John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

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Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1991 - Drama - 143 pages
41 Reviews
'The grapes of wrath' is 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 book 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.

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The Grapes of Wrath is inappropriate and school children should not be allowed to read it. It uses vulgar language, it should be banned.
-Micheal Davis

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Literary critics often pan it, but if I were making a top ten (or so) list of books to read in this day and time, Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" would have to be on it somewhere. The passage which follows is but one among many in this book which served to shape and change the way I think about things:
"One man, one family driven from the land; the rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land. A single tractor took my land. I am alone and I am bewildered. And in the night one family camps in the ditch and another family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat on their hams and the women and the children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlage of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here 'I lost my land' is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate - 'We lost our land.' The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first 'we' there grows a still more dangerous thing: 'I have a little food' plus 'I have none.' If from this problem the sum is 'We have a little food', the thing is on its way, the movement has direction. Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side-meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women; behind, the children listening with their souls to words their minds do not understand. The night draws down. The baby has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It's wool. It was my mother's blanket -- take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning -- from 'I' to we.'"
Oddly enough, when I first read 'The Grapes of Wrath', I hated it. The novel was assigned reading in which I had no interest and I could not "hear" the people in the story. Years later, during the better part of a year's stay in a VA hospital, I picked it up again when the library added it to their pile of discards that would either be claimed by patients for their own or, failing that, thrown away. And this time the book spoke to me. And I could hear and feel the pain and the angst of the people. I could see the power aligned against them, caring not for the starving children or the dying old or the as yet unborn.
I keep this book on my shelf now. And every year or two I take it down from the shelf and read it again. It may not be universally loved, but on any top ten (or so) list I might ever put together, it is a book that would find a spot.
Note: I posted this same thing at Open Salon* earlier. Liked it well enough after posting that I thought I'd add it to the reviews here. This is a great book for readers with the maturity and the empathy required to really understand it. And as I said, when I first read it as a school assignment, I possessed neither the required maturity or empathy. For anyone who may have attempted this book before and found it unreadable, my suggestion is to wait a few years and try it again.
*See David Cox's OS blog at


Property Plot Preset by Location
Costume Plot
APPENDIX E The Campfires
APPENDIX H Fly Cues 182
APPENDIX K Information about Music

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About the author (1991)

Frank Galati is a playwright, director, and actor. His screenplay for "The Accidental Tourist was nominated for an Academy Award and in 1990 he received two Tony Awards for his adaptation and direction of "The Grapes of Wrath. Galati is an ensemble member at Steppenwolf Theatre and also teaches at Northwestern University.

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