7 Little Known Facts About The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck won a Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath 75 years ago today. To mark the occasion, we've gathered a few surprising facts about Steinbeck's groundbreaking tale of the Joad family.
1. The book was briefly banned in the Soviet Union.
Despite focusing on a poor family's plight during the Great Depression, Steinbeck's book felt like false propaganda to Joseph Stalin and the Communist Party. The reason? It showed that even the most impoverished American could afford a car.
2. The FBI put Steinbeck under surveillance.
Most authors have detractors; Steinbeck's were just more aggressive than average. In response to vehement criticisms and death threats (as well as the previously mentioned ire of the Soviet Union), Steinbeck had federal agents keeping an eye on him.
3. Steinbeck wasn't very impressed with The Grapes of Wrath.
"It isn't the great book I had hoped it would be," he wrote in his diary. "It's just a run-of-the-mill book."
4. The field notes Steinbeck used for research were supposed to be for someone else's book.
In 1938, Farm Security Administration worker and author Sanora Babb collected stories from displaced migrants with the intention of using them for her own novel. Then her supervisor shared the field reports with Steinbeck. With The Grapes of Wrath's success, Babb's unpublished book, Whose Names Are Unknown, was eclipsed and forgotten. The novel was finally published in 2004, a year before Babb's death.
5.The book title is taken from The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Steinbeck's first wife, Carol, suggested the title, taken from this line: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord / He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored."
6. The Grapes of Wrath gave Route 66 its nickname.
The iconic two-lane road that connects Chicago to Los Angeles was first dubbed the "Mother Road" by Steinbeck. "66 is the mother road, the road of flight," he wrote, capturing the sense of hope and redemption families felt as they escaped the Dust Bowl states.
7. Popular rumor claimed the book was published as The Angry Raisins in Japanese.
While ultimately proved false, the rumor spread like wildfire after a New York Times story about Elaine Steinbeck, John Steinbeck's widow, and her travels overseas: "Once in Yokohama and, at sea with Japanese, she asked a book-store owner if he had any books by her favorite author. He thought for a moment, then said, yes, he had The Angry Raisins." Probably just a verbal misfire, but forever immortalized in title translation infamy.
Loved The Grapes of Wrath? Add more Steinbeck classics to your to-read shelf with this Listopia: Books by John Steinbeck.
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