The Grapes of Wrath

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Penguin Books, 1992 - Fiction - 619 pages
159 Reviews
The Grapes of Wrath is a landmark of American literature. 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. Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma family, the Joads, who are driven off 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. First published in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath summed up its era in the way that Uncle Tom's Cabin summed up the years of slavery before the Civil War. Sensitive to fascist and communist criticism, Steinbeck insisted that: The Battle Hymn of the Republic be printed in its entirety in the first edition of the book-which takes its title from the first verse: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck's fictional chronicle of the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930's is perhaps the most American of American classics.

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User Review  - engpunk77 - LibraryThing

I read this for pleasure when I was pregnant because I actually had time to relax--I recall laying the book on my chest and shouting "This is the best f-ing book I've ever read!" to the silence of my apartment. Nothing more to say. This ranks up there with "Harold and the Purple Crayon." Read full review

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User Review  - amme_mr - LibraryThing

Angus and Robertson Top 100 (2006 - 2008) Book #89. This book was very interesting early on. A classic that actually managed to get me hooked early. Unfortunately it peaked early, and the end was just ... Read full review

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About the author (1992)

In recent years Steinbeck has been elevated to a more prominent status among American writers of his generation. If not quite at the world-class artistic level of a Hemingway or a Faulkner, he is nonetheless read very widely throughout the world by readers of all ages who consider him one of the most "American" of writers. Born in Salinas County, California on February 27, 1902, Steinbeck was of German-Irish parentage. After four years as a special student at Stanford University, he went to New York, where he worked as a reporter and as a hod carrier. Returning to California, he devoted himself to writing, with little success; his first three books sold fewer than 3,000 copies. Tortilla Flat (1935), dealing with the paisanos, California Mexicans whose ancestors settled in the country 200 years ago, established his reputation. In Dubious Battle (1936), a labor novel of a strike and strike-breaking, won the gold medal of the Commonwealth Club of California. Of Mice and Men (1937), a long short story that turns upon a melodramatic incident in the tragic friendship of two farm hands, written almost entirely in dialogue, was an experiment and was dramatized in the year of its publication, winning the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. It brought him fame. Out of a series of articles that he wrote about the transient labor camps in California came the inspiration for his greatest book, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), the odyssey of the Joad family, dispossessed of their farm in the Dust Bowl and seeking a new home, only to be driven on from camp to camp. The fiction is punctuated at intervals by the author's voice explaining this new sociological problem of homelessness, unemployment, and displacement. As the American novel "of the season, probably the year, possibly the decade," it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. It roused America and won a broad readership by the unusual simplicity and tenderness with which Steinbeck treated social questions. Even today, The Grapes of Wrath remains alive as a vivid account of believable human characters seen in symbolic and universal terms as well as in geographically and historically specific ones. Ma Joad is one of the most memorable characters in twentieth-century American fiction. It is her courage that sustains the family. Steinbeck's best and most ambitious novel after The Grapes of Wrath is East of Eden (1952), a saga of two American families in California from before the Civil War through World War I. Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1947), and Sweet Thursday (1955) are lighter works that find Steinbeck returning to the lighthearted tone of Tortilla Flat as he recounts picaresque adventures of modern-day picaros. The Winter of Our Discontent (1961) struck some reviewers as being appropriately titled because of its despairing treatment of humanity's fall from grace in a wasteland world where money is king. Steinbeck also wrote important nonfiction, including Russian Journal (1948) in collaboration with the photographer Robert Capa; Once There Was a War (1958) and America and Americans (1966), which features pictures by 55 leading photographers and a 70-page essay by Steinbeck. His interest in marine biology led to two books primarily about sea life, Sea of Cortez (1941) (with Edward F. Ricketts) and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951). Travels with Charley (1952) is an engaging account of his journey of rediscovery of America, which took him through approximately 40 states. Steinbeck was married three times and died in New York City on December 20, 1968 of heart disease and congestive heart failure. He was 66, and had been a life-long smoker.

Robert DeMott is the Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor of English at Ohio University in Athens. His recent books include "Steinbeck's Typewriter: Essays on His Art" (1996), "Dave Smith: A Literary Archive" (2000), and "The Weather in Athens" (2001).

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