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The Grapes of Wrath Paperback – March 28, 2006
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When The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939, America, still recovering from the Great Depression, came face to face with itself in a startling, lyrical way. John Steinbeck gathered the country's recent shames and devastations--the Hoovervilles, the desperate, dirty children, the dissolution of kin, the oppressive labor conditions--in the Joad family. Then he set them down on a westward-running road, local dialect and all, for the world to acknowledge. For this marvel of observation and perception, he won the Pulitzer in 1940.
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
Journey with the Joads for 21 hours in this first unabridged version of Steinbeck's classic. Controversial, even shocking, when it was written, the work continues to be so even today. The keen listener can hear why, because it poses fundamental questions about justice, the ownership and stewardship of the land, the role of government, power, and the very foundations of capitalist society. As history, this brings the Dust Bowl years to life in a most memorable way. Steinbeck (Travels with Charley, Audio Reviews, LJ 11/15/94) is a master storyteller and manages to engage the listener's sympathy with this epic story. Reader Dylan Baker, who gives each character a distinctive voice, draws the listener in. His female characters, especially the minor ones and Rose of Sharon, don't seem as authentic as his wonderful evocation of the fictional Tom, Ma, and Pa. But his voice is easy to listen to, and he is faithful to the characters' backgrounds and the plains region. The music that ends each individual tape is perfect for the story. This program is a well-produced, affordable, and worthwhile addition for any library with a serious audiobook collection.?Nancy Paul, Brandon P.L., WI
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The story focuses on the Joad family as they sell most of their possessions to raise enough money for the long journey from Oklahoma to California. Intermixed with their story are great descriptions of the land, the road they took (Route 66), and the hundreds of thousands of people doing the same thing the Joad's were doing.
The book doesn't get into the factors that led so many families to head West, and after reading "The Worst Hard Time", it doesn't appear to be the Dust Bowl as much as it was the overall depression the country was going through in the 1930's.
While I enjoyed the descriptions and brutal honesty of the novel, I knocked off a star because I didn't care for Ex-Reverand Casy's view on morality nor the ending of the book that left me wanting more closure for the Joad family. The ending got me to California with the Joad's, but didn't give me any sense of their fate.