Anne (Booklady) Molinarolo's Reviews > The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
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it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, great-literary-fiction, permanent-library, spring-2012, classics
Read 3 times. Last read April 24, 2012 to April 29, 2012.

After writing Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck said that he was used up. He had spent years researching Grapes, and wrote this magnificent 1940 Pulitzer Prize Fiction Winner in a mere 100 days. He knew his subject well; he lived with the migrate workers and worked with Tom Collins, too. And the subject was so very unpopular and controversial in 1939 when it was published. And it still resonates today in 2012 as well as 1974 – the year I first read Grapes and Of Mice and Men.Many critics have said Grapes is a Union book. That may be true, but I believe it is so much more than commentary on the plight of migrant workers and of corporate greed that took the land of over 500,000 people. Sharecroppers and small farmers were driven off their land throughout the middle western states because of draught, an inability to pay their bank loans, large land owners, and their modern farming technologies – the wide use of machines plowing in long straight lines, nudging a man’s home from its foundation.

But the women knew that the family’s hearth was the family. And as reflected in Ma Joad, the family must stay intact. Man may take away their farms, control their ability to make a decent wage, but an intact family will live on. True, some members of the Joad family died or ran off in cowardice or in Noah’s case to live as his own person by the stream, catching fish to sustain himself. Theirs was a quiet dignity traveling Route 66, and the rules on that migrant highway were their own: helping those who were poorer than they were, not to pollute the water and the ground they camped upon, and respecting people. Here, Steinbeck shines. The contrast between these poor people and the big bank and landowner, even the Californians, is sharp. No one wants these people whom they all helped displaced in the draught, dust bowl years of the depression. If they questioned anything, the locals would resort to violence to get them moving. If they banded together to try and get a fair, living wage, they were called “Reds,” their campsites were burned, or they were killed. As Tom Joad points out: "They're a-workin' away at our spirits. They're a tryin' to make us cringe an' crawl like a whipped bitch. They tryin' to break us. Why, Jesus Christ, Ma, they comes a time when the on'y way a fella can keep his decency is by takin' a sock at a cop. They're workin' on our decency."

Steinbeck’s point is that decency remains intact, if somewhat battle-scarred. This, as much as the depression and the plight of the "Okies," is a part of American history. When the California of their dreams proves to be less than idyllic, Ma tells Tom: "You got to have patience. Why, Tom--us people will go on livin' when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we're the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people--we go on." It's almost as if she's talking about the very novel she inhabits, for Steinbeck's characters do go on. They continue, now as they did in 1939, to illuminate and humanize an era for generations of readers who have no first hand knowledge of widespread homeless, hunger, and joblessness of that Great Depression. The book's final, haunting image of Rose of Sharon - Rosasharn, as the Joad’s oldest daughter is called - forcing the milk intended for her stillborn baby onto a starving stranger, is a lesson on the grandest scale. "'You got to,'" she says, simply. And so do we all.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
Finished Reading
April 22, 2012 – Shelved
April 24, 2012 – Started Reading
April 24, 2012 –
page 57
April 25, 2012 –
page 118
19.93% "My friend Tanu said NO PULITZER for FICTION in 2012. I looked it up 11th time in the Award's history. Reason: The board claimed they couldn't find any great fiction this year...Let the controversy begin!"
April 26, 2012 –
page 240
April 27, 2012 –
page 387
65.37% "Yes, I changed my profile're not seeing things, lol."
April 29, 2012 – Finished Reading
April 30, 2012 – Shelved as: favorites
April 30, 2012 – Shelved as: great-literary-fiction
April 30, 2012 – Shelved as: permanent-library
April 30, 2012 – Shelved as: spring-2012
May 26, 2012 – Shelved as: classics

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Anne, would you call it neccessary classic reading? My kids teacher must, it's somewhere here in the I've just never felt compelled to pick it up. They've said they only read it because they had to. Teenagers are no help.

Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo I'd say it IS a MUST read, Classic or not. I appreciated the novel more with this reading of it. I guess I've lived through enough hardships to appreciate the book. I loved Grapes, Debbie.

Gary I posted a review on this one myself....
Have you read the book about the burning of the book in California???It's a must read too, being a fan of GRAPES.


Heath Churchland 10/10 review!!!

Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo Heath wrote: "10/10 review!!!"

Thank you

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