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The Grapes of Wrath

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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 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.

479 pages, Hardcover

First published April 14, 1939

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About the author

John Steinbeck

646 books21.1k followers
John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley region of California, a culturally diverse place of rich migratory and immigrant history. This upbringing imparted a regionalistic flavor to his writing, giving many of his works a distinct sense of place.

Steinbeck moved briefly to New York City, but soon returned home to California to begin his career as a writer. Most of his earlier work dealt with subjects familiar to him from his formative years. An exception was his first novel Cup of Gold which concerns the pirate Henry Morgan, whose adventures had captured Steinbeck's imagination as a child.

In his subsequent novels, Steinbeck found a more authentic voice by drawing upon direct memories of his life in California. Later he used real historical conditions and events in the first half of 20th century America, which he had experienced first-hand as a reporter.

Steinbeck often populated his stories with struggling characters; his works examined the lives of the working class and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. His later body of work reflected his wide range of interests, including marine biology, politics, religion, history, and mythology.

One of his last published works was Travels with Charley, a travelogue of a road trip he took in 1960 to rediscover America. He died in 1968 in New York of a heart attack and his ashes are interred in Salinas.

Seventeen of his works, including The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Cannery Row (1945), The Pearl (1947), and East of Eden (1952), went on to become Hollywood films, and Steinbeck also achieved success as a Hollywood writer, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Story in 1944 for Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat.

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Profile Image for Malcolm Logan.
Author 3 books34 followers
December 4, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Stephanie *Eff your feelings*.
239 reviews1,183 followers
May 18, 2013
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

Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,331 followers
June 6, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,399 reviews3,279 followers
January 29, 2023
“And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain…” Revelation 16:10
The Grapes of Wrath begins with the description of the severe drought and dust storms that deprived farmers of their livelihood and sustenance…
The dawn came, but no day. In the gray sky a red sun appeared, a dim red circle that gave a little light, like dusk; and as that day advanced, the dusk slipped back toward darkness, and the wind cried and whimpered over the fallen corn.

No land, no home, no money, no food – time to hit the road and find a better place… But is there a better place?
The bitterness we sold to the junk man – he got it all right, but we have it still. And when the owner men told us to go, that’s us; and when the tractor hit the house, that’s us until we’re dead. To California or any place – every one a drum major leading a parade of hurts, marching with our bitterness. And some day – the armies of bitterness will all be going the same way. And they’ll all walk together, and there’ll be a dead terror from it.

But freedom of the poor is restricted by the freedom of the state and freedom of politicians and freedom of the rich…
“Here’s me that used to give all my fight against the devil ’cause I figgered the devil was the enemy. But they’s somepin worse’n the devil got hold a the country, an’ it ain’t gonna let go till it’s chopped loose. Ever see one a them Gila monsters take hold, mister?”

That’s the way of the state.
“Lead ’em around and around. Sling ’em in the irrigation ditch. Tell ’em they’ll burn in hell if they don’t think like you. What the hell you want to lead ’em someplace for? Jus’ lead ’em.’’

That’s the way of politicians.
“I hear ’em an’ feel ’em; an’ they’re beating their wings like a bird in a attic. Gonna bust their wings on a dusty winda tryin’ ta get out.’’

And that’s the fate of the poor.
“I’m learnin’ one thing good,’’ she said. “Learnin’ it all a time, ever’ day. If you’re in trouble or hurt or need – go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.’’

The power always is on the side of the rich and if you’re poor they won’t give you anything, you’ll have only what you can take.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
August 2, 2021
(Book 592 From 1001 Books) - The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath 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.

The narrative begins just after Tom Joad is paroled from McAlester prison, where he had been incarcerated after being convicted of homicide in self-defense.

While hitchhiking to his home near Sallisaw, Oklahoma, Tom meets former preacher Jim Casy, whom he remembers from his childhood, and the two travel together.

When they arrive at Tom's childhood farm home, they find it deserted. Disconcerted and confused, Tom and Casy meet their old neighbor, Muley Graves, who tells them the family has gone to stay at Uncle John Joad's home nearby. Graves tells them that the banks have evicted all the farmers.

They have moved away, but he refuses to leave the area. ...

خوشه‌ های خشم - جان استاین‌بک (امیرکبیر) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1977میلادی

عنو��ن: خوشه های خشم؛ نویسنده: جان ارنست اشتاین بک (استاین بک)؛ مترجم: شاهرخ مسکوب؛ عبدالرحیم احمدی؛ تهران، امیرکبیر، چاپ اول 1328، در 520ص؛ چاپ چهارم، 1346، در 624ص؛ چاپ پنجم 1351، در 658ص؛ چاپ هفتم 1356، چاپ هشتم 1357؛ چاپ دهم 1379؛ چاپ چهاردهم 1387؛ شابک 9789640006283؛ چاپ هجدهم 1392؛ چاپ بیست و یکم 1397؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

برگردانهای دیگر از آقایان و خانمها: «ع‍ب‍دال‍ح‍س‍ی‍ن‌ ش‍ری‍ف‍ی‍ان‌، تهران، بزرگمهر، 1368؛ در 610ص؛ چاپ دیگر ت‍ه‍ران‌: ن‍گ‍اه‌‏‫، 1387؛ در 614ص؛ شابک9789643510152؛ چاپ یازدهم 1399»؛ «اح‍م‍د طاه‍رک‍ی‍ش‌، تهران، زرین، چاپ دوم 1362؛ در 566ص»؛ «سیمین تاجدینی، آتیسا، سال1398، در 463ص؛ شابک 9786226611251؛ چاپ سوم 1399»؛ «سعید دوج،روزگار، 1397، در 580ص؛ شابک9789643748104؛» «غلامرضا اسکندری، به سخن، مجید، 1395، در 703ص؛ شابک 9786007987261؛»؛ «احمد طاهر‌کیش، مشهد ارسطو، 1357، در 528»؛ «محمدصادق شریعتی، گویش نو، 1392؛ در 171ص»؛

محکومیت بی‌عدالتی، و روایت سفر طولانی یک خانواده ی تنگدست «آمریکایی» است؛ که به امید زندگی بهتر، از ایالت «اوکلاهما»، به «کالیفرنیا» مهاجرت می‌کنند؛ اما اوضاع آن‌گونه که آن‌ها پیش‌بینی می‌کنند، پیش نمی‌رود؛ رخدادها در دهه ی سوم از سده بیستم میلادی، و در سال‌های پس از بحران اقتصادی بزرگ «آمریکا»، روی می‌دهند؛ «اشتاین بک (استاین بک)»، این رمان را در سال 1939میلادی منتشر کردند؛ ایشان برای نگارش همین رمان، برنده ی جایزه ی «پولیتزر» شدند؛ «جان فورد» نیز، در سال 1940میلادی، فیلمی با همین عنوان، و با بازی «هنری فوندا»، براساس داستان همین کتاب ساخته‌ اند

کتاب را در «ایران» جنابان آقایان «شاهرخ مسکوب»؛ و «عبدالرحیم احمدی»، به فارسی ترجمه کرده‌ اند؛

نقل نمونه متن: (آره، از گشنگی داره میمیره؛ همونوقت که پنبه چینی میکرد ناخوش شد؛ شش روز تمام چیزی نخورده بود؛ مادر، تا آن گوشه پیش رفت و مرد را نگاه کرد؛ پنجاه سالی داشت؛ با چهره ای ریشو و پوست استخوانی، و چشمهای خیره و تهی؛ جوانک در کنار مادر ایستاده بود؛ زن پرسید: پدرته؟ - آره، میگفت: گشنه نیس، یا همین حالا چیز خورده؛ همیشه سهمش را میداد به من؛ حالا دیگه نا نداره؛ به زحمت میتونه تکون بخوره)؛ پایان نقل از متن کتاب ص 519کتاب

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 29/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Swrp.
561 reviews108 followers
November 11, 2021
Oh, Steinbeck!

[2014, 75th Anniversary limited, Penguin/Viking]

"A tale of dashed illusions, thwarted desires, inhuman suffering, and betrayed promisesall strung on a shimmering thread of hope!"

[1939, The Viking press]

Remarkable, Terrific, and Unforgettable!

I did not at all realise until much later, that after finishing the last paragraph of the book I was just staring blankly into the nothing. I remember my initial thoughts to be about me being so very thankful and grateful for everything I have. And, then the thoughts were about how complicated, complex, difficult and stupid idiots, we, humans, are:

-Why can't we live together in peace and joy?
-Why can't we realise how limited our life span is?
-How long will we keep fighting, destroying and killing each other in the name of boundaries, nationality and religion?
-What makes us think that just by standing on a piece of land for a short while, makes us its owner?

“Once California belonged to Mexico and its land to Mexicans; and a horde of tattered feverish Americans poured in. And such was their hunger for land that they took the land—stole Sutter’s land, Guerrero’s..”.
“Well, you and me got sense. Them goddamn Okies got no sense and no feeling. They ain’t human. A human being wouldn’t live like they do. A human being couldn’t stand it to be so dirty and miserable. They ain’t a hell of a lot better than gorillas.”

-Why are immigrants and those who cross borders in search of better lives are always treated like dirt, garbage, leftovers and in such an inhumane way?
-When my heart and intentions are all about sharing warmth, kindness, peace and joy, why cannot I expect the same in return?
-How do I become a threat and danger to you, when I have never wished bad, ill or evil for you or your loved ones?
-Is it not a basic human right to expect a safe home, clean clothes, warm food and fresh water, and a better and healthy life for my loved one?

[2017, Penguin Books]

The Grapes of Wrath was initially very difficult to read. Everything felt so raw and straightforward. The language of the characters was also so much ‘localised’, and difficult to follow and understand. But, I have waited so long to read this Steinbeck, and as if 'one with faith shall never be denied', after a few chapters the story started to fill the heart and the characters became 'alive'. Nothing in this story is sugarcoated or masked, everything is so real! It is advisable to read content warnings before reading this book.

This story highlights very well the insecurities, hatred, selfishness, narrow-mindedness, shallow and small thinking of us, humans. It is amazing how people are treated as ‘outlanders’ and foreigners even in their own country.

"there's dancing and hugging, when there should be wailing and moaning in sin."
I do not understand anything about any religion, but is that what being a ‘true believer’ is all about!? - either you keep chanting the written words or you are a sinner. We truly seem to have arrived at a weird definition of ‘sin’.


Imagine this situation. You have just started cooking food for your family on the stove which is placed outside the tent, in which you and your family are currently living. The supplies and groceries you have are just enough for your family. While cooking you realise that few strangers, mostly children, have started assembling nearby following the scent of the cooking food. They keep looking, expectantly, at the food and your hand which is moving the steaming food in the pot. The strangers are at a little distance, but you are clearly aware of their presence and their hungry eyes. You need to feed your family who has worked hard labour the whole day, are now so very hungry and they need strength to work the next day. I wholeheartedly wish and hope none of us is ever in these circumstances, but if you were the one cooking the food, and also you are the mother of the family, what would you do?

More than anything, The Grapes of Wrath is about dreams, hopes, expectations, selflessness and kindness.

[1968, Viking press]

“Don’t roust your faith bird-high an’ you won’t do no crawlin’ with the worms.”

In order to provide happiness, health and warmth for your family and loved ones, what is the price you are ready to pay? What are the sacrifices you are ready to make? Are you able to walk through the tunnel of darkness and uncertainty until you reach the light at the end?

As a human being, despite all your personal circumstances, would you be able to show at least the basic level of kindness and empathy towards your fellow human being? Can you offer a warm smile and a kind greeting to a stranger, even though you may have darkness and pain inside?
“In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”

^^from the notes::

How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?


How’ll it be not to know what land’s outside the door? How if you wake up in the night and know—and know the willow tree’s not there?


Where does the courage come from? Where does the terrible faith come from?


When somepin happens that I got to do somepin—I’ll do it.”


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 forever into “I,” and cuts you off forever from the “we.”


They were not farm men any more, but migrant men. And the thought, the planning, the long staring silence that had gone out to the fields, went now to the roads, to the distance, to the West.


“Like to jus’ stay here. Like to lay here forever. Never get hungry an’ never get sad. Lay in the water all life long, lazy as a brood sow in the mud.”


“I know this—a man got to do what he got to do. I can’t tell you. I can’t tell you. I don’t think they’s luck or bad luck. On’y one thing in this worl’ I’m sure of, an’ that’s I’m sure nobody got a right to mess with a fella’s life. He got to do it all hisself. Help him, maybe, but not tell him what to do.”


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.


“I’m learnin’ one thing good,” she said. “Learnin’ it all a time, ever’ day. If you’re in trouble or hurt or need—go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help—the only ones.”


It’s need that makes all the trouble.


[John Steinbeck, 1954, Getty Images.]
Thank you, John Steinbeck! 💐🍁
“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.”
Profile Image for Luca Ambrosino.
83 reviews13.7k followers
September 9, 2021
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

Profile Image for Julie G .
870 reviews2,683 followers
February 13, 2022
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."
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
451 reviews3,229 followers
October 2, 2022
During the bleakness of the dry, dust bowl days as the suffocating particles fall everywhere ...you can't breathe... 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 ?
July 5, 2017
“…Είναι μια χώρα λεύτερη.
Ε, για δοκίμασε να κάνεις χρήση της λευτεριάς σου. Είσαι λεύτερος , σου λέει ο άλλος, μόνο σαν σου βαστά η τσέπη σου να πληρώσεις τη λευτεριά σου.”

Τα σταφύλια της οργής είναι μια μαρτυρία που παρέχουν οι ανθρώπινες αισθήσεις. Οι αισθήσεις (σύμφωνα με τον Επίκ��υρο) αποτελούν το βασικότερο κριτήριο της αλήθειας.
Μα η μαρτυρία του βιβλίου θαρρώ πως προηγείται και είναι ανώτερη
απο στοχασμούς και θεωρίες.

Απίστευτη δύναμη ο λόγος του Στάινμπεκ.
Συγκλονίζει και αναγκάζει τον αναγνώστη να βιώσει καταστάσεις,να νιώσει συναισθήματα,να σκεφτεί,να συγκρίνει και να καταλήξει σε συμπεράσματα διαχρονικής "οργής",που θα προτιμούσε να αγνοεί.

Με μια αξιοθαύμαστη απλότητα αυτό το μυθιστορηματικό έργο μοιάζει με μια γυμνή πραγματικότητα που έχει και τις έξι ανθρώπινες αισθήσεις και μας αφηγείται με πλήρη συνείδηση την κοσμοαντίληψη της εποχής του 1930 στην Αμερική (μεγάλο κραχ),που ωστόσο είναι σπαρακτικά-αρχετυπικά δεμένη και ταυτόσημη με τη σημερινή εποχή. Με την ανθρώπινη μοίρα.

Η αίσθηση της "γεύσης" που έχει πάντα προστατευτικό ρόλο,γίνεται αντιληπτή καθώς παλεύει ανάμεσα στο γλυκό και το πικρό φάρμακο για τα βάσανα του ανθρώπου.

Γευόμαστε πίκρα ανισότητας αγαθών,σπατάλης,φτώχειας,
αισχροκέρδειας και θανάτου.
Παράλληλα μας γλυκαίνει απολαυστικά η μεγαλοσύνη και η δύναμη της ανθρώπινης ψυχής.
Η μεγάλη δύναμη και η ταπεινή αξιοπρέπεια της γυναικείας θέσης μέσα στην οικογένεια,η οποία δίνει τη ζωή,τη θρέφει και την διαφεντεύει ακλόνητα σαν αλάθευτη θέα.

Η αίσθηση της όρασης είναι απαραίτητη για την επιβίωση.
Απαιραίτητη για να βλέπει την ομορφιά και την ασχήμια. Μόνο που εδώ σε τούτο το βιβλίο βλέπει την απόλυτη αλήθεια.
Και αυτή είναι η μαζική επίθεση της ολιγαρχίας του κέρδους κατά της υπόλοιπης ανθρωπότητας. Βλέπει μόνο μηχανές,τράπεζες,εσωτερικούς μετανάστες,αναδουλειά,πείνα,
απανθρωπιά.Ανέχεια και καταφρονεμένους ανθρώπους να δέχονται ανάλγητη συμπεριφορά απο το κεφάλαιο του καπιταλιστικού συστήματος. (Καμία σχέση με κομμουνιστικό σκεπτικό-είναι απλώς πανανθρώπινο).

Η αίσθηση της όσφρησης σχετίζεται με το συναίσθημα.

Κι εδώ τα αρώματα και οι δυσοσμίες είναι άπλετα. Αναγνωρίζουμε εύκολα οσμές χαλασμένων ανθρωπων,μυρωδιές μοχθηρίας,αίματος,εγωισμού,
κακίας,απελπισίας και πίκρας.
Όμως απο κάπου διαχέεται και ένα μεθυστικό άρωμα αλληλεγγύης, οικογενειακής θαλπωρής,συμπαράστασης,
ελπίδας,αγάπης,αφοσίωσης και ανείπωτης ανθρωπιάς.

Η αίσθηση της ακοής είναι επιλεκτικά έξυπνη.

Ακούει το κλάμα,την κραυγή απόγνωσης,τη σιωπή που επικρατεί στον απόπατο της ψυχής των εργοδοτών,την κυκλική κίνηση της ιστορίας του κόσμου και το τραγούδι της ντροπής για τις ταξικές επιθέσεις του χρήματος.
Το τραγούδι αυτό ακούγεται επαναληπτικά και δεν κουράζεται να ξαναλέει για τη γελοιοποίηση του βολεμένου και την προσμονή του φτωχού.
Αραιά και που ακούγεται ένας ύμνος επανάστασης αλλά γρήγορα η ένταση χαμηλώνει τόσο που χανεται στον αέρα της ομηρίας.

Ακολουθεί η αίσθηση της αφής.

Ιδιαίτερα σημαντική για την πραγματικότητα που μας αφηγείται. Το άγγιγμα είναι σωτήριο. Η αγκαλιά το καλύτερο γιατρικό. Το φιλί η πρώτη επαφή με τον κόσμο. Η αφή μας προειδοποεί για οποιαδήποτε βλάβη μέσω του πόνου. Αισθανόμαστε το μεταξένιο άγγιγμα της δικαιοσύνης και της ελεύθερης ψυχής των βιοπαλαιστών ηρώων.
Αγγίζουμε τα σημάδια και τις μελανιές που πονάνε διαρκώς επειδή τα αποτυπώνει εντονότερα το όνειρο που γίνεται εφιάλτης,το γέλιο των παιδιών που πεινάνε,τα σταφύλια της οργής που
μεστώνουν και σαπίζουν.
Και οι ανθρώπινες επινοήσεις που τρέφονται με κέρδος,όπως οι τράπεζες που αναπνέουν με χρήμα και εξουσιάζουν ζωές,μα δεν εξουσιάζονται.

Τελευταία και σημαντικότερη η αίσθηση της διορατικότητας. Η ενόραση.
Εδώ η γυμνή πραγματικότητα του βιβλίου έχει να πει εν κατακλείδι.

«…..Να φοβάσαι τη μέρα που θα πάψουν οι βομβαρδισμοί, μ’ όλο πουν θα υπάρχουν ακόμα οι βομβαρδιστές, γιατί η κάθε μπόμπα είναι μια απόδειξη πως δεν πέθανε το πνεύμα. Να φοβάσαι και τη μέρα που θα σταματήσουν οι απεργίες, μ’ όλο που θα υπάρχουν ακόμα οι μεγάλοι ιδιοκτήτες-γιατί η κάθε μικροαπεργία που χτυπιέται, είναι μια απόδειξη πως έγινε το βήμα. Πρέπει κι αυτό να ξέρεις-να φοβάσαι τη μέρα που ο Συνειδητός Άνθρωπος θα πάψει να αγωνίζεται και να πεθαίνει για μια ιδέα, γιατί αυτή και μόνο η ιδιότητα είναι το θεμέλιο του Ανθρώπινου Συνειδητού, κι αυτή και μόνο η ιδιότητα κάνει να είναι ο άνθρωπος ένα όν ξεχωριστό μέσα στο σύμπαν.»

Καλή ανάγνωση!!

Πολλούς ασπασμούς!
Profile Image for Lisa.
974 reviews3,328 followers
March 27, 2020
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.”
Profile Image for Guille.
740 reviews1,446 followers
July 10, 2019

¿Puede un claro y explícito maniqueísmo echar por tierra una novela?

Las uvas de la ira es total y absolutamente maniquea. Hay buenos muy buenos y malos muy malos. Los pobres agricultores que son arrojados de sus tierras por la maquinaria capitalista, por un lado, y todos los demás (policía, grandes propietarios, comerciantes aprovechados, fanáticos religiosos), por el otro. Es una novela-tesis: a lo que puede llegar el capitalismo si no se le pone límites, si su desarrollo no tiene que ajustarse a regulación alguna. Todo el libro gira en torno a esa idea. No hay ni una sola referencia al punto de vista del explotador, no hay ningún intento de comprender, solo expone hechos y el punto de vista del explotado. Busca en el lector la complicidad con esta idea y, esta es mi conclusión, eso no le quita ni un ápice de calidad a la obra.

Por supuesto que el maniqueísmo puede ser un lastre en otro tipo de novela. La vida no es en blanco y negro, eso es de cajón, pero tampoco se puede caer en el polo opuesto, en el grisismo de toermundoegüeno. Voy a citar un texto de Alejo Carpentier:
"No ha de dejarse intimidar por el sambenito del maniqueísmo... en la crítica se dice que una novela es maniqueísta porque tiene la lucha de los buenos contra los malos. ¿Y qué cosa es la historia toda sino una lucha gigantesca de los buenos contra los malos? ¿Quiénes son los malos? Es una minoría opresora. ¿Quiénes son los buenos por definición? Una gran mayoría oprimida. Toda la vida ha sido así, toda la historia ha sido así. Siempre habrá buenos contra malos. Toda la historia está hecha así, y, si eso es maniqueísmo, es una vasta historia de maniqueísmo."
Estas novelas-denuncia no pueden ser de otra manera. Aparte de la calidad literaria, que puede o no puede darse independientemente del planteamiento maniqueo o no, estas novelas tienen un objetivo: despertar conciencias o que el pasado no se diluya en una neblina de olvido. Es más, en muchos casos, de no ser así, sería además una falta de respeto a las víctimas. Porque hay casos en los que hay buenos y malos, sin más. La ingenuidad en estos casos sería justamente no ser maniqueo. Hay hechos que no tienen justificación moral, y me da igual que sean perpetrados por esos que son muy amigos de sus amigos y cabezas de familia ejemplares, o que pasaron una niñez bla, bla, bla. Hay veces que es precisamente ese contraste entre las distintas caras de un mismo ser humano el que da más fuerza a la maldad de los personajes, pero hay otras en que todo eso estorba, no tiene un papel en el tema tratado, no viene al caso y no creo que sea un defecto per se.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
685 reviews3,643 followers
August 1, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,826 reviews477 followers
January 22, 2023
First, there is the feeling of failure, the guilt, the look at what we have lost, then the departure—a departure to another life, a better experience, the promise of an El Dorado. We then return to the land that saw us being born: the endless journey, the first death, the hunger, and the cold. But we still believe in it because we saw the leaflets that promised a job with a good salary. Even if a small voice tells us it is unhealthy, all these people leave in the same direction. Everyone with their dreams in mind holds out. Then the arrival, the descent into hell, hunger, the cold. No house, trim work, or salary does not allow you to eat your fill. Dead, still dead. The cruel vision of the people of the new country who do not accept us but need us for the job. The unacceptable reality and the impossible return. So our mother, who has always taken everything without flinching, will become the family's citadel, motivating some and cuddling others. But nothing helps. Misery is on our doorstep, disillusionment, still death—acceptance, anger.
That's a profoundly moving but realistic tale. Sublime prose on the 1929 crisis in the United States insidiously reminds me of the plight of our modern world. One thing has not changed; banks still have power! A novel to read or reread is excellent. To be prescribed for all intolerant people on Earth.
Profile Image for فرشاد.
150 reviews302 followers
June 10, 2015
برای کسانی که بدنبال لذت درک لبخند ژکوند هستند ! چیزی که‌میخوام بنویسم بیشتر از جنس احساسه‌ تا از جنس تحلیل .. فقط بیست صفحه از کتاب رو‌خونده بودم‌و تونستم باهاش ارتباط برقرار کنم .. یه شب بارونی بهار .. حوالی ساعت ده شب خوندن‌ رو‌شروع‌ کردم و تا هفت صبح یکنفس خوندم .. نزدیک به ده ساعت یه حس عجیب و غریب که تووی این بیست سالی که میخونم اولین بار بود که برام اتفاق میفتاد .. چهارصد صفحه‌اول رو یه تیکه و پیوسته خوندم .. کتاب با هر سطرش روح ‌خواننده ‌رو‌به ‌درد میاره ..جاهایی از داستان قلب ادم واقعا به درد میاد .. عجیب نیست که خود نویسنده بعد از نوشتن این رمان مدتی دچار اختلال روحی میشه .. داستان روایت اوارگی یه خانواده پرجمعیت تووی شاهراه شماره ۶۶ هست و مصیبت هایی که یکی بعد از دیگری گریبان گیر این خانواده میشه .. شخصیت ها به راحتی اب خوردن حذف میشن .. و هر بار یه بهت سنگین فضای سیاه داستان رو‌در بر میگیره .. میتونم بگم دیگه محاله بتونم همچین‌داستان زیبایی بخونم .. مخصوصا پایان داستان .. بدون شک نقطه اوج داستان همون سه سطر انتهایی داستان هست .. اونقدر دردناک که انگار هیچ وقت قرار نیست از ذهن خارج بشه .. بهترین رمانی بود که تووی زندگیم خوندم ...
Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,281 followers
February 26, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
17 reviews100 followers
June 12, 2008
*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 : )
Profile Image for Matt.
908 reviews28.1k followers
July 20, 2019
“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.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,109 reviews44.3k followers
May 19, 2022
The Grapes of Wrath is the kind of book that pulls you in and refuses to let go.

There’s just something completely gripping about the way the narrative begins and the way each sentence is put together, it pulls and pulls with its expertly rendered descriptions that do wonders at capturing a landscape and a people undergoing great change. I didn’t want to stop reading, but I also took the time to savour each chapter because I knew that I could only read this for the first time once. So, I stretched it out, I made it last longer than I wanted to, and for me this is one of the surest signs that I was reading a truly great novel.

There’s so much to talk about here. There’s so much brilliance to discuss and so many themes, characters and motifs that warrant reflection. But I want to keep it simple. I want to talk about the things I liked most about the writing. Firstly, I like the naturalness of it. I like the way Steinbeck’s words felt authentic and real. Now let me explain, he does wonders at capturing the essence of time and the ever-changing nature of it. And he is also remarkably talented when it comes to capturing the bigger picture.

It would be easy to talk about the plot here and what pushes the story forward, though that is just half of the power the writing possesses. Steinbeck interposes his narrative with chapters that capture the heart of a nation: they capture the essence of America and the great American dream. They help to weave together a sense of collective consciousness that establish exactly what the characters are feeling against the backdrop of the Great Depression. He is setting the scene in a way that creates a sense of what the characters and people of this time were experiencing on a large scale. And its intoxicating. It’s a storytelling device that brought the novel to life in an incandescent way.

Aside from this, reading The Grapes of Wrath from an ecocritical perspective is quite rewarding. Above all it is a novel of migration, of discovering new landscapes after mass crop death: it is a novel of changing environments and changing circumstances. It’s also about ecology, about man’s ability to continuously affect his environment in largely detrimental ways. And because of this there is a stress on social community, on working together and learning to coexist and fit into the ecosystem and society at large.

Consider me thoroughly and completely impressed. Now I knew how great Steinbeck was from reading Of Mice and Men but I never really liked the sound of any of his other novels enough to pick one up. They just didn’t sound very interesting to me, but this appeared on a list of eco-fiction reads so I was quite curious to see how it fit the genre. And it seems to me this (important) aspect of the novel is a little overlooked, though (admittedly) there are many other significant themes to consider that do dominate the narrative and take centre stage.

More Steinbeck for me in the future!

You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for María.
144 reviews3,065 followers
October 9, 2016
Me ha encantado. Ganadora del Pulitzer en 1940 (no me extraña nada) y terriblemente polémica. Con la industrialización masiva de la agricultura, sus enormes costos e inversiones, millones de agricultores quedaron en la más absoluta ruina. Un drama sobre la emigración, la miseria, la explotación humana. La eterna búsqueda de la felicidad (¿no vamos todos tras ella?) y el paraíso, el edén; en este caso California. Una tierra de la que supuestamente mana leche y miel. Pero la familia Joad, igual de tozuda que la tortuga simbólica que aparece varias veces, se da de bruces con la realidad. Después de un viaje plagado de obstáculos California no es lo que esperaban. ¿Y dónde está el sueño americano? Aunque quiero dejarlo claro, esta novela no es un "panfleto comunista" como la tildaron muchos en su momento. Es un libro que habla sobre los derechos fundamentales de los seres humanos: comida, un techo, trabajo. La familia Joad solo busca trabajo y vivir en una casita humilde. El viaje no solo afecta físicamente a los personajes, sino que remueve sus conciencias. Especial mención a la Madre (con mayúsculas) pues es el pilar de la familia. Los mantiene unidos, sabe que solo se tienen a ellos mismos y aguanta cualquier cosa sin derrumbarse. No deja que en su rostro se refleje ni la preocupación ni el agotamiento, tirando de absolutamente todos los miembros de la familia. El final se cierra con broche de oro mediante un gesto que mezcla miseria y esperanza.
Profile Image for سـارا.
235 reviews241 followers
April 6, 2020
خوشه‌ های خشم‌ یکی از عجیب ترین تجربه‌های خوندنم بود. صد صفحه ابتدایی به شدت کند، خسته کننده و سخت گذشت. اما داستان از جایی به بعد روند بی نظیری رو طی کرد به شکلی که در صفحه‌ی انتهایی احساس میکردم بعد از مدت‌ها یک شاهکار خوندم.
«جان اشتاین بک» بازتاب بخش مهمی از تاریخ آمریکا و رکود اقتصادی پس از جنگ جهانی اول رو در زندگی خانواده‌ای کشاورز از اهالی ایالت اوکلاهما بیان میکنه. خانواده ای که روزهای سختی رو سپری می کنند تا بتونند جایی برای زندگی کردن و غذایی برای خوردن داشته باشند. به قدری اتفاقات و شخصیت ها شفاف روایت شده بودند که احساس میکردم در کنار خانواده‌ی جود زندگی میکنم و جزئی از اونها شدم و بنظرم این قدرت روایت به شدت کمیاب و فوق العاده است.
صفحه‌ی پایانی کتاب با حادثه ای تمام میشه که قطعا به یاد موندنیه و تا مدت‌ها از ذهنتون بیرون نمیره‌...
February 1, 2022
“...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.”

And so 5 stars for a sobering read that is ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, an epic story and a haunting journey of the Joad family that epitomises the plight of many people during the 1930’s Great Depression. Route 66 became a path of people in flight as they headed west in search of a livelihood after the devasting effects of the dust and scorching summer had destroyed their agricultural and their means of supporting their families with it.

A book that tells of hunger and destitution while the landowners and large companies reeked in huge profits while forcing people to work in atrocious conditions and for appalling wages. It tells of the brutality at the hands of law and order that was unleashed to keep a desperate work force subservient and in need. And it tells of the lack of morality as thousands of people were subjected to the most inhumane treatment, in living conditions tantamount to slavery.

“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.”

After an arduous journey across America, people continued to experience the worst of exhaustion, fatigue, and tiredness beyond what any sleep could cure as they toiled the lands and witnessed the large companies destroy crops, because to give it away free meant people would not be forced to buy this produce.

Review and Comments

John Steinbeck writes a fascinating story of crime that goes beyond denunciation, and through his writing you can feel the sorrow and desperation etched on the faces and in the souls of men, women and children, and in the case of the Joad family like many others would have been forced to bury their dead en route.

He tells of story of the have's and have not's', but not just in financial terms, the have not's are those devoid of any moral code and abused a people displaced and in need, starving without homes, and without shelter. The have's were the people rich in their values and you can feel this in the way Steinbeck describes their sense of community, demonstrating the best of human nature, as he speaks of the “…twenty families that became one family, the children were the children of all. The loss of home became one loss, and the golden time in the West was one dream”

A powerful literacy feast for the eyes, a tale of hardship that touches your heart, and a master class in writing that has stood the test of time. Epic, reflective, haunting, absorbing and yet beautiful.
Profile Image for Jesse.
84 reviews14 followers
October 31, 2022
It's the 1930s, the great depression is in full swing, the dust bowl is killing farms off all across the midwest, and Pa and Ma Joad are doing the most American thing you can do, loading up the family in the car for a great cross-country road trip. I mean, what else are you supposed to do when the bank kicks you off your land and runs over your house with a tractor?

I live for books that make you feel. Books that make you cry. Books that stick with you. Books that you find yourself thinking about throughout the day. Books that make you neglect your screaming children to finish because you can't wait to see what happens. John Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath is one of those books!

The Joad family, having been run off their crop-share farm to make way for more profits for the bank, travel to California after having seen a handbill promising high wages and lots of work. Tragedy strikes multiple times along the road, but they make it to the "paradise," which is California. But what they find when they get there is not as promised.

Tom Joad, our hero ex con. Defender of family, freedom, and fairness. I don't think I've ever liked a character as much as Tom. Even with all his flaws and imperfections, he is absolutely amazing.

Do yourself a favor and read this. It's a classic for a reason!
Profile Image for Debbie W..
708 reviews453 followers
February 11, 2022
Why I chose to read this book:
1. This book has always intrigued me ever since I was a kid, seeing it on my parents' bookshelf, so I added it to my WTR list about two years ago;
2. I pushed it up that List after reading The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah a few months ago (I highly recommend her novel for the atmospheric descriptions of the unrelenting dust storms); and,
3. February is "Classics Month" for me!

Note: This book may appeal to readers who have some background knowledge of the Great Depression, specifically of the Dust Bowl and migration of American farmers to California.


1. The character-development in this novel is its strong suit! As I traveled along with the Joad family, migrant farmers (Okies) from the Dust Bowl to the Land of Milk and Honey, I cheered for Ma Joad and her no-nonsense attitude and shook my head in frustration over son, Al's one-track mind. I was awestruck by the times they gladly helped out others, even though they had very little of their own to share. Likeable or not, if you were living in close quarters with another family for several months, their personalities would grate on your nerves as well;
2. Such descriptive realism! I could vividly picture every scene and appreciated the authentic dialogue; and,
3. If you prefer <300-page books, then don't read this novel! The first 200 pages focuses on the actual journey from Oklahoma to California, whereas the final 200 pages depicts this family's life in California. Although the plot is slow-going, I savored all the successes and issues they encountered along the way.

1. Although Steinbeck gives a detailed account of a typical migrant's journey to California and the hardships awaiting them there, I wish he wrote a more descriptive setting re: the dust storms these Midwestern families faced; and,
2. What was Steinbeck thinking with that ending? I know that several readers really liked that part, but I have issues when a strong realistic story strays into massive symbolism in the last paragraph! I don't think Steinbeck understands women that well if he thinks any woman would do what Rose of Sharon did! Eww! 🤢 To me, her actions just didn't make sense!

Overall, I had empathy for the hopes and dreams the Joads had along their journey and understood that when those hopes were dashed, it only led to despair and anger (wrath). Unfortunately, this story has been, and continues to be, relevant today.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book834 followers
September 21, 2021
Blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, storms, locusts, darkness, and death. These were the plagues the Lord clamped onto Egypt (Exodus, 7-10). And these plagues triggered the migration of the people of Israel into the wilderness. After spending forty years in the desert, they finally reached the “land of milk and honey”. More plights and perils were awaiting them there.

Some three thousand years later, on another continent across the ocean, a people of farmers went through a similar ordeal once again. And this is how John Steinbeck elevated the story of the impoverished sharecroppers from the Dust Bowl region during the Great Depression to the level of an epic voyage, comparable to the Exodus or the Odyssey. Like the Israelites of yore, these Oklahomans were forced, by drought and economic hardship, to leave their land and travel down the Road 66 to a new “promised land”, a new Canaan named California.

The Grapes of Wrath is a re-interpretation of the Bible in yet another way. A few characters are, indeed, sometimes very explicitly, Christlike figures. Compare Casy’s “You don’ know what you’re a-doin’.” (Penguin Modern Classics paperback, p. 386) with Luke 23,34. Compare Tom’s “I’ll be there” (p. 419) with Matthew 18,20. Even the title is a quote from the Apocalypse of John 14,19. And the whole novel is the story of a people looking for redemption and a new land, which they may or may not find on this Earth…

Further still, one could argue that Steinbeck is also retelling some of the canonical works of 19th-century literature. In a sense, The Grapes of Wrath is the American version of Les Misérables: Tom Joad is the Jean Valjean of the New World, and the corporate farmers of 1930s California are just as awful as the police and army of 1830s Paris. In brief, Steinbeck’s novel is the paragon of the “Great American Novel”; a multi-layered narrative that lends itself, like the Bible, to a typological reading on different levels.

At any rate, despite its epic or mythical dimension, Steinbeck’s writing is anything but lofty. On the contrary, it conveys people’s mindset and daily struggles, their constant concern for simple material things: the state of disrepair of their car and how they manage to fix a flat tire, the need to put bread on the table and the recipe they use to make fried dough, the toilet flush and lack of loo roll. The narrator describes these things with meticulous precision – a technique typical of survival literature, from Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe to McCarthy’s The Road. More could be said about the characterisation and the deft and consistent use of dialect and turns of phrases of the people of Oklahoma – this also harks back to Mark Twain and William Faulkner’s novels.

The Grapes of Wrath is also, among many other things, a compelling political manifesto. The novel’s structure oscillates between classic narrative chapters (the Joads’ story) and discursive, slightly outraged lectures whereby Steinbeck examines the causes and effects of the Southern migration (from a Marxist point of view). Namely, the rising mechanisation and automation of agricultural labour and the constant push for higher corporate profits and lower individual wages.

In short, the terrifying “pillars of fire” of ancient Israel are now replaced by the dehumanising “invisible hand” of modern capitalism: a vast network of socio-economic forces that engirdles the whole of Western civilisation. In the end, forced migrations, people trying to flee wars, persecution, deprivation and starvation, unsanitary refugee camps, combined exploitation and hatred of incoming migrants, viewed as subhuman in their new “land of milk and honey” – all this is as real as ever today, in many parts of the world. All of which makes Steinbeck’s novel as essential as ever.

The 1940 film adaptation is, for the most part, faithful to Steinbeck’s plot and dramatic tone, except for the final section – notably, the bleak and slightly disturbing motif of the Caritas Romana at the end of the novel is absent from the film. Nonetheless, it is one of John Ford’s finest movies. Steinbeck’s novel also influenced many other works of fiction, from Stephen King’s The Stand to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.
Profile Image for Maede.
266 reviews383 followers
March 18, 2022
انقدر تاثیر این کتاب روی من عمیق بود، ریویو طولانی شد. اگر با دیدن تعداد پاراگراف‌ها دارید بیخیالش میشید (که حق دارید!) فقط همین رو بگم که
خوشه‌های خشم رو بخوانید

کتاب‌های داستانی معمولی، اصولاً حیوانات خانگی رام‌شده‌ای هستند که دندان‌هایشان رو به شما نشان نمیدن و کشان کشان شما رو به دنیای وحشی نمی‌برند. اما خوشه‌های خشم داستانیه که دندان‌هاش به خونتون آغشته‌ میشه[گاردین]. داستان ساده و تلخه. اُکی‌هایی (مهاجران اکلاهما) که به سمت باغ‌های میوه‌ی کالیفرنیا راه افتادند و در تلاش برای یافتن سرزمین موعود، چه زجرها که نکشیدند. خانواده جود، یکی از هزاران خانواده‌ای بودند که از زمینی که در اون متولد شده بودند رانده شدند و دوازده نفر، سوار بر ماشینی قدیمی به سمت غرب کوچ کردند. در نهایت، بدبختی و فلاکت تنها چیزیه که نصیب این خانواده و هزاران مهاجر دیگه شد

بدبختی در دل بدبختی

:داستان دو پس‌زمینه‌ی تاریخی مهم داره

رکود بزرگ The Great Depression .۱
با سقوط بازار سهام در سال ۱۹۲۹ و رکود اقتصادی آمریکا، بانک‌ها به هر راهی متصول شدند تا ضررهای خود رو جبران کنند. از آنجا که یکی کردن زمین‌ها و برداشت محصول با تراکتور از لحاظ اقتصادی سود بیشتری داشت، بانک‌ها کشاورزان کوچک که با قرض و وام زمین‌هاشون رو به بانک باخته بودند رو بیرون کردند و باعث ایجاد یک مهاجرت بزرگ از شرق به غرب شدند

کاسه‌ی خاک Dust bowl .۲
از ابتدای دهه ۱۹۳۰، دشت‌های جنوبی آمریکا دچار طوفان‌های شدید خاک و خشکسالی شدند که باعث مرگ انسان‌ها و دام شد و همچنین محصولات کشاورزی از دست رفتند. این شرایط، تاثیرات کمرشکن رکود اقتصادی رو تشدید کرد و خانواده‌های کشاورز به امید شرایط بهتر مجبور به ترک زمین‌های خود شدند

بحث‌برانگیزِ خوب یا بد؟

خوشه‌های خشم احتمالاً بحث‌برانگیزترین و نقد شده‌ترین رمان قرن بیست هست. چنین آثاری اصولاً جنگ‌های کتابی ایجاد می‌کنند و کتاب‌هایی در دفاع و کتاب‌هایی برای تخریبشون نوشته میشه و این دقیقاً اتفاقیه که برای این اثر افتاد. مردم کالیفرنیا و اکلاهما از نحوه‌ی تصویر شدن در این کتاب گله داشتند و به دروغ‌پراکنی متهمش کردند. سرمایه‌داران و سیاستمداران شک نداشتند که این داستان چیزی جز پروپاگاندای کمونیستی نیست و البته که به خاطر تفاسیر نامتعارف از مسیحیت و الفاظ زشت به مذاق محافظه‌کاران هم خوش نمی‌آمد. امتحان اصلی کتاب‌ها اما، گذر زمانه. با فاصله گرفتن از زمان رکود اقتصادی و پیوستن این ماجراها به تاریخ، مردم با دید بازتری به این داستان نگاه کردند و مجبور شدند با حقیقت مواجه بشن، اینجا بود که مخاطبان بیشتری روایت کتاب رو پذیرفتند

کل و جز

کتاب فصل‌بندی متفاوتی داره. تقریباً یک فصل در میان داستان خانواده جود قطع میشه و نویسنده سعی می‌کنه تصویر بزرگتری از رویدادها رو ترسیم کنه‌. البته با اینکه جودها در این فصل‌ها حضور ندارند، در حقیقت با همون مسائل بعدا رو به رو میشن. اگر کتاب فقط با فصل‌های کلی نوشته می‌شد، تصور دردهایی که ازش صحبت می‌کنه سخت می‌شد و اگر فقط از مشکلات جودها می‌خوندیم، شاید فراموش می‌کردیم که این خانواده فقط مشتی از خروارها بودند

از من به ما

بخشی از فلسفه اشتاین‌بک که از مارکس تأثیر گرفته، در مورد قدرت جمع در مقابل ضعف فرده. تمام کاراکترهای اصلی رشد شخصیتی‌ای در همین راستا دارند. تام جود، شخصیت اصلی داستان در ابتدای کتاب بسیار خودمحوره و به سرعت عصبانی میشه. ما جود، مادر خانواده، در فصل‌های ابتدایی به هیچکس جز خانواده خودش فکر نمی‌کنه. اما هر دو بعد از تجربه‌ی مصیبت‌های بسیار، به مرور فراتر از خودشون رو می‌بینند و سعی می‌کنند به هر نحو به مهاجران دیگر هم کمک کنند. مادر در حالی که خودشون غذای زیادی ندارند، به بچه‌های گرسنه کمی غذا میده و تام در انتها بزرگترین تصمیم برای پیوستن به جمع معترضین رو می‌گیره
اما بزرگترین تغییر از فردگرایی به از خودگذشتگی برای «رُزاشارن» خواهر باردار تام اتفاق می‌افته که با همسر جوانش و سری پر از آرزوهای شیرین این سفر رو شروع می‌کنه. کم‌کم واقعیت روی سیاهش رو به رزاشارن نشان میده و هر روز بخشی از رویاش رو از دست میده. در نهایت این دختر جوان در صفحات نهایی کتاب، مظهر طرز فکر اشتاین‌بک میشه

"زن‌ها راحت‌تر تغییر می‌کنند"

این جواب مادر به پدر خانوادست، وقتی که مرد از قدرت این زن برای مدیریت و کنترل اوضاع سخت در تعجبه. نقش مادر خانواده جود در این داستان و رشد شخصیتش از جذاب‌ترین بخش‌ها بود. داستان به وضوح در جامعه‌ی مردسالار اوایل قرن بیستم در حال رخ دادنه. در ابتدای داستان می‌بینیم که مردان تصمیم‌گیرنده‌های اصلی برای سفر پیش رو هستند و حتی زنان اجازه‌ی نظر دادن ندارند. اما در طول کتاب با سخت شدن شرایط و مواجهه با مصیبت‌ها، این مادر خانوادست که کنترل اوضاع رو به دست می‌گیره و تصمیمات نهایی رو برای خانواده می‌گیره. مادر که هدفی جز زنده و در کنار هم نگه داشتن خانواده‌اش نداره، در مقابل این تغییر بزرگ نمی‌شکنه و با قدرتش سفر رو پیش می‌بره

دردِ آشنا

اشتاین‌بک خودش در یکی از مزرعه‌های کالیفرنیا به دنیا آمد و در اون‌ها کار کرد. قبل از انتشار این کتاب از وضعیت مشقت‌بار کمپ‌های مهاجران برای روزنامه می‌نوشت، به طور مداوم ازشون بازدید می کرد و حتی با مهاجران همسفر می‌شد. تمام این‌ها مقدماتی برای نوشتن این کتاب بود. به قول خودش نویسنده تنها در مورد چیزی می‌تونه خوب بنویسه که تحسینش می‌کنه و از نظرش در اون زمان چیزی تحسین برانگیزتر از شجاعت مردم فقیر نبود

انگلیسی با ترجمه؟ کتاب صوتی چی؟

خیلی توصیه می‌کنم اگر می‌تونید کتاب رو حتماً انگلیسی بخونید. نحوه دیالوگ نویسی اشتاین ‌بک خاصه و تمام مکالمات با لهجه و سبک خاص گفتار مردم ایالت‌های مختلف آمریکا در آن بازه زمانی نوشته شده. من همزمان نسخه صوتی رو گوش کردم و از روی کتاب خواندم. به چند دلیل این روش عالی بود. اول اینکه با تمرکز و سرعت بالاتری کتاب رو خواندم و با اجرای فوق‌العاده گوینده، خواندن جملات با لهجه بسیار آسان‌تر شد

و اما این جمله‌ایه که کتاب رو برام خلاصه می کنه


سه تا از بهترین مقالات
the guardian

Profile Image for Kellyn Roth.
Author 24 books898 followers
January 3, 2022
UPDATE 03/11/2021: I did some minor edits, and I'd like to clarify that I hate the book because of the politics - not because of the cussing. The cussing matters little to me, but I mentioned it because I have friends who avoid language.

WARNING: This is an extremely long and ranty review because I hated this book more than life itself. If you loved this book enough to be triggered by a negative review, don't read the review. I read this book years ago, but I'm not removing the review despite having no idea how I'd feel about the novel now. Opinions are a thing. I can roast this book. Why don't you write a positive review instead?

Also, do think about the kind of person you are if you get majorly triggered (to the point of bullying, stalking, harassment, demanding personal information, etc., all of which has happened over this one review!) when you read a negative review of a fictional novel.

Also, grow up, 'cause adults don't do that kind of crap over a book. They just enjoy the book themselves and let other people hate it because it literally doesn't hurt you any.

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 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. Despite its original intention, it developed a great purpose that was frankly quite impressive. I salute thee, you underappreciated story!

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 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 said, I'll quote from analyses of the book (paraphrased) to share these themes.

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.”

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. 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.
-Stupid government.
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.
-(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 slurs 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 idiocy! 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). 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. All the same, it was sad how Christianity is portrayed as something only a senile grandma could appreciate! That said, the book has no obligation to portray a religion in any light it so chooses, and as such, this is not a serious complaint. Just a personal one.

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. This was also sad, as he really deserved more. If only one person in this story had offered him love! People in this book suck.

Ruthie. Bossy and domineering little girl.

Winfield. Spoiled brat.

Noah. Actually, he’s 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. I'm very sad for him, too. He deserved so much more!

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

For my friends who want to know this kind of thing, I'm including a "family guide" of sorts.

Profanity: 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.”

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.

Sexual: Lots of kissing/necking/petting, etc. Never described in great detail, but it’s there. There’s one scene where I believe Rosasharn and Connie have sex.

Tom, Casy, and Al all talk about sleeping with women, degrading acts they've done with women, etc. As a woman, this made me super uncomfortable. Many, many sexual jokes and innuendos and references.

Other: Death, destruction, murder, violence, scary scenes, police violence, mobs, scummy living conditions.

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.

There are other books about this historical period that are honest about life without resorting to nonsense, featuring characters who are actually worth relating to and imitating, and have a more realistic view of this complicated system that isn't the simple, "Everything is the fault of the government."

Why are so many high school students forced to read this?

Thanks for reading,

~Kellyn Roth
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,480 followers
September 21, 2021

Steinbeck's classic blew me away again with the power of its vision, the depth of its character, and the realism of its dialogs. I also rewatched the movie and found it to be relatively faithful to the book. A few things were dropped (the Wilsons, Noah's leaving, the pathos-laden ending with Rosasharon in the farmhouse) and a few things were swapped around (the government camp and the peach camp), but Henry Fonda did a perfect performance as the interesting Tom Joad whose character arc goes from somewhat hardened criminal to socially conscious drifter. I also loved Casy and found John Carradine stupendous in that role.

The narration of the book has three voices: the third party narration of the Joad family's trials and tribulations; a more sweeping, journalistic voice about the larger political and social context; and a closeup into the thoughts and actions of people implied on the fringes (most notably the roadside cafés which play a role twice in the primary narrative - younger's Tom's initial ride to the farm, older Tom's purchase of bread and candy). I feel that this technique was borrowed in principle at least from the Dos Passos USA Trilogy - the closeups reminded me of the Camera Eye sections and the sweeping passages of the Newsreel sections.

The book itself tells the story of the Joads and by extension of an entire generation of mid-western farmers in the US that were forced off their land after the Dust Bowl, a period of several years of famine, to seek their fortunes in a promised land out west in California. The harsh realities of life on the road, the prejudice of stationary observers towards the "Oakies", and the exploitation by farmers and farming associations of the labor surplus are painfully delineated. There is nonetheless some great humor (Ma's beating a man with a chicken as told by Tom, Ruthie and Winfield's discovery of the toilets, etc) in here and some great moments of humanity - primarily in Casy's speeches and in my all-time favorite one, "wherever there's a man, I'll be there too" by Tom.

The relationships in the book, particularly between Ma and Tom are beautifully drawn and yet the minor characters are also given time to change with the situations. Of course, not everyone makes it to the land of milk and honey, and the land itself does not welcome them with open arms but rather with rejection and disdain.

As for the historical context, it is hard for us to get exact numbers, but somewhere between 400,000 and 3.5M people were displaced from the Great Plains area that was affected by the drought and violent dust storms between 1931 and 1939 during which 75% of the topsoil was wiped out in the Oklahoma panhandle, western Kansas, eastern Colorado, and northern Texas. Not all of the displaced went to California, nonetheless, it is estimated that 1/8 of today's California population are descendants of survivors of the Dust Bowl. It is also hard to estimate the number of deaths, but most sources settle on a number of about 7000 primarily from malnutrition and disease (both hinted at in the book, of course).

Steinbeck depicts this vividly with sharply drawn images and an appeal to our emotions: we see that unfortunately, the Great Depression has also impacted California and there are no jobs there either. It is important to note his insight that it was not just farmers that were driven from the land: in the book at the first stop for the Joads, they meet a shopkeeper who left because he had no more customers. In fact, people from across the economic spectrum were impacted and forced to rethink their means of getting an income.

Also important to this book is the fact that it was not just climate change that pushed people off the land, it was also the ruthlessness of banks and speculators as well as technological change. This period represents a shift from manual sharecropping of smallish plots to the massive scale of industrialized agriculture. The heartlessness with which the guys in suits drive the Joads and their neighbors of their land is shocking, and yet realistic. The practice of printing handbills for wide distribution in order to drive down labor prices as well as the labeling any resistance to falling wages as "red" was a powerful theme in the book.

There is a feeling of inevitableness, but also injustice as few provisions were made by the government for these victims of change, and the gutting of legislation to protect small landholders from rapacious actions by the large financial interests during the Coolidge, Harding, and Hoover administrations left gaping holes in the safety net.

An absolute American masterpiece, there is no question in my mind of this novel deserving the 1940 Pulitzer Prize over other great books like Chandler's The Big Sleep and Tropic of Capricorn also being published in 1939. This one just has an eternal, lasting perfection to it. Grapes of Wrath was one of the primary sources quoted when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. His moving acceptance speech here.

My votable list of Pulitzer winners which I have read (only have the 40s, 50s, and 60s to finish!):
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,921 reviews35.4k followers
September 23, 2019
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!!!!
Profile Image for Maciek.
558 reviews3,270 followers
September 17, 2022
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. .
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."
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