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Archive > Steinbeck Summer August 2009: Grapes of Wrath

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

To complete Steinbeck Summmer 2009 in August we will be able to enjoy Grapes of Wrath. Here are some group discussions/questions to guide us along:

1. Are we meant to conclude that Tom's killing of the deputy is justified?

2. What makes Casy believe that "maybe all men got one big soul ever'body's a part of" (p. 24)?

3. Why does Steinbeck devote a chapter to the land turtle's progress on the highway?

4. Why does Pa yield his traditional position in the family to Ma?

5. What does Ma mean when she says, "Bearin' an' dyin' is two pieces of the same thing" (p. 210)?

6. As Tom leaves the family, he says, "I'll be ever'where --- wherever you look" (p. 419). In what sense does he mean "everywhere"?

7. Why does Steinbeck interrupt the Joads' narrative with short chapters of commentary and description?

8. Why does Rose of Sharon smile as she feeds the starving man with milk intended for her baby?

9. What does Steinbeck mean when he writes, "In the souls of the people The Grapes of Wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage" (p. 349)?

10. Why do different characters insist at different points in the book, "A fella got to eat" (p. 344, for example)?

11. Why does the book start with drought and end with floods?

12. Is the family intact at the end of the novel?

13. Why does Uncle John set the dead baby adrift rather than bury it?

14. What is the source of Ma's conviction that "we're the people --- we go on" (p. 280)?

15. Does nature function as a force for either good or evil in this book?


For Further Reflection

1. As his land is destroyed, an anonymous tenant says, "We've got a bad thing made by men, and by God that's something we can change" (p. 38). Is Steinbeck suggesting that a just social order is possible?

2. When the narrator says "men ate what they had not raised, had no connection with the bread" (p. 36), the implication is that this break diminishes humanity. Can spirituality be maintained with increasing automation?

3. Casy tells Tom about a prisoner whose view of history is that "ever' time they's a little step fo'ward, she may slip back a little, but she never slips clear back... they wasn't no waste" (p. 384). Do you agree with this view?





message 2: by Lori (new)

Lori (tnbbc) Wow, I read this ages ago, back in school as required reading. I have a copy of it and may, just may, read it again when you guys do. I dont really remember much of it :)


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Join in Lori. I read it about two decades ago myself so I am looking forward to the re-read.


message 4: by Elena (new)

Elena I started this book this afternoon and I can tell it is going to be a good read. Anybody else reading it?


message 5: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Eklund (jennifere) I just finished this today - Wow, what a book! Can't believe I never read this before. It started a little slow for me, but picked up after the first 80-100 pages, then flew. I really grew to love the characters. So glad I read it!


message 6: by Avigail (new)

Avigail (avigailr) The Grapes of Wrath is phenomenal not for the unforgetable cross-country trek of the Joad family in the post-depression years, but for the essence of humanity which Steinbeck so perfectly captures in every chapter. Steinbeck demonstrates how people who are just barely getting by on what they have sometimes have more to give to their fellow man than the wealthiest citizens our society has to offer. He draws a vivid picture of struggle during hard times for the most disenfanchized Americans, yet shows the emotional side of poverty and disolutionment, and reveals how genuin humanity can often be most prevalent amidst the most inhumane of living conditions.
Few novels portray the Hunger of the human spirit with more compassion and talent than Grapes. This was Steinbecks strong suit. Say what you will about his leftist, "Socialist", leanings, I believe Poore said it best; "Steinbeck didn't need the Nobel Prize the Nobel judges needed him." Poore concluded: "His place in [U.S.:] literature is secure. And it lives on in the works of innumerable writers who learned from him how to present the forgotten man unforgettably." And this, Steinbecks masterpeaice, remains their blueprint.


Christina Stind I'm a bit more than halfway through and it's such a powerful read. You are constantly feeling with these people and hoping for them that they will catch a break somehow somewhere. And still, just as Avigail said, even when they have absolutely nothing, they find something to share. I really like how he describes the small communities that appear along the way from east to west and how they all take care of each other, even though they're part of a new community each evening.


message 8: by Patti (new)

Patti (rhyter) | 2 comments I finished this book about two weeks ago. I had a library book, but it was so compelling; I bought the book and CliffNotes. The subject matter is so intriguing--I needed a book where I could highlight passages and write notes.

I'm intrigued by question #13. Uncle John's young wife was pregnant and died of a burst appendix. He was scarred for live by the loss of his wife and unborn child. To quote from page #96, "He hid from people, and by gifts tried to make up to all people for himself". Powerful words.

He knew the shock and horror that would ensue when the newborn's body was found in the road or along a ditch line. The malnourished newborn represented all that had went wrong in every immigrant's life.

Perhaps Uncle John was trying to use the baby's tragic death as a way to make a powerful statement to the "establishment". He wanted this child's death count for something.


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