Suzanne's Reviews > The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
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Jul 12, 13

bookshelves: fiction, classics, around-the-usa-challenge, around-my-bookshelf-year-1, favorites, historical-fiction
Read from June 22 to July 10, 2013 — I own a copy

“The dawn came, but no day. In the gray sky a red sun appeared, a dim red circle that gave a little light, like dusk; and as that day advanced, the dusk slipped back toward darkness, and the wind cried and whimpered over the fallen corn. Men and women huddled in their houses, and they tied handkerchiefs over their noses when they went out, and wore goggles to protect their eyes.”

The description of the dust storms that contributed to the collapse of midwestern American farm life is how John Steinbeck chose to open his masterpiece “The Grapes of Wrath.” The remainder of the book focuses on one Oklahoma family, the Joads, and their attempts to create a better life for themselves in California during the Great Depression.

There are several things that stood out to me in this novel. First, Steinbeck’s writing is exceptional. His characters are sympathetic, his prose moving and the vernacular he uses transports the reader to a different time and place. Second, though Steinbeck did not himself have firsthand knowledge of the plight of the “Okies”, he uses (then) contemporary research he gained from interviewing someone who did. It’s those small nuances that impress me so much. For instance, how the family is constantly trying to keep their car running, by patching tires and borrowing or making parts. How food is stretched out by frying dough or serving cornmeal mush. Third, although the family’s hardships are certainly heart-wrenching, Steinbeck also takes the time to instruct the reader on the various causes for those hardships. Yes, the Okies were taken advantage of. But when the crop prices bottomed out, Steinbeck told how the orchard owners struggled to decide whether to let the fruit rot or to pay the pickers less.

I’m sure many reading this novel would focus on the wrongs done to these migrant workers by the California natives or corporate owners. Though it wasn’t mentioned in the book, I know that mistakes made by those in Washington DC contributed just as much to the Great Depression. I found myself more angry at those public policy makers while reading this book than anyone else.

One beautiful message Steinbeck delivers is how the downtrodden consistently help each other. Even though they have nothing, they share what they have. In a world of darkness and despair, those acts of kindness are the beacons of hope that shine in this story.
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Reading Progress

06/22/2013 marked as: currently-reading
07/12/2013 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Judy (new) - added it

Judy How are you liking this book, Suzanne?

Suzanne Loving it! I'm frustrated that I've been so busy lately because I'd really like nothing more than to sit down and immerse myself in it until the very last page. Thankfully, I should have more reading time in the next few days:)

message 3: by Judy (new) - added it

Judy How nice! I'm happy for you that you will be able to read more soon. :-)

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