding about humanity is huge within this book, and the strength of people united or decisive through sheer necessity casts a wise and heroic light over all who read and follow to the end. Nature is also beautifully captured to reflect the next scenes of hardship or dramas that continually mould the characters.
The story might have carried on, but the message and the fate by the end has been sufficiently highlighted and sung by Steinbeck in fine words to live long in literature.
Labelled with the honourable title The Great American Novel, The Grapes of Wrath, written in 1939 by John Steinbeck was considered by critics as one of the best American novels of all time. The Grapes Of Wrath takes us into the complicated lives of a black sharecroppers family. There struggles, not only as black in a time of the Great Depression but also as people suffering from the sweeping poverty of 1930. Grapes of Wrath will have you captivated and emotional at its conclusion. What better way for John Steinbeck to carve the connotations of depression and anxiety than a focus that reaps all of that. Forced by the whimpering situations in America's 1930's "Dust Bowl", the Joad family are forced to migrate to California. A sharecropping family from Oklahoma is the background that sets their circumstance for not just a harrowing predicament but also an enthralling journey of self-exploration. The promise of California is a hope that the Joad family are desperate to aspire unto. The greed of rich landowners and the economical and social hardships of the life of a sharecropper, evicts the struggling family, making their decision to move more traumatic and rushed. For many years the Joad's have resided in Oklahoma but the turn of events in the Great Depression has without initial discrimination, forced them to leave their extended family in search for an idealistic province. The journey to California is harsh and laden with turmoil and despair. The rearing of death, disheartens the Joads, but does not discourage their unbreakable will to reach the Golden State. The prospect and dream of high paying jobs and a new fresh life in California is a vision that drives the family to confront the harshest of situations. Along the road, the family encounter, bitter and hatred filled characters, torn and also disturbed by the Great Depression, John Steinbeck elevates these characters and their importance; their views
however of the Joad's are all very similar - the hated "Oakies". However, at the realization of the Golden State comes the inevitable shattering of the Joad's dreams and imaginations. There are no high paying jobs, and the resentment that ensues them is overwhelming even for the Joad's hope filled hearts. In retaliation to the new pilgrim of "Oakies", the local residents find themselves at war with these desperate sharecroppers. The Joad's frantically move from camp to camp in search of their high paying, fruit plucking jobs but as desperation ensues, the family are unfortunately exploited at the hands of a greedy marketing firm. A once promised land to which the Joad's dreamt of has been crushed and manipulated by the cruelness of its inhibitors. The climax of the novel, sees the Joad's relentless in their quest for the magic they aspire but confounded with the anguish, violence and hatred of both mankind and mother nature. The plot of The Grapes Of Wrath is in essence a complex and enthralling plot that will have its reader undeniable captivated. The language and style of literature known as "muckraking" (paramount in the twentieth century) brings the plot and characters to life. Opening the loosely bind pages brings the reality of the Joad's struggles and hardships to life. Throughout the novel, the profoundness and brilliance of John Steinbeck does not lie deep rooted in the dialogue that the Joad's have amongst themselves or with others for that matter but instead, his brilliance is in the wonderful descriptions that he excites in the different chapters. Each chapter sets the seen for the events and actions that will transpire later. We see that author John Steinbeck is talented in the portrait of pictures in the readers mind. His incredibly descriptive, imaginary but somehow cleverly not boring writing makes not just for easy reading but magic
al reading too. We see the harsh, cracked skins of the sharecroppers at the novels opening, weary by the golden sun they seek refuge; later in the novel, in California the tyrannical rains, beat heavy on the uncommon black backs of the Joad's. John Steinbeck emotions and thoughts on the progression of the "Oakies" comes through in The Grapes Of Wrath, and this truly is excellent. We see how John Steinbeck is outraged at the treatment of pacifist sharecroppers seeking the fulfilment of their dreams. Ultimately, the emotions of John Steinbeck come through in this intense and rooting novel. The development of the individual characters is a prospect that I found most exciting and interesting. At the emergence of the novella, mother Joad is the tradition obedient wife that 1930 society would have expected of her but as the novel progresses and the injustices against her family skyrocket, ma Joad arises as a successful and profound leader. Bold in her statement she commands respect and shows that the family's situation requires the evolution of the family as a unit also. The Grapes Of Wrath is a wonderful and oblique tale of dreams and emotions that could only be passed on through the formation of shapes on the printed page. Many attempts in America were made to ban this novel and it is becoming more and more rare here in England too. This is because of its "Strong, Rough Language" supposedly. But the language used by kids today is monstrous in comparison with this. I believe it is a plight by the government to further darken the historical injustices in America's past and those of black American's, perhaps even shift the novel into the underbelly of libraries is the quest that they have undertaken. Whatever the situation or predicament, The Grapes Of Wrath is a most magical novella, read it and learn boldness of aspirations and dreams.
John Steinbeck was born a century ago today, on February 27th, 1902, at 132 Central Avenue, Salinas, California. (Sorry, I don't know the zip code.) The Grapes of Wrath was originally published on March 14th, 1939. Steinbeck's first wife Carol (he married three times) typed out the 200,000 word manuscript, and also came up with the title. It went on to become the best-selling book in America that year, and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1940. It has since sold over fourteen million copies worldwide, and Steinbeck received the ultimate accolade - the Nobel Prize for Literature - in 1962. Although when asked if he felt he deserved it, his reply was: "Frankly, no." A reviewer in The New Yorker said that The Grapes of Wrath "dramatizes [...] the terrible facts of a wholesale injustice committed by society. " The book's origin lies in a series of articles Steinbeck wrote in October 1936 for the San Francisco News, about the plight of migrant workers in California (known derogatively as 'Okies' as many of them hailed from Oklahoma). ` They were fleeing the 'Dust Bowl' - a large area of the American mid-west blighted by dust-storms resulting from the drought years of 1934-1938. Steinbeck travelled with them, and visited the squatter camps they lived in, so he knew whereof he wrote. The articles were later published in a pamphlet called 'Their Blood Is Strong'. It is a powerful first-hand description of a system gone bad... " ...owners found that one man with a tractor could do the work of ten sharecropper families. Faced with the question of starving or moving, these dispossessed families came west. To a certain extent they were actuated by advertisements and handbills distributed by labor contractors from California. It is to the advantage of the corporate farmer to have too much labor, for then wages can be cut. The people who are hungry will fight each othe
r for a job rather than the employer for a living wage. " Welcome to the machine. Steinbeck then developed the points he made in these articles the best way he knew how - by writing a novel. This novel. And in this novel he focuses on the struggle for survival of one ordinary sharecropper family - the Joads. Young Tom Joad has just been released from prison, paroled four years into a seven year sentence for killing a man in a drunken fight. On the way home he hitches a ride with a truck driver, picks up a turtle (don't ask), and bumps into the preacher who baptized him. His name is Jim Casy. Check the initials. They travel on together to the Joad family's home, but find it deserted. The Joads have been evicted, and are staying with a relative. There seems to be nothing for them in Oklahoma any more, so they plan to go west and try their hands at fruit-picking. They load up all their remaining possessions (the ones they haven't sold to raise money) on to a truck and hit the road. And so Tom, his Ma and Pa; Grampa and Granma; siblings Noah, Al, Winfield, Ruthie and Rose of Sharon (who is pregnant) plus her husband Connie, and Jim Casy all set off along Highway 66 towards the promised land: California. But the only kicks they get on route 66 are the nasty kind; and there's no friendly welcome waiting for them at the other end. They, and thousands like them, face hardship, starvation and death. The struggle for life, that's what this novel is about. That's what the chapter about the turtle is about. (Chapter three it is - read that even if you don't read the whole book.) In the early stages of the novel Steinbeck punctuates the tale of the Joad family with short chapters directly based on those newspaper articles. The following is the first of two quotations from those mezzanine chapters, for the length of which I do not apologize... o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-
o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o " And the migrants streamed in on the highways and their hunger was in their eyes, and their need was in their eyes. They had no argument, no system, nothing but their numbers and their needs. When there was work for a man, ten men fought for it - fought with a low wage. If that fella'll work for thirty cents, I'll work for twenty-five. If he'll take twenty-five, I'll do it for twenty. No me, I'm hungry. I'll work for fifteen. I'll work for food. The kids. You ought to see them. Little boils, like, comin' out, an' they can't run aroun'. Give 'em some windfall fruit, an' they bloated up. Me, I'll work for a little piece of meat. And this was good, for wages went down and prices stayed up. The great owners were glad and they sent out more handbills to bring more people in. And wages went down and prices stayed up. And pretty soon now we'll have serfs again. And now the great owners and the companies invented a new method. A great owner bought a cannery. And when the peaches and the pears were ripe he cut the price of fruit below the cost of raising it. And as cannery owner he paid himself a low price for the fruit and kept the price of canned goods up and took his profit. And the little farmers who owned no canneries lost their farms, and they were taken by the great owners, the banks, and the companies who also owned the canneries. As time went on, there were fewer farms. The little farmers moved into town for a while and exhausted their credit, exhausted their friends, their relatives. And then they too went on the highways. And the roads were crowded with men ravenous for work, murderous for work. And the companies, the banks worked at their own doom and they did not know it. The fields were fruitful, and starving men moved on the roads. The granaries were full and the children of the poor grew up rachitic, an
d the pustules of pellagra swelled on their sides. The great companies did not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line. And money that might have gone to wages went for gas, for guns, for agents and spies, for blacklists, for drilling. On the highways the people moved like ants and searched for work, for food. And the anger began to ferment. " o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o Wrath is in the title of the book for a very good reason. It is an ANGRY book. Angry about the inhuman treatment of people, real people - with families - who are considered less important than numbers on a balance sheet... and left to starve because employing them doesn't make 'economic sense'. When I first read this book, I found it hard to believe that it was written by an American. Steinbeck deserves to be ranked alongside Dickens, not only as a wonderful novelist, but also as an incisive social commentator. Writers can prick the conscience of a nation, change attitudes and sometimes even the national psyche. Sadly, following World War II America, repulsed by the Soviet Union under Stalin, went the other way, with the likes of McCarthy, Nixon, and the Bushes creating a climate in which callous capitalism goes from strength to strength. The same amoral business methods are still in use today, hidden away in the third world, and still protected by bully-boy tactics. 'Great' companies contract out orders to sweatshops in countries like China, Indonesia, and the Philippines (to name but three) which pay workers less than thirty cents an hour. And anyone attempting to form a union is labelled a troublemaker, and find themselves being threatened, or worse. So this book is still relevant today. It is a very powerful, and, dare I say it ... a socialist book. o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o " ...in t
he 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 anlage 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 that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you for ever into 'I', and cuts you off for ever from the 'we'. " o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o All together now: ~ We'll keep the red flag flying here... Thanks for reading, sorry if this op. was a bit too long and political for you. As the author himself said after
completing The Grapes of Wrath: "Got her done. And I'm afraid she's a little dull." And it's true - some people may find this book dull. But I feel sorry for them - this is an immensely powerful and authentic depiction of a social tragedy. In the epilogue to "Their Blood Is Strong" Steinbeck said: "If you buy a farm horse and feed him only when you work him, the horse will die. No-one complains at the necessity of feeding the horse when he is not working. ` But we complain about feeding the men and women who work our lands." John Steinbeck died on December 20th, 1968, in New York. If he were alive today, celebrating his 100th birthday, he would be angered by the way that poor people are still being treated as peons by the likes of Sel-More, Crap, McBurgers & co. - to deny people a living wage is to treat them worse than animals. Question: Is The Grapes of Wrath one of the greatest books ever written? My answer: Frankly, yes. ¶ Paperback: £6.99 ¶ ISBN: 0140292926 ¶ pp 544 ¶ 26 Apr 2001 ¶ _____________________________________________________________ ¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯
Its difficult to contain yourself when writing about Grapes of Wrath. It is a classic. Its subject matter should be depressing, the players in the drama should be suicidal, you should want to give up reading it and leave it; but you won't. Every human emotion is tested, stripped and laid bare. The good the bad and the ugly of the human race is there for all to see. Greedy landowners driving down the pay of the workers while pushing up the prices in their own factory shops, mothers letting other folks kids lick their cooking spoon because they are so hungry, proud folks who pretend everything is OK, or going to be. In Grapes of Wrath the grass is always greener over the hill. The next village always has work; but hasn't. The next camp will always be better; but isn't. Yet still you are drawn to it, you share it with them, you live it with them, such is Steinbeck's style. He gets to YOU with his writing. I recently saw a black and white mid 40s American film of this book and it was a total cop-out of an ending. There is no happy ending to this book, but it does have a highly controversial but somehow uplifting ending which there is no way the Americans could have shown on film. Treat yourself to a damned good read and try it.
The best tragedies don't make you cry - they are far too great to resort to cheap heart-string tugging in order to reach their audience. The same is true of the Grapes of Wrath - the trials and disasters faced by the Joad family as they make their way West in search of prosperity and security are enough to bring anbody down. But, like his characters, Steinbeck doesn't want you to wallow in it - you will find your hopes raised with theirs at the sight of a new town on the horizon, at a leaflet promising paid employment only a couple of miles away. Will their quest be in vain? Will this run of luck last? Like the family in its travels, you too will be living on hope. The reason why this book refuses to let you get sentimental, however, is its sheer scale. Despite the presence of deeply moving and tenderly human scenes amongst the harsh backdrop of a forced nomadic life, Steinbeck writes like a film director and knows exactly when to cut to a different scene in order to exploit contrast and create a deliberately epic, distanced perspective. Thus, although we see the Joad family suffer in their trek across the desert to California, we also draw back to see hundreds of other families and individuals swarming along the same roads in desperation - many of them in a worse state than our heroes. Steinbeck is a master of the telling tableau - in the minimum of words he can tell you everything about families or individuals encountered en route. He has a gift for condensing information whilst keeping it instantly understandable for the reader. Thus the entire farming community of America is studiedin this book - plus the circumstances behind the scenery against which the action takes place, i.e. the outside pressures on farmers in both social and economic terms. From the very outset, Steinbeck's awesome talent for visual imagery and the apt coupling of ideas will hold you spellbound - everything he has to say is expressed via illustration
, simile and metaphor, and often it is his sheer lack of sentimentality which will rack you with empathy. He doesn't want you to weep over the first page, but rather to read on with gritted teeth. Resilience is the uniting and inspiring feature of all his characters, and he expects it of his readers too. Your reward will be a vivid and comprehensive overview of a tragic chapter of America's past.