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- The Grapes of Wrath Overview
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- The Grapes of Wrath Author – John Steinbeck
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The Grapes of Wrath Overview
The Grapes of Wrath pdf by John Steinbeck is an American realist novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939. The book won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize] for fiction, and it was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes, and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they are trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California along with thousands of other “Okies” seeking jobs, land, dignity, and a future. The Grapes of Wrath is frequently read in American high school and college literature classes due to its historical context and enduring legacy.
The Grapes of wrath Summary
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.
The Grapes of Wrath Author – John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck (1902–1968), born in Salinas, California, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929). After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history. The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989). Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America’s greatest writers and cultural figures.
The Grapes of Wrath pdf Book Information (Amazon)
Below are the basic information you need to know about the book. We have both The grapes of Wrah pdf and The Grapes of Wrath paperback
- Publisher : Penguin Classics; Annotated edition (March 28, 2006)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 464 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143039431
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143039433
- Lexile measure : 680L
- Item Weight : 12.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.07 x 0.9 x 7.72 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #24 in Censorship & Politics
- #51 in Classic American Literature
- #198 in Classic Literature & Fiction
- Customer Reviews: 4.6 out of 5 stars 8,300 ratings
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – Read Online
The Grapes of Wrath is one of the most famous novels in America— perhaps even in the world. When John Steinbeck wrote this book he had no inkling that it would attain such widespread recognition, though he did have high hopes for its effectiveness. On June 18, 1938, a little more than three weeks after starting his unnamed new manuscript, Steinbeck confided in his daily journal (posthumously published in 1989 as Working Days):
If I could do this book properly it would be one of the really fine books and a truly American book. But I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability. I’ll just have to work from a background of these. Honesty. If I can keep an honesty it is all I can expect of my poor brain. . . . If I can do that it will be all my lack of genius can produce. For no one else knows my lack of ability the way I do. I am pushing against it all the time.
Despite Steinbeck’s doubts, which were grave and constant during its composition, The Grapes of Wrath turned out to be not only a fine book, but the most renowned and celebrated of his seventeen novels. Steinbeck’s liberal mixture of native philosophy, common-sense leftist politics, blue-collar radicalism, working-class characters, homespun folk wisdom, and digressive narrative form—all set to a bold, rhythmic style and nervy, raw dialogue—qualified the novel as the “American book” he had set out to write. The novel’s title—from Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic”—was clearly in the American grain—and Steinbeck, a loyal Rooseveltian New Deal Democrat, liked the song “because it is a march and this book is a kind of march—because it is in our own revolutionary tradition and because in reference to this book it has a large meaning,” he announced on September 10, 1938, to Elizabeth Otis, his New York literary agent.
After its arduous composition from late May through late October 1938 (“Never worked so hard in my life nor so long before,” Steinbeck told Carl Wilhelmson), The Grapes of Wrath passed from his wife’s typescript to published novel (Viking’s designers set the novel in Janson type-face) in a scant four months. In March 1939, when Steinbeck received copies from one of three advance printings, he told Pascal Covici, his editor at The Viking Press, that he was “immensely pleased with them.” The novel’s impressive physical and aesthetic appearance was the result of its imposing length (619 pages) and Elmer Hader’s striking dust jacket illustration (which pictured the exiled Joads looking down from Tehachapi Pass to lush San Joaquin Valley). Steinbeck’s insistence that The Grapes of Wrath be “keyed into the American scene from the beginning” by reproducing all the verses of “Battle Hymn,” was only partly met: Viking Press compromised by printing the first page of Howe’s sheet music on the book’s endpapers in an attempt (unsuccessfully, it turned out) to deflect accusations of communism against the novel and its author.
Given the drastic plight of the migrant labor situation in California during the Depression, Steinbeck refused intentionally to write a popular book or to court commercial success. It was ironic, then, that shortly after its official publication date on April 14, 1939 (the fourth anniversary of “Black Sunday,” the most devastating of all Dust Bowl storms), fueled by the nearly 150 reviews—mostly positive—that appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals during the remainder of the year, The Grapes of Wrath climbed to the top of the bestseller lists for most of the year, selling 428,900 copies in hardcover at $2.75 each. (In 1941, when Sun Dial Press issued a cloth reprint for a dollar, the publisher announced that more than 543,000 copies of Grapes had already been sold.) The Grapes of Wrath won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize (Steinbeck gave the $1,000 prize to friend Ritch Lovejoy to encourage his writing career), eventually became a cornerstone of his 1962 Nobel Prize, and proved itself to be among the most enduring—and controversial—works of fiction by any American author, past or present. In spite of flaws, gaffes, and infelicities its critics have enumerated—or perhaps because of them (general readers tend to embrace the book’s mythic soul and are less troubled by its imperfect body)—The Grapes of Wrath has resolutely entered both the American consciousness and its conscience. Few novels can make that claim.
If a literary classic can be defined as a book that speaks directly to readers’ concerns in successive historical and cultural eras, no matter what their critical approaches, methods, or preoccupations are, then surely The Grapes of Wrath is such a work. Each generation of readers has found something new and relevant about it that speaks to its times. You might love it, you might hate it, but you probably won’t be indifferent. Although Steinbeck could not have predicted its success (and was nearly ruined by its roller-coaster notoriety), the fact is that, in the past six-plus decades, The Grapes of Wrath has sold more than fifteen million copies and currently sells annually 150,000 copies. A graph in Book (July/August 2003) indicates that of the fifty bestselling “classic” British and American novels in 2002, Grapes ranks eleventh—five spots behind Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, but seven ahead of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (Steinbeck and Hemingway are the only writers with three titles each on the list). In that same issue of Book, Jerome Kramer includes Grapes as one of the twenty books that changed America. Moreover, a recent spate of turn-of-the-century polls, all employing differing, even opposed methodologies, agendas, and criteria, arrived at similar conclusions: surveys by Radcliffe Publishing Course, Modern Library Board, Hungry Mind Review (now Ruminator Review), San Francisco Chronicle, Heath Anthology of American Literature Newsletter, Library Journal, and British booksellers Waterston’s all place The Grapes of Wrath among the premier works in English of the twentieth century.
Moreover, an elaborate Writer’s Digest (November 1999) survey of readers, writers, editors, and academics ranked John Steinbeck as the number one writer among the century’s “100 Best” (a list whittled down from more than seven hundred nominees). The criteria—admittedly slippery—used to judge each author included “influence,” “quality,” and “originality.” Even with a healthy dose of critical skepticism thrown into the mix, and a strong awareness of our turn-of-the-century obsession with compiling “best” lists, there is still something more significant at work in these dovetailing independent assessments of Grapes’ achievement than the mere operation of special pleading, narrow partisanship, demographic distribution, or simpleminded puffery. Something more than the vagaries of cultural correctness and identity politics is at work in these polls that keeps Steinbeck’s novel relevant to the kind of large-scale public conversation that took place in California in 2002, the year of Steinbeck’s one hundredth birthday, when the state’s Humanities Council, in an unprecedented and ambitious project, invited everyone in the state to read and discuss the novel at 140 public library venues. California’s effort was itself part of a nationwide Steinbeck centennial honoring the “Bard of the People,” which, according to Anne Keisman, became the “largest single author tribute in American history.”
Grapes has also had a charmed life on screen and stage. Steinbeck sold the novel’s film rights for $75,000 to producer Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Then Nunnally Johnson scripted a truncated film version, which was nonetheless memorably paced, photographed (by ace cinematographer Greg Tolland), and acted (Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, Jane Darwell as Ma Joad, and John Carradine as Jim Casy) under the direction of John Ford in 1940. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and took home two Oscars—Ford as Best Director; Darwell as Best Supporting Actress. (A restored DVD version with added historical features, Movietone documentary newsreel footage of Dust Bowl conditions, and extended interpretive commentary by Susan Shillinglaw and Joseph McBride was released in 2004.) It proved to be a “hard, straight picture . . . that looks and feels like a documentary film and . . . has a hard, truthful ring,” Steinbeck reported on December 15, 1939, after seeing its Hollywood preview. (Folksinger/songwriter Woody Guthrie said it was the “best cussed pitcher I ever seen,” and urged readers of his column in People’s World, “go to see it and don’t miss. You was the star in that picture. ”) Frank Galati faithfully adapted the novel for his Chicago-based Steppenwolf Company, whose Broadway production, featuring Gary Sinise as Tom Joad and Lois Smith as Ma Joad, won a Tony Award for Best Play in 1990.
Steinbeck’s novel has created legacies in other ways, too. Cesar Chavez, Jim Harrison, Edward R. Murrow, John Sayles, and Bruce Springsteen have all acknowledged Steinbeck as a valued predecessor. Ike Sallas, the hero of Ken Kesey’s Sailor Song (1992), prizes the novel and places it among his collection of classic American books—“the essential heavies,” he calls them. Steinbeck’s literary legacy goes on and on, show-cased recently by Shillinglaw’s John Steinbeck: Centennial Reflections by American Writers, a gathering of statements, homages, commentaries, reminiscences, and affections by nearly four dozen contemporary men and women writers of every genre and identity, from Edward Albee to Ursula K. Le Guin to Al Young. “John Steinbeck was the writer who taught me that literature could be about real people in real places,” California writer Gerald Haslam summed up in recalling Steinbeck’s impact. There are hilarious send-ups, too: MAD magazine’s “The Wrath of Grapes,” by John Steinfull, and Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones’s “The Beaver of Wrath” in their The Beaver Papers: The Story of the “Lost Season” of the television series Leave It to Beaver. The Grapes of Wrath has also been translated into nearly thirty languages. One way or another, it seems that Steinbeck’s words continue in Warren French’s apt phrase “the education of the heart.” Even Harold Bloom, among Steinbeck’s most inflexible critics and Olympian detractors, confessed in 1988 that “there are no canonical standards worthy of human respect that could exclude The Grapes of Wrath from a serious reader’s esteem.”
Every strong novel redefines our conception of fiction’s dimensions and reorders our awareness of its possibilities. The Grapes of Wrath has a populist, homegrown quality: part naturalistic epic, part labor testament, part family chronicle, part partisan journalism, part environmental jeremiad, part captivity narrative, part road novel, part transcendental gospel. Many American authors, upon finding that established fictional models don’t fully suit their sensibilities, forge their own genealogy by synthesizing personal vision and experience with a disparate variety of popular motifs, cultural forms, and literary styles.
Steinbeck was no exception; he was susceptible to many texts, ideas, currents, impulses, and models. To execute The Grapes of Wrath he drew directly and indirectly on the jump-cut technique of John Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy (1938), the narrative tempo of Pare Lorentz’s radio drama Ecce Homo! and the sequential, rapid-fire quality of Lorentz’s documentary films The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936) and The River (1937), the stark visual effects of Dorothea Lange’s photographs of Dust Bowl Oklahoma and California migrant life, the timbre of the Greek epics, the rhythms of the King James Bible, the refrains of American folk music, the philosophical implications of Darwinism, the view of cooperative matriarchal society defined in Robert Briffault’s anthropological treatise The Mothers (1931), as well as Edward F. Ricketts’s all-important theories of natural ecology and phalanx (“group man”) organization (aided and abetted by interdisciplinary readings in ethnography, marine biology, political philosophy, and contemporary science). Steinbeck transformed these ancient, classical, and modern resources (especially biblical themes, parallels, analogies, and allusions) into his own kind of combinatory textual structure. As David Minter says, it is a mistake to read Steinbeck solely as “a realist, a naturalist, or a proletarian novelist.” The Grapes of Wrath is large; it contains multitudes. Malcolm Cowley’s claim that a “whole literature is summarized in this book and much of it is carried to a new level of excellence” is still pertinent. Thus, Steinbeck pushed back the boundaries of traditional mimetic fiction and redefined proletarian form.
And yet The Grapes of Wrath is in some ways an old-fashioned book, with roots in two major American fictional traditions: the masculine escape /adventure myth and the feminine sentimental/domestic tradition. The former features a sensitive young loner who retreats from civilization by lighting out for unknown frontier territory, while the latter highlights home-based values by creating, nurturing, and sustaining family and community relations through the performance of sentiment and affect. Historically, in nearly every regard, these two spheres appear to be separate and antagonistic, as aesthetically and thematically oppositional as Melville’s Moby-Dick and Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Alcott’s Little Women, but Steinbeck, borrowing from both spheres and adding grimly realistic contemporary twists of his own, has woven them together in The Grapes of Wrath.
Tom Joad, an archetypal bad guy, a paroled, unrepentant killer, lights out for the West not alone, or even in the company of a select male comrade, as might be expected according to the delineations of what Nina Baym has famously dubbed “melodramas of beset manhood.” Far from being an isolate, Tom goes on the lam with his mother and his extended family; for the most part, their presence requires social propriety, not outlaw conduct. The Joad family vehicle, a Hudson Super-Six modified from passenger car to truck, becomes their “new hearth” and home, and acts as the site of matriarchal wisdom and the center of domestic relations during the migrant diaspora. Tom is indebted to ex-preacher Casy for guiding him toward social awareness and political action, but he is equally indebted to his own flesh and blood, especially Ma Joad, “citadel of the family,” who schools his sympathy for and affection toward common humanity.
Even though Ma is unable to move much beyond the limits of her nurturing wife/mother role (Mimi Gladstein notes that women’s roles are mostly functionary and enabling in this novel), in the larger picture, her efforts to keep her family intact, her loving relationship to Tom (a topic rarely discussed by scholars, and her mentoring of Rose of Sharon allow Steinbeck to interrogate one aspect of the American myth of entrenched power. Steinbeck critiques authoritarian (and often violent) masculinity by refusing to exclude the domain of private sensibility, feeling, and cooperation. “Steinbeck’s sensitivities to the values of female sensibilities demonstrate a . . . view that supports the idea of humanitarian, large-scale changes that would make America, as a nation, more responsive to larger social needs,” Nellie McKay asserts in David Wyatt’s New Essays on The Grapes of Wrath. Indeed, Tom’s ultimate spiritual lesson, realized in chapter 28, is not solely about brooding solipsistic individuality or the tragic nobility of a separate superior consciousness, as is often the case in Adamic adventure tradition works (think Natty Bumppo, Ishmael, Huck Finn, Nick Adams, Ike McCaslin), but about profoundly affective fellow-feeling for alienated others, the abiding motions of the heart. As Michael Szalay says, The Grapes of Wrath is “detached from anything like a coherent critique of capitalism,” and does not solve problems but makes compassion, empathy, and commitment not only possible but desirable in a class-stratified society.
Nothing less than the full spectrum of emotional coloration, from outright rage and inarticulate anger to honest sentiment and unabashed tenderness, is adequate to portray lives under pressure. Steinbeck, whose characters symbolize the “over-essence of people,” according to a July 6, 1938, entry in Working Days, was borrowing from and signifying on—and, in a sense, reinventing—both precursor cultural traditions. In renegotiating binaries of public/private, action/feeling, male/female, isolation/community, etc., The Grapes of Wrath is Steinbeck’s updated hybridized conjoining of nineteenth-century “literary” and “national” narratives characterized by Jonathan Arac in the second volume of Sacvan Bercovitch’s The Cambridge History of American Literature (1995).
In early July 1938, Steinbeck told literary critic Harry T. Moore that he was improvising his own “new method” of fictional technique: one that combined a suitably elastic form and elevated style to express the far-reaching tragedy of the migrant drama. In The Grapes of Wrath he devised a contrapuntal structure with short lyrical chapters of exposition and background pertinent to the migrants as a group—chapters 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 11, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29—alternating with the long narrative chapters of the Joad family’s exodus to California—chapters 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 30. (Chapter 15 is a swing chapter that participates in both editorial and narrative modes.) Steinbeck structured his novel by juxtaposition. His “particular” chapters are the slow-paced and lengthy narrative episodes that embody traditional characterization and advance the dramatic plot, while his jazzy, rapid-fire “interchapters” work at another level of cognition by expressing an atemporal, universal, synoptic view of the migrant condition. In one way or another, Steinbeck’s combinatory method has allegiances to the stereopticon, mentioned explicitly in chapter 10. The novel demonstrates how form itself is a kind of magic lantern, a shifting lens for magnifying and viewing multiple perspectives of reality.
No matter what aural or visual analogy we apply, the fact remains that The Grapes of Wrath is not a closed system of historical periodicity, but a relational field, a web of connections between text and context, nature and culture, physical earth and human inhabitants. His “general” or intercalary chapters (“pace changers,” Steinbeck called them) were expressly designed to “hit the reader below the belt. With the rhythms and symbols of poetry one can get into a reader—open him up and while he is open introduce things on a [sic] intellectual level which he would not or could not receive unless he were opened up,” Steinbeck revealed to Columbia University undergraduate Herbert Sturz in 1953. Throughout his career, Steinbeck was always a relational thinker, and in Grapes, the intercalary chapters provide a kind of anthropological “thick description” of the American migrant plight. Moreover, Steinbeck historicizes the Joad narrative by embedding his fiction in its contemporary milieu; conversely, he demonstrates the fluidity of history by re-creating it in fiction. History surrounds fiction; fiction embeds history. Text and context are integrally related to each other in a kind of necessary complementarity, “a unique ecological rhetoric,” according to Peter Valenti, whose totality cannot be separated, subdivided, or segregated without risking distortion of its many layers of meaning.
The Grapes of Wrath is an unapologetically engaged novel with a partisan posture, many complex voices, and passionate prose styles. Except for its unflinching treatment of the Depression’s climatic, social, and economic conditions, there is nothing cynically distanced about it, nothing coolly modernist in the way we have come to understand the elite literary implications of that term in the past ninety years. It is not narrated from the first person point of view, yet the language has a salty, catchy eyewitness quality about it, and its vivid biblical, empirical, poetical, cinematic, and folk styles demonstrate the tonal and visual acuity of Steinbeck’s ear and eye, the melding of experience and rhetoric, oral and literary forms.
Steinbeck told Merle Armitage on February 17, 1939, that in “composition, in movement, in tone and in scope,” The Grapes of Wrath was “symphonic.” His fusion of intimate narrative and panoramic editorial chapters enforces this dialogic concert. Chapters, styles, voices all speak to each other, set up resonances, send echoes back and forth—point and counterpoint, strophe and antistrophe—as in a symphony whose total impression surpasses the sum of its discrete and sometimes dissonant parts. Steinbeck’s novel belongs to that class of fictions whose shape issues not from an ideal blueprint of aesthetic propriety but from the generative urgency of its subject matter and its author’s experience. (“It had to be written,” Stanley Kunitz said in 1939.) Steinbeck’s direct involvement with the plight of America’s Dust Bowl migrants in the latter half of the 1930s created his obsessive urge to tell their story honestly but also movingly. “This must be a good book,” he wrote in Working Days on June 10, 1938. “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.” Like Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, making the audience see and feel that living picture was paramount. “I am not writing a satisfying story,” he claimed to Pascal Covici on January 16, 1939:
I’ve done my damndest 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. . . . Throughout I’ve tried to make the reader participate in the actuality, what he takes from it will be scaled entirely on his own depth or hollowness. There are five layers in this book, a reader will find as many as he can and he won’t find more than he has in himself. [Emphasis added.]
Steinbeck’s participatory aesthetic—it was the closest he came to conceptualizing a personal theory of the novel—linked the “trinity” of writer, text, and reader to ensure maximum affective impact on the audience. In representing the migrant experience, Steinbeck worked out a concept of reader-response theory generally well ahead of its time. (It coincided with the publication of Louise Rosenblatt’s Literature as Exploration in 1938, where she first proposed her pioneering transactional reader-response model.) In chapter 23 Steinbeck writes: “And it came about in the camps along the roads, on the ditch banks beside the streams, under the sycamores, that the story teller grew into being, so that the people gathered in the low firelight to hear the gifted ones. And they listened while the tales were told, and their participation made the stories great” (emphasis added). This seemingly innocuous moment has enormous performative consequences for writer and readers because it invites us to enter the text, and serves to make us active agents in the construction of meaning, which itself is always changing, depending on our critical preoccupations. Invested in the process of interpretation, readers must actively cross boundaries between differing realms of discourse, and must remain open to variant, flexible ways of experiencing the story, including being moved by the recuperative power of a narrative, which, according to Louis Owens, is structured on at least four simultaneous levels of existence, ranging from socioeconomic determinism to transcendent spirituality:
On one level it is the story of a family’s struggle for survival in the Promised Land. On another level it is the story of a people’s struggle, the migrants. On a third level it is the story of a nation, America. On still another level, through the allusions to Christ and those to the Israelites and Exodus, it becomes the story of mankind’s quest for profound comprehension of his commitment to his fellow man and to the earth he inhabits. The last point opens the door to viewing The Grapes of Wrath as one of the most significant environmental novels of the century. From the dust storms that open the novel to the floods that close it, The Grapes of Wrath can be read as a novel that foregrounds “profound ecological awareness,” according to Donna Seaman. Grapes is a sustained indictment about a natural world despoiled by a grievous range of causes—natural disaster, poor land-use practices, rapacious acquisitiveness, and technological arrogance. Failure of genetic engineering and industrialized nature “hangs over the State like a great sorrow,” Steinbeck laments in chapter 25, and the “failure . . . that topples all our successes” stems from misconceived values— manipulating nature and misunderstanding man’s delicate place as a species in the biotic community. (Steinbeck’s ideas, indebted to Ed Ricketts’s ecological training, paralleled those of pioneering conservationist Aldo Leopold who proposed a viable land ethic in A Sand County Almanac.)
The Grapes of Wrath Characters
Tom Joad The novel’s main character and second Joad son. As the novel opens, he is returning to his family after his parole from the McAlester State Penitentiary. Among the novel’s characters, Tom shows the most growth in his realization of the concept of human unity and love.
Jim Casy A former preacher. Concerned with his controversial beliefs about what is sinful and what is holy, he has renounced his calling. Traveling to California with the Joads, he plans to listen to the people and help them. Casy is the spokesman for the author’s main theories, including the multi-faceted themes of love and strength in unity.
Ma Joad Wife and mother. Ma is the backbone of the Joad family: strong-minded and resolute. Her main concern is that the family unit not be broken. She is the physical embodiment of Steinbeck’s theory of love.
Pa Joad Patriarch of the Joad clan. Pa is a sharecropper whose land has just been foreclosed on by the bank. Somewhat lost and weakened, he leads his family to California in search of work.
Rose of Sharon Eldest Joad daughter. Rose of Sharon is pregnant and married to 19-year-old Connie Rivers. Self-absorbed by her pregnancy, she has many plans and dreams for their life in California. At the novel’s close, she represents life-giving force.
Granma and Granpa The couple who first began farming on the land that Pa has lost.
Noah Joad The oldest Joad son. Noah is slow-moving and emotionally distant, perhaps the result of an unintentional injury caused by Pa during Noah’s birth.
Al Joad Sixteen-year-old Joad son. Al willingly admits that only cars and girls interest him. He is responsible for the maintenance of the family’s truck during the journey to California.
Ruthie Joad The youngest Joad daughter. Ruthie is 12 years old and caught between childishness and adolescence.
Winfield Joad The youngest Joad family member. Winfield is 10 years old.
Muley Graves A Joad neighbor in Oklahoma. Muley has also been tractored off his land. He chooses to stay behind when his family leaves for California, an illustration of the effect of loss on those who have been driven from their land.
Ivy and Sarah (Sairy) Wilson Traveling companions of the Joads. A couple from Kansas, the Wilsons meet the Joads when their touring car breaks down. After Al and Tom fix their car, they travel with the family to the California border. The cooperation between the Wilsons and the Joads exemplifies the strength that is found in persons helping others.
Mr. and Mrs. Wainwright The Wainwrights share a boxcar with the Joads at the end of the novel. Like the Wilsons, their union with the Joads underscores the novel’s theme of human unity.
Agnes Wainwright The Wainwright’s 16-year-old daughter. She is engaged to Al Joad at the end of the novel.
Ezra Huston Chairman of the central committee in the government camp at Weedpatch.
Willie Eaton Texan in charge of the entertainment committee at the government camp. He and his committee members thwart a staged riot attempt by the Farmers Association.
The Grapes of Wrath – Buy Online
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The Grapes of Wrath Reviews (Amazon)
Editorial reviews and praise for the book
“Steinbeck is a poet. . . . Everything is real, everything perfect.”—Upton Sinclair, Common Sense
“I think, and with earnest and honest consideration . . . that The Grapes of Wrath is the greatest American novel I have ever read.” —Dorothy Parker
“It seems to me as great a book as has yet come out of America.” —Alexander Woollcott
“I didn’t understand at the time — no one could have — that [The Grapes of Wrath] was not just a historical document but also a document about our current world with its depiction of drought and its effects. . . . California, where the Joads went, is no longer the reliably verdant and green paradise they found; it’s now coming out of a five-year drought of its own. . . . The other point that Steinbeck makes well, is that when we have huge, natural changes like these, the people who pay the largest price are the people most vulnerable and closest to the bottom. . . . None of them did anything much to cause the problem, and yet they are its early victims. . . . Steinbeck was trying to do something more than just simply tell a story. He’s a remarkable writer, and this is his masterpiece.” — Bill McKibben, environmentalist
Customer Reviews on Amazon for the Grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck
John E. Pepper
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mind Opening, Life Changing Experience
Reviewed in the United States on September 2, 2019
This novel takes its place among the five finest novels I have ever read: the others being “Crossing to Safety”by Wallace Stegner, Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson and Towles”A Gentleman in Moscow”. It is shame that it was not until my 81st year that I picked it up. I was moved to do this by my recent reading and great admiration of Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” and Steinbeck’s letters which constitute a virtual biography of his life. Of all these five novels, however, “Grapes of Wrath” is the one that has most deeply penetrated my life. For many reasons. But above all because I came to know and feel the characters more intimately and viscerally and emotionally than in any other book I have ever read.
I understand what Norman Mailer meant in writing of “Steinbeck’s marvelous and ironic sense of compassion…daring all the time to go up to the very abyss of offering more feeling than the reader can accept.” Again and again, that is how I felt, hanging on every word and phrase, wondering, worrying about what comes next. It did not happen by accident. Steinbeck records this in the midst of writing the book: “Yesterday it seemed to me that the people were coming to life. I hope so. These people must be intensely alive the whole time”. The whole time. Exactly. No false notes.Through detailed depiction of the environment, layer upon layer, in cinema-like detail, through the development of the looks, gestures and clothes of every character and through dialogue, authentic and colloquial, matched to the individual, I am PRESENT. I am THERE. Steinbeck greatly respects his theme, the magnitude of the undertaking: “I went over the whole of the book in my head—fixed on the last scene, huge and symbolic (and I would add brave and unexpected), toward which the whole story moves. And that was a good thing, for it was a re-understanding of the dignity of the effort and mightiness of the theme. I feel very small and inadequate and incapable but I grew again to love the story which is so much greater than I am. To love and admire the people who are so much stronger and purer and braver than I am.” Such humility combined with reverence and ambition and incredibly hard work—the sources of greatness.
Like many, I resonate to this story today because it presents vividly what immigrants fleeing violence and life-threatening poverty face today. And the homeless too. It dramatizes how many will take advantage of them, some will castigate them as being dirty and threatening and dangerous, and a few generous souls will step forward as Good Saviors to try to help them on their journey. For me, this story cries out for individual and collective action today. We need the equivalent of “Grapes of Wrath” today to reveal viscerally and authentically the challenge that hundreds of thousands of threatened women, men and children face today as they seek safety and freedom for their families.
In the broadest sense, this novel presents the urgent need for social justice, understanding and compassion so needed in our world today. As one commentator observed, it is also at once an elegy and a challenge to live in harmony with the earth. Hope and valor present themselves repeatedly in this magnificent novel, but never, ever at the expense of recognizing the raw often brutal challenge of life. The ex-preacher Casy captures this combination of challenge and hope as he describes how a friend looks back on being violently jailed by vigilantes because he had tried to setup a union among exploited workers.
“Anyways, you do what you can. The only thing you got to look at is that every time there is a little step forward, she may slip back a little, but she never slips clear back. You can prove that and that makes the whole thing right. And that means they wasn’t no waste even it seemed like they was.” No matter what, we must continue on. Recalling one of my favorite texts the Talmud: “You are not required to complete the work, but nether are you free to desist from it. “Steinbeck honors the uniqueness and complexity of every individual’s life but also the strength to be drawn in being part of something bigger than oneself, ones family above all and the whole of humanity beyond. It is a noble calling. One worthy of our best effort.
**Before I do my ‘review’ I have to say something re: the movie vs the book** wow..they really cut the movie in half to accommodate the story! In HS ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ next to ‘Mice & Men’ were required reading. I’m surprised I wasn’t crying on a daily basis! I haven’t read the novel since 1978, but always watched the movie..besides a couple of characters that didn’t match the book theres the subject but no comparison…so if anyone has to do any required reading and ‘Grapes of Wrath’ is one..don’t watch the movie first 😁 One more thing Dylan Baker is now my favorite narrator! (I listened as well, thank God?) What a performance..he sounded like ‘Henry Fonda to the tee! Excellent narration!
Now onto a few words about this exceptional novel. Since John Steinbeck always wrote books re: the Great Depression, he had an ability to understand their fear on a daily basis. If Steinbeck were alive today, his novels would probably be very close to how they were over 75 years ago. His books, especially ‘Grapes of Wrath’ dealt with racism, extreme poverty, family problems not far from the ones today. This novel was the perfect example. The descriptive words he used in explaining their hurt, their living environment , lack of housing, etc. was spot on. I closed my eyes listening & even sometimes reading because I wanted to be there, to try and understand what the Depression years were really like..they were not ‘The Walton’s’! This was real..not knowing what tomorrow would bring for themselves or their family. I’m so glad I decided to read and listen again…every single person must read ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and realize at one time in the 20th Century individuals were living worse than dogs & cats…and unfortunately sometimes it doesn’t sound too far from reality today. I’ve been honored to read a masterpiece!
Little Bookness Lane
4.0 out of 5 stars Great characters. Abrupt ending.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 9, 2020
For me this was a book of contradictions: The more I waded in I feared the rising level of despair would submerge me, but I couldn’t have been be more wrong. Some paragraphs felt unsettled and oddly repetitive, but every chapter left an imprint much deeper and clearer than the last. The Joad’s experience way more than their share of hardship and exploitation during the most arduous journey imagined, and still their good nature and family ethics are a testament to physical endurance and emotional resilience, everywhere. However, it does have one of the more ‘unusual’ endings I’ve come across. After feeling as though I’d lived and breathed the ordeals of this family (not wanting to sound fictionally clingy at all) suddenly it was all over. Believing I’d accidentally skipped a bit I read the last page twice more. Turned out I hadn’t and, despite willing it to happen, additional words were not going to magically appear. Therefore, all I can only draw from what was actually written there is this: the most unexpected acts of selflessness shine like a beacon, even on the darkest day.
5.0 out of 5 stars I’m glad I re-visited Steinbeck.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 15, 2016
I was put off reading this “Classic” for many years having read Steinbeck’s “King Arthur & the Knights” and “Travels with Charley” which I thought were very unimpressive. It turns out, of course, that The Grapes of Wrath is indeed a true classic. Makes you angry at how families and individuals were crushed under the wheels of capitalism’s “progress” and just as relevant today as it was then. This book has ignited my interest in reading more of Steinbeck and I realise that my first two samples of his work were perhaps poor examples compared to the power of Grapes of Wrath.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable classic
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 13, 2018
An absolutely terrific read, and very much of its time. Some great painting of backgrounds, then populating with empathetic characters. Heavy on the symbolism. The only thing I didn’t like was the pretentious essay in the foreword, which I eventually had to skip in order to just read the story. And, yes, there are inevitable parallels to be drawn with today’s refugee problems. I think the lesson is a hard one – if your fellow countrymen can’t treat their kith and kin kindly in these circumstances, then… well, I’ll just leave it there.
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