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The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath
Author: John Steinbeck
ISBN: 1761

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Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio Cassette, Audio CD
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Kaaren avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9
If you have not read this book, what are you waiting for? Is it because it was written before you were born? (1939) Does its name scare you, as it did me, into imagining it would be about all sorts of odd things, as I did? Well don't let your preconceived notions fool you. It's a terrific
novel. It is a great piece of literature that won Mr. Steinbeck a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize, and eventually, with his other contributions to literature, earned him a Nobel Prize.

What can I say about the Joads that has not already been said in the past sixty-odd years? How could I have missed knowing them earlier? I read this story, with its "country speech" and "country ways" and wanted to take them all in. I wanted to comfort them all. I didn't know what I would find at the Joads when we first meet Tom going home. Who is this Tom Joad Jr. and why was he in jail? He must have had a HORRIBLE life to end up there, he must have. Then you meet the 'fambly.' You live with the 'fambly.' You see proud Pa try so hard to be the head of the home during the Dust Bowl migration. This family, who for generations upon generations, upon generations lived off their land. The land wasn't a piece of property, it was family. It fed them, it housed them. They raised a crop to sell, so they can pay off the loans they took when times were tough before. When the rains stopped coming, and the payments to the bank stopped being made, the 'banks' came and told all these people to leave. Imagine someone coming to tell you that the land you have lived on all your life, the land of your fathers and grandfathers belonged to the banks and you had to leave right now. Imagine the dread. All your life spent in the same place, with the same neighbors, the same strong values; "Yes Sir! Yes Ma'am!" No talking back, everyone knew their place. And then the dust came, and took away everything you knew.

The Joads sell everything they own, load up a beat-up truck with the necessities (food, water, mattresses, clothes, pots, pans) and head towards the promised land of California. Along with 500,000 other displaced people. All looking for land to work; it's all they know. You get land, you work it, it's yours. They had no idea what life outside of Oklahoma was really going to be like.

There's Ma, trying so hard to keep the family strong. She's the backbone. She eventually takes charge, which, back on their farm, was unheard of. Times were changing.

Ma & Pa, 6 kids, Grandma & Grandpa, Uncle John, the Preacher Casey, and Connie, the husband of one of Ma's daughters. Thirteen people in one truck.

I wanted to bring them home, let them eat, give them a hot bath, tell them it'll be ok. I wanted to simultaneously smack the heck out of Rose of Sharon (Rosasharn) and comfort her in the end; tell her she really did do good in God's eyes at that very last paragraph. I saw Ruthie grow in those 7 or 8 months into someone I did not like. She was mean, she was vindictive, she was 7. I saw humanity at its worse. Things like this really did happen in the early 1930's, after the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. These "Okies" were treated with contempt. They were kicked off their lands, treated like animals, paid meager wages or in some cases, they were paid with a loaf of bread for 16 hours of work, and it's disgusting. How would you fare? What would you be willing to do to feed your starving family?

It's a terrific book. I wish I knew how Noah fared. I wish I knew what happened to that spineless Connie. Is Tom ok? Did he take up the cause that Casey so tragically and instantaneously had taken from him? I imagine so. I imagine Tom forcing these cities who spurned them, who burned them out, who arrested them, to have to accept them; 500,000 strong. If not directly, then inspiring others to go on and on. The packing plants who throw away food, while these people sit outside the gates dying. The orange growers who sprayed kerosene on the overstock of oranges rather than give them away for free. The food thrown in rivers, with armed guards making sure no one took the food. Pigs slaughtered because they could not sell them, and hungry people staring, not understanding that there's a profit to be made.

"And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listening to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is a failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."
reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 69 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
Just when you think it can't get any worse for the poor, hard-working Joad family...IT DOES! This is a story of a strong family who, when faced with harsh adversity, stands together and helps each other make it just one more step further. Taking it step by step, the Joad family struggles to eat and survive during the Depression. It really made me appreciate everything I have, especially the love of my family. The ending wasn't much of an "end" to things so I still wonder what happened to the beautiful Joad family.
kcrouth avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on
Helpful Score: 4
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is one of the most powerful books i've read. It affected me on many levels, some of which i'll mention in this review. Despite having heard about this story since high school, loving the song "The Ghost of Tom Joad" by Bruce Springsteen, and having seen the Henry Fonda movie several times, this is my first reading of this novel. It has certainly earned its place in the top novels of American Literature, and, for reasons both good and bad, is a timeless story that should be read by every generation as time goes on.

The Grapes of Wrath is the elegantly told story of the Joad family, poor sharecroppers, forced from their farm in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era, and their subsequent migration to the "promised land" of California. Much of their journey and experiences are told in their own words, in the vernacular of the "Okies", as they were derogatorily referred to. Interspersed through the story is Steinbeck's commentary on the reasons for the sharecroppers dire situation and some of the systemic disfunction that left hard working people fighting for their very survival in a nation of wealth, abundance, and power. This is a story of desperation and hope, failure and hopelessness in the face of a financial, political, and social system in the U.S., that dehumanizes and destroys the bodies and spirits of good hard working people.

One of the levels on which this story moved me was related to my own family's history. My father and his siblings grew up during this same time period, across the state line, in the Ozarks of Missouri. Unlike the fertile river bottom farm land of the Missouri River and Mississippi River valleys in northern and eastern Missouri, the Ozark mountains are a rocky, unfriendly place to scratch out a living by farming. This was especially true in during the Great Depression. I think that one of the few ironic advantages the poor farmers of the Ozarks had over the sharecroppers of Oklahoma during the Depression was that the Ozark land was so poor that no large farming companies or banks wanted it, and therefore the farmers were not forced off. This at least saved the dirt poor farmers like my grandpa from having their land taken from them and turned into large commercial farms. In spite of being able to keep their land, my father and most of my uncles and aunts moved from the Ozarks to California during this period of history (during the 1930's). Altho the specific reasons were different, i believe the reasons were similar (economic collapse of small farming economy) and i felt like i was reading some of my own family history in this novel.

Unfortunately, the timelessness of this story is in part due to the fact that the same humiliation and dehumanization of marginalized groups in the U.S. is still going on today, and is caused by the same systemic disfunction that existed in the Depression years. Corporate and personal greed and the valuation of profits over people in the U.S. society is stronger than ever today. The timeless story of The Grapes of Wrath needs to be told today more than ever. As i think back in the history of my own family, my parents and my siblings, and the struggles they faced during the 1960's and 70's to put food on our table and clothes in our closets, i see that the hardship and struggle was in a large part due to the same systemic disfunction that existed in the Depression years. Our national priorities are political and economic power rather than the health and welfare of our citizens and immigrants. Our society is only as strong as our weakest member, not the strongest. We would be wise to learn from our mistakes, and help create a society that values all people, not just those living in privilege.

Six stars for this one!
katiehenningcallison avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on
Helpful Score: 3
When I read this in high school I thought it was the dullest read ever. I tried again last year (now in my 30s), and passages literally brought me to tears. Steinbeck switches every other chapter -- first sharing the story of the Joad family, forced off their farm during the great depression only to become migrants, literally living day to day hoping to survive, and the abstract chapters that examine wealth, work, and reason in the USA (and how these affect the different classes of people in "the land of opportunity"). I loved the back and forth. The abstract chapters read like poetry and then you are snapped back to "reality" (the reality Steinbeck has expertly crafted for you), with all of the Joad's familial dynamics and dramas and their collective strength of will. I couldn't suggest a book more highly.
jts66 avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on
Helpful Score: 2
I never had to read this in high school, like so many others did. I just finished it and was astounded at the story, writing and general theme of the book. I could see some of my grandparents in it, even though they were still teenagers in 1929. I could also see parallels to today's economic times, although we have come a long way in 81 years.

If you haven't read it, do!
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reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on
I really enjoyed reading the wonderfully written book.
reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 3 more book reviews
I read this in grade school and couldn't stand it. It was so boring. I am not a fan of the authors constant attempt throughout the book to let it be known that the people have an accent and different manner of speaking. My eyes and mind are not trained to read miss-spelled words constantly. So it was an incredibly slow read. I ended up just getting the audio and the story was actually pretty good!
Angeleyes avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 217 more book reviews
I loved this book. It seems kind of slow but to follow people under such adversity and yet they keep moving forward looking for something better is what America is supposed to be all about. I wanted to find out what happened next and who made it and who didn't. A definite keeper.
reith avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 32 more book reviews
To put it simple, this is a great book. I find myself not even drawn or remotly interested in stories of this kind, but John Steinbeck tells a good story with this. If you can, read this book. You won't regret it!
SteveTheDM avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 204 more book reviews
This was the first Steinbeck I've ever read. I was quite impressed. The imagery was very vivid, and the writing was wonderful. The story itself was heart-wrenching and powerful, especially as I read it during the 2008 economic downturn, and everything seems relevant, even though the gap between here and there is quite large.

I think I'll definitely read more Steinbeck in the future...
SandraB avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 185 more book reviews
Please note that this is only excerpts from the book, not the entire story (I didn't know that when I bought the audiobook) -but still good since it's Henry Fonda reading it!
dutrall avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 23 more book reviews
I really wish I'd listened to the unabridged edition instead of this recorded play. It was okay, but not great. Maybe just not my cup of tea.
Angeleyes avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 217 more book reviews
So many people told me this was a hard read so I decided to listen to it on CD. I was pleasantly surprised. This is a really good story and I found myself wanting to find out who makes it out west and who doesn't. This book paints a very good picture of life during the depression and how hard it was for people but yet how they kept faith. I recommend it not just as a school assignment but for anyone who is interested in 20th century history and seeing what it was like early in the 1900's.
reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 3 more book reviews
it is beautifully brilliant
reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 6 more book reviews
This is such a great piece of literature. I felt accomplished after completing it and really enjoyed the experience.
reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on
A must-read for everyone
terez93 avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 323 more book reviews
"In the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."

I just saw that this timeless classic made the Colorado Sun's list of Fifty Novels of the West, so hopefully it will experience a renewed readership, although it's a prominent staple of many high school and college curricula. I've read it in parts over the years, but wanted to complete it from start to finish. First published in 1939, it hits close to home for me for a number of reasons. Some of my own distant relatives experienced this mass exodus, from Arkansas, specifically. My paternal great-grandmother, married at thirteen to an eighteen-year-old, had ten children, starting in 1919, frequently moving from place to place. Another wave of family members, including my grandparents, came to California in the 1950s, after the War, spurred by unprecedented economic growth, particularly in the aerospace industry. Suffice to say, their experiences were exceedingly different from those of the generation before. I also remember my grandmother talking about this period of history. She herself was a child in rural Arkansas, but she had vivid memories of it, as did my great-grandmother, with whom we lived for a time.

Set during the crushing Great Depression, one of the most profound catastrophes ever faced by the United States, the novel accurately and breathtakingly chronicles this utterly man-made disaster through the eyes of the Joad family, who experience almost biblical catastrophe in the form of hunger, cold, exploitation, exhaustion, separation, and multiple deaths. Their experiences mirror those of countless other real-life counterparts: the exodus of tenant farmers from the South, in particular, fueled the crisis of the Depression when small farmers were driven from their homes, where many had been situated for generations on land not their own, by economic hardship, drought, and, especially, the mechanization of agriculture, when, by necessity, land was being put into production and exploited to the greatest extent possible to supply an exploding population. The ushering in of industrialized agriculture, where machines were increasingly used to perform the labor of dozens of men, is something with which we still contend, to the degree that now, only about one percent of the US population is a full-time "farmer," either a rancher or grower, which is a sobering thought to someone like me, who has a degree in agriculture from a College of Agriculture.

The book is certainly a critique of American policy at the time, and views the contemporary crisis through the lens of this multi-generational family. Throughout, the book describes in admirable detail the birth pangs of the modern world and corporate capitalism as the dominant economic paradigm. Much of the hardship is exacerbated by industrialists, who print handbills promising plentiful work and bountiful wages in California's paradisaical Central Valley to induce masses of people, most of whom were barely literate, to pick up and head for the West Coast. Desperate migrants, forced from their ancestral land, as the Joad family, liquidate their entire estates to finance the journey, with many not surviving the 1500-mile trip over mountains and through burning deserts- only to find upon arrival that the claims were a sham: what little work is available pays but a pittance, not even enough to survive on, because of the glut of men desperately searching for work, resulting in standards- and wage-lowering competition. Laborers work twelve-hour days only to face starvation on the wages they are paid. Corporate farmers all collude to keep labor prices low, which also results in the collapse of smaller, family farms, affording the industrialists the opportunity to accumulate ever-greater tracts of land.

There are many ways in which critics have interpreted the novel. Some have postulated that the use of Christian imagery throughout is significant, as is the title. Several figures, including Tom Joad and the preacher Jim Casy, are portrayed almost as Christ-like figures, especially in the wake of the latter's death. To me, the book is more an overt criticism of the US government and its failure to adequately address the causes of the unprecedented crisis, particularly in the wake of nascent labor unions, which simply sought to protect workers from the type of rampant exploitation portrayed in the book. The narrative portrays the corruption from top to bottom: rampant apathy and the incompetence of the federal government to deal with the crisis, the failure to protect people even at its own organized camps from locals who just want to get the migrants out of their backyard, crooked law enforcement in collusion with the large farmers to suppress workers' rights organizers, labeling them "reds" and agitators, who were brutally suppressed (probably a reason why Steinbeck chose to write a novel of this type rather than one of his non-fiction works) all illustrate clearly why the economic crisis of the 1930s grew to the extent it did.

There was certainly plenty of material for Steinbeck to draw from. He was reported to have utilized field notes from a 1938 Farm Security Administration official who collected personalized accounts of displaced individuals who experienced this mass migration firsthand. One of the most famous photographs in US history, entitled "Migrant Mother," taken by Dorothea Lange, a photographer from the Resettlement Administration, in 1936, is a pictorial representation of what the Joads would have faced. Lange was reportedly driving by a pea-pickers' camp in Nipomo, CA, when she captured the image of a desperate mother who had sold her car tires to buy food for her and the children, who supplemented their meager diet with birds they had killed. Out of the approximately 160,000 images captured by photographers from the Resettlement Administration, this one is by far the most widely recognized.

I don't want to rehash the plot, as many reviewers have already done. In short, this is a book everyone should read. A word of warning, though: it's a heartbreaking tale, especially if one has had or known relatives who endured this unbearable hardship, but it's one that should not be overlooked. That said, it should definitely be re-read, if the only experience with it was when someone was essentially required to read it in their youth. As I'm finding in re-reading many books of this kind as an adult, perspectives completely change, and I discover that I get so much more out of books I didn't think all that much of when I was younger. Sometimes we just need a lifetime of experiences, and hardship, to empathize with others, even fictional characters. It's still valuable reading for youth, however: it spurred many conversations with my grandmother, as I noted above, about her experiences during the Great Depression that I may not have been aware of otherwise. In the wake of reading Vonnegut novels, I'm finding that I'm having many of the same conversations with my father about his experiences in the Vietnam War. Those memories are fading, and it's up to those who remain to keep them alive.

We often forget the hardship experienced by our predecessors, especially if we've never met them, and the tragedies they endured which resulted in the world we now inhabit, but reading classics such as this serve as a stark reminder not to take the things we now enjoy for granted. Ultimately, perhaps that's the book's greatest contribution.
reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 4 more book reviews
Moving classic.
reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 246 more book reviews
A wonderful book so well written it is an inspiration. A must-read.

NOTE: This copy is a former library copy and much-read. It has some wear to edges, pages but has many more reads in it. It is in mylar.
reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 14 more book reviews
***** I have read this book several times over the years, and now want to pass it along to those who have heard of it and never read it. Now's your chance - don't pass it up!
treehuggernumberone avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on
Steinbeck's classic novel is thought to be his best
constant-reader avatar reviewed The Grapes of Wrath on + 130 more book reviews
Truly an American classic - one of the best books about the uniquely American, juxtaposed with the universal human drives, needs and desires.

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