Rams Readers Spring 2014 discussion

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The Grapes of Wrath

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message 1: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Possin | 55 comments Ok. I get that this is a classic and Steinbeck is a genius (I really do love his work) and this is a depiction of life during the dust bowl... But how depressing.
I felt that it was too wordy. I completely got the symbolism and his metaphors were beautifully tragic (the machine of the bank chapter)... But some of the novel was lost for me when I read a whole chapter about a turtle in a ditch.
Did I feel the pain of the Joades and other farmers? Absolutely. Was I angry and distraught and awed by their strength through Steinbeck's words? Yes. The man can really paint a picture. I loved when the men argued that they didn't own the land but that the land was now so ingrained in them- a part of them. Heartbreaking.
So did anyone else 1) find yourself thinking of the Oregon Trail as you read? Ha ha, but not really. and 2) grossed out a little by the ending? I think that with all the tragedy surrounding her, Rose of Sharon was glad to fulfill a type of purpose. She was never going to nurse her own child and feel the power her own body had in being able to sustain a life but she could now help this man in a way no one else could. I think that's what her smile was for. It was definitely a whole other world back then.


message 2: by Tricia (new)

Tricia | 24 comments This is a young adult book? I thought we I started reading, this is not terribly engaging. Maybe that’s underestimating our students. I just know that I would not have really “gotten onboard” with this story in my teenage years. Believe it or not, I do have respect enough for this classic to not minimize it by talking about its occasional dryness. Yes, it’s slow moving, but it’s interesting enough for me to wonder what will happen to the family. Casey’s conversation with Tom Joad early on reminds me of what one of the articles said about YA lit: that it will deal with personal values and moral compass.
Toward the end, I thought: this would be great to read again to soak in a bit more, but not now…


message 3: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Possin | 55 comments Steinbeck has a way with dialogue in this book. Seemingly simple and casual conversation takes on much deeper meaning. This is almost always the case with Casey (no pun). His ramblings held so much insight.


message 4: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 39 comments I agree with both of you. I can say for sure that this would be a difficult book for me to read as a middle/high school student. The teacher would have to find ways to make the literature relevant to students now. However, as an adult I too can appreciate this as a classic. And Jenna, it was veeery depressing. I really did like it though, Steinbeck creates such a vivid picture of the times that they were going through, and in detail explains the trials and tribulations that they face, one after another. I was very emotional while reading this because you just have to have sympathy for this family. Even Tom Joad, you know even though he killed a man that deep down he was a good man that just wanted the best for his family. This book also was very political. I loved how they described the banks as the "monster" I think this is still relevant to today. Authority at each of the camps, and how they were different. There are several great themes in this story, in my opinion over they heads of the typical middle/high school students head. But there are ways you can tie it in to today, and make it relevant to the students and help them to understand why it is such a classic.


message 5: by Maira (new)

Maira Torres | 45 comments I have read "The Grapes of Wrath" before. It definitely was a hard read even though I had read it before. The first time I read this book I was in high school and I remember hating it. I liked re-reading it now and I agree with Jenna when she says Steinbeck is amazing. I do like reading about how it was back then. Steinbeck really makes me feel for the hardships that the farmers had to face. I think this book is a hard read for any adolescent students.


message 6: by Maira (new)

Maira Torres | 45 comments Jenna said" I loved when the men argued that they didn't own the land but that the land was now so ingrained in them- a part of them. Heartbreaking. " This was one of many touching parts in this book and I couldn't help but hate the bank/tractor drivers/owners.


message 7: by V. (new)

V. Fox | 67 comments Jenna wrote: "Ok. I get that this is a classic and Steinbeck is a genius (I really do love his work) and this is a depiction of life during the dust bowl... But how depressing.
I felt that it was too wordy. I c..."


Jenna - I read the posts written today and then continued reading the novel tonight. I still had about 80 pages left. I also wondered about the importance of the description of the turtle. My copy of the book has an Afterword written by historian Bernard A. Weisberger. I was surprised to find the turtle in it. His explanation is that the turtle represents the people. They are fixed on their destination eventhough they experience struggle, and they adapt and survive.


message 8: by V. (new)

V. Fox | 67 comments This was my first reading of The Grapes of Wrath. I was aware that Route 66 was important in America's history, but strangely enough, I hadn't connected it with the Dust Bowl. I like how the story alternates between a wide lens view of the people of this era, but then focuses in on the Joad family.
The story has so many incidents in it that are so terrible such as the infant being eaten by a pig (Did I read that correctly?), Noah's birth resulting in a misshapen skull, the senseless death of Uncle John's wife and his tormenting guilt, the woman whose hand was shot leaving her fingers hanging on by strings to just mention a few.
I also felt some things could be applied to social issues in our nation today. "The changing economy was ignored, plans for the change ignored; and only means to destroy revolt were considered, while the causes of revolt went on," is a quote from page 231. I think this jumped out at me because so many middle class people I personally know have been out of work for a few years now. I thought of the issue of immigration when I read on page 417, ". . .the comfortable people in tight houses felt pity at first, and then distaste, and finally hatred for the migrant people." There were also quotes filled with hope such as, "Our people are good people; our people are kind people. Pray god someday kind people won't all be poor," from page 232. And, of course, the end scene with Rose of Sharon is a metaphor for hope.
I enjoyed the book, but I wouldn't read it in my junior high class. Maybe AP high school English?


message 9: by V. (new)

V. Fox | 67 comments I forgot to mention that I enjoyed the spoken language of the people. I didn't mark the passage, but somewhere Rose of Sharon is talking about Connie studying to make a better life for them. Her personal speech stands out in sharp contrast to the desire for education reminding me that we all start our educational journeys from different points.


message 10: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Possin | 55 comments I love how you mentioned the perspectives in the book, V. I love when a book can make you see things from different angles. The devastation the farm families felt was obvious early on in the book but it didn't become real until we went on the journey with the Joads.


message 11: by Cathy (new)

Cathy (cjhicks) | 76 comments I love this book, it is one of my favorite. I love the way he writes and they way he uses dialogue. It helps the reader put faces with the characters more clearly. Steinbeck is one of the greats in my opinion. Yes the story is depressing but that time in history was very depressing and lives were uprooted and changed forever.


message 12: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (drld) | 26 comments Mod
Hi Fellow Readers,
I truly enjoyed your responses to The Grapes of Wrath. My daughters did read this in a high school AP class. It is depressing, yet, a realistic vision of what life was like for these people. I am surprised that none of you have yet commented on the ending of the novel!
Your thoughts on this very controversial ending? I look forward to reading what you think!


message 13: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Possin | 55 comments I talked about the symbolism of it or what I thought it meant. I had to read it a few times to make sure I read that right! Yuck. No thanks. Different times for sure!! Desperate times.


message 14: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (drld) | 26 comments Mod
That's right Jenna! Yes, it does seem yuk, doesn't it. I just try to imagine being in the presence of a dying man, and being able to save his life. I cannot really even begin to know what that situation would be like. I know that high schoolers typically say "yuk" too! haha.


message 15: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (drld) | 26 comments Mod
Jenna, I think your thoughts on the ending are right on target!!


message 16: by Cathy (new)

Cathy (cjhicks) | 76 comments I must have the same copy or one similiar, it says that the chapters that are narratives are very important because that is where a lot of sybolism and things like that will occur.

V. wrote: "Jenna wrote: "Ok. I get that this is a classic and Steinbeck is a genius (I really do love his work) and this is a depiction of life during the dust bowl... But how depressing.
I felt that it was ..."



message 17: by Cathy (new)

Cathy (cjhicks) | 76 comments I like it also because it can be used to incorporate history, english lit, science, and economics because it has all those elements in it, and maybe even socialogy and psychology.

V. wrote: "This was my first reading of The Grapes of Wrath. I was aware that Route 66 was important in America's history, but strangely enough, I hadn't connected it with the Dust Bowl. I like how the stor..."


message 18: by Cathy (new)

Cathy (cjhicks) | 76 comments I assume we are talking about the breat milk thing. It is strange, weird and could be considered perverted but if you want to help someone and you can't pump like we do today well I guess it is an option. If it had been me I don't know why you couldn't just express the milk yourself. If we are talking about the death of the baby that is gross and seems more gross to me than the breast milk thing.
Lisa wrote: "Hi Fellow Readers,
I truly enjoyed your responses to The Grapes of Wrath. My daughters did read this in a high school AP class. It is depressing, yet, a realistic vision of what life was like for ..."



message 19: by V. (new)

V. Fox | 67 comments I was somewhat shocked and revolted by the ending and I don't think I would read it with adolescents because of it. If I think of the ending literally, it is still hard to accept, but symbolically it makes perfect sense. Expressing the milk and putting it in a glass would preserve the modesty of the young woman and protect the sensibility of the reader, but the ending would lose its strength.


message 20: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Possin | 55 comments Symbolically it is strong in the sense that women are not seen as the leader of the family but in the end they are where strength and life come from. That's empowering. The visual... Not so much.


message 21: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 39 comments Dr. Dryden, that is funny because Jenna and I were both talking about the bizarre ending. To me I expected something different and it was such peculiar way to end the novel. I actually had to re read the last paragraph just to make sure I didn't miss anything. I then researched the ending to find out WHY he wrote it like that, and I do understand the powerful symbolism. But when I first read it, I was not thinking about the situation symbolically.


message 22: by Maira (new)

Maira Torres | 45 comments I was definitely grossed out by the ending and I had to re-read it several times just to make sure I was reading what I thought I was reading.


message 23: by Erin (new)

Erin | 20 comments The Joad's, like the other Midwestern and Southern farmers during the time of the Great Depression where we see a lot of drought accruing that effects the crops of local farmers.
But when the Joad’s find out that in California, rich in agriculture with the promise of plenty of work, they began to travel westward for work. Along the way the family endures physical and emotional hardships.
Once they arrive in California, they realize that the state of economy is driving the farmers to let the produce root instead of selling.
However it is the strong bond of family that keeps them staying afloat through all the hardships. The last scene involving the loss of a child and a starving man left this story heartbreaking.


message 24: by Diana (new)

Diana | 34 comments When I first read this book for the second time I could see how it could be used in different core subjects. Steinbeck does a wonderful job in describing with great detail an important part of history and the hardships that were faced. I do believe this would be a difficult read for just any student but in an upper class such as an AP classroom it could be read. It was hard not to become emotional with the "evil clans" who took away from the Joad's and all the other farmers. I can see how it can be related to todays economic time to a certain degree. As for the ending... I would have hoped for something completely different although I grasped that the women although seen as a weaker vessel, comes through as strong as always.


message 25: by Shanay (last edited Feb 23, 2014 07:12PM) (new)

Shanay | 40 comments This book started out as uninteresting to me. I was not a fan of The Grapes of Wrath. The book however had interesting events in the story and the mother "MA" seems to be a loving woman who does everything she can to protect and help her family. Her unselfish deeds stretches out pass her family, especially when she has her daughter help the man who is dying of starvation, by allowing him to drink her breast milk.
They were on a journey in search of a better life in California and endured some trials while traveling.
I don't think this book would be very interesting to a student at the high school level. Some parts of the book they may not fully understand. Ex. The nursing a starving man. I found this book a little difficult t read, ex he used a word "clo'es" for the word clothes. I know this is supposed to bring voice to the book but for me it makes the book a little harder to read.


message 26: by Shanay (new)

Shanay | 40 comments Tricia wrote: "This is a young adult book? I thought we I started reading, this is not terribly engaging. Maybe that’s underestimating our students. I just know that I would not have really “gotten onboard” with ..."
I found this book not very engaging at all either. I don't think the students will appreciate a book like The Grapes of Wrath.


message 27: by Cathy (new)

Cathy (cjhicks) | 76 comments Tricia wrote: "This is a young adult book? I thought we I started reading, this is not terribly engaging. Maybe that’s underestimating our students. I just know that I would not have really “gotten onboard” with ..."
I think this would have to be a book that is read as a group using reflective reading where I would have the kids tell me what I have just read out loud to them every few pages, that way they have to follow along and maybe get at least some of it.


message 28: by Shanay (new)

Shanay | 40 comments Cathy wrote: "Tricia wrote: "This is a young adult book? I thought we I started reading, this is not terribly engaging. Maybe that’s underestimating our students. I just know that I would not have really “gotten..."

I definitely agree with you on that!


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