The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - Tammy's review

Title: The Grapes of Wrath

Author: John Steinbeck

First Published: 1939

No. of Pages: 464

Synopsis (from B&N): 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 farm 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, Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity.

Comments and Critique: John Steinbeck was a master storyteller. He had the ability to get you interested in the story and to hold your interest for page after page. The story of the Joads is heartbreaking but at the same time shows mankind’s strength of character in the face of overwhelming odds, especially in the character of Ma Joad. Without doubt, she was my favorite – she showed resilience through poverty, hunger, and death, all the while presenting a brave face to the outside world and trying everything she could to keep her family together.

It’s always been difficult for me to imagine what it was truly like to live through the Great Depression. The only family I have that was alive then is my grandmother. She’s told me a little about her life growing up on a central Florida farm as the 2nd oldest of 8 children, but has never wanted to talk much in detail about the experience. I’ve noticed that many elderly people do that, they either don't discuss it or they downplay the hardships that you know they suffered, often with the comment that, “We didn’t have much, but then neither did anyone else.” It’s almost like it wasn’t as bad because so many were suffering right alongside. That was also a theme in this book. Steinbeck really focused on the interaction of the migrants and showed how they looked out for one another, shared their food and lodgings, and provided moral support.

My copy of the book has extensive commentary, which provides a good look at the historical and social context of the story. My next step is to watch the movie version, which I’ve always heard is excellent, and see how it compares to the book.

Interesting facts:: John Steinbeck lived with an Oklahoma family and travelled with them to California as research for this book. The Grapes of Wrath won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1940. John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

Would You Recommend This Book to Others: Yes