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The Grapes of Wrath Paperback – March 28, 2006
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The prize must have come, at least in part, because alongside the poverty and dispossession, Steinbeck chronicled the Joads' refusal, even inability, to let go of their faltering but unmistakable hold on human dignity. Witnessing their degeneration from Oklahoma farmers to a diminished band of migrant workers is nothing short of crushing. The Joads lose family members to death and cowardice as they go, and are challenged by everything from weather to the authorities to the California locals themselves. As Tom Joad puts it: "They're a-workin' away at our spirits. They're a tryin' to make us cringe an' crawl like a whipped bitch. They tryin' to break us. Why, Jesus Christ, Ma, they comes a time when the on'y way a fella can keep his decency is by takin' a sock at a cop. They're workin' on our decency."
The point, though, is that decency remains intact, if somewhat battle-scarred, and this, as much as the depression and the plight of the "Okies," is a part of American history. When the California of their dreams proves to be less than edenic, Ma tells Tom: "You got to have patience. Why, Tom--us people will go on livin' when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we're the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people--we go on." It's almost as if she's talking about the very novel she inhabits, for Steinbeck's characters, more than most literary creations, do go on. They continue, now as much as ever, to illuminate and humanize an era for generations of readers who, thankfully, have no experiential point of reference for understanding the depression. The book's final, haunting image of Rose of Sharon--Rosasharn, as they call her--the eldest Joad daughter, forcing the milk intended for her stillborn baby onto a starving stranger, is a lesson on the grandest scale. "'You got to,'" she says, simply. And so do we all. --Melanie Rehak --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Steinbeck concentrated on the circumstances of one family, The Joads, tenant farmers in Oklahoma until they were forced out by the larger companies who wanted their land back. With dreams of luscious grapes and peaches in abundance waiting to be picked, they loaded up their belongings and began their journey on Route 66 headed for Bakersfield, California. They began their trip with a bevy of colorful characters led by Ma and Pa Joad. It's amazing how much power Steinbeck gave to Ma Joad -- years before women had any right to a voice. Unfortunately, just as the Joads were heading out, so were thousands upon thousands of other families.Read more ›
The book is beautifully written. Steinbeck's style flows so smoothly and is so accessible. The book follows the Joad family for about nine months as they are driven from the place they've called home for generations and travel to California, only to find out that it is not the land of opportunity they expected. Steinbeck's formula here is to intersperse the lengthy chapters chronicling the Joads' journey with short chapters that encapsulate some nuance about the period or the people, giving you a picture of the greater struggle taking place, of which the Joads are just a small part. It creates a very powerful effect. This migration west involved hundreds of thousands of individuals. You see in a few pages the big picture, then you are pulled back into the intimacies of the Joads' lives and the tragedy is made very personal. In one especially startling example, Steinbeck puts these words into the mouth of a character after selling a nameless migrant and his family some gas for their car, "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." In the next chapter, the Joads make camp along a stream and Ma is so happy for the clean water and the chance to stay put for a day so that she can take a bath and wash the family's clothes.Read more ›
The Joads and thousands of others are driven out of Oklahoma by drought and the Depression. It is bad enough they lose their farms to homes and have to move. It is worse that the big business fruit growers in California print misleading flyers claiming to have far more well-paying jobs available than they ever intended to have. It is miserable when they get to California (where the people curse them as "Okies") and find out that as few as one man owns as much a million acres--much of it lying fallow in front of their eyes.
As difficult as the plight of the Joads and families like them, Steinbeck does not paint the Californians or their police as evil so much as scared into treachery and violence in order to protect their own. No one wants to starve and starvation after the dust bowl and thanks to the exploitative wages paid by the vineyard owners is a very real possibility. Nor does he canonize the migrants--the societies that grow up by the side of the road each night have their own laws and lawbreakers, stout hearts and slatterns--but does show them as civilized people who don't deserve being treated like animals. Many fearful Californians don't agree.
Steinbeck's character Tom Joad (whose ghost lives on in a Bruce Springsteen's song recently covered by Rage Against the Machine) is as important to American literature as Huckleberry Finn, Holden Caulfield and Jay Gatsby. Joad knows life offers no simple solutions, but he also knows that fair is fair.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Joad family just could not catch a break. A depressing tale about the dust bowl era.Published 23 hours ago by Henry Bush
A classic American novel by one of the twentieth centuries best writers.Published 23 hours ago by Mark Kostin
This is one of those books that causes the reader to experience all of their emotions so intensely that you must lay the book down to work through them! It is such a touching book. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
Superb characterisation in a deeply disturbing story of the greed and selfishness of capitalism in the early 20th century. Read morePublished 6 days ago by KEVIN WATSON
I've been meaning to read some of 'the classics' and chose this to start. Beautifully written and really moving. I knew nothing about this period in American history. Loved it.Published 8 days ago by PlakaKat
Like many classics, Steinbeck presents a story that is timeless an eerily relevant to the modern world. Read morePublished 11 days ago by reothebeat
When Tom Joad is released from prison he comes back to his family's home in Oklahoma to find them packing up to move west. Read more
Never read this as a child in school but I don't think I could have appreciated the struggle as much as I can now. Excellent.Published 13 days ago by Kathryn F Case