The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath:  Tom Joad and his family are forced from their farm in the Depression-era Oklahoma Dust Bowl. They set out for California along with thousands of others in search of jobs, land, and hope for a brighter future.

Considered John Steinbeck’s masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath is a story of human unity and love.
As well as the need for cooperative rather than individualistic ideals during hard times.

The Grapes of Wrath takes place during the American Great Depression.
This depression lasted from the Stock Market Crash of October 1929, until when World War 2 began, twelve years later.

During this time, a long period of drought and high winds affected large parts of the American Midwest, including much of the state of Oklahoma.   This created what was called the Dust Bowl. Many of the people in the lower Midwest moved elsewhere, hoping to find fertile land on which to make a living.

Tom Joad is the protagonist, or main character, of The Grapes of Wrath.
Tom is the book’s hero as well, despite the fact that Tom attacks a policeman at one point in the novel.
He also beats a man at another point, becoming a cave-dwelling fugitive as a result.
Tom’s actions, although illegal according to the letter of the law, are morally just.

The most famous image in The Grapes of Wrath is the novel’s final one.
This is the one in which Rose of Sharon Joad, whose baby was recently stillborn, breast feeds a sickly, starving man, on the floor of an old barn. In this image, Steinbeck powerfully dramatizes the desperate plight of Depression-era migrant workers, whom the author felt had been abandoned by society.

About the Author – John Steinbeck
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American author of 27 books, including 16 novels, six non-fiction books, and five collections of short stories.

He was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California.   He died in New York City in 1968.

John Steinbeck dropped out of college and worked as a manual laborer before achieving success as a writer.
Steinbeck served as a war correspondent during World War II, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

Steinbeck was raised with modest means.   His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, tried his hand at several different jobs to keep his family fed.   He owned a feed-and-grain store, managed a flour plant and served as treasurer of Monterey County.  His mother,  Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, was a former schoolteacher.

For the most part, Steinbeck, who grew up with three sisters, had a happy childhood.
He was shy, but smart, and formed an early appreciation for the land, and in particular California’s Salinas Valley, which would greatly inform his later writing.
According to accounts, Steinbeck decided to become a writer at the age of 14, often locking himself in his bedroom to write poems and stories.

In 1919, Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University. This was a decision that had more to do with pleasing his parents than anything else.  But the budding writer would prove to have little use for college.

Over the next six years,  Steinbeck drifted in and out of school,  eventually dropping out for good in 1925, without a degree.   Following Stanford, Steinbeck tried to make a go of it as a freelance writer.
He briefly moved to New York City, where he found work as a construction worker and a newspaper reporter.

But then scurried back to California, where he took a job as a caretaker in Lake Tahoe.
It was during this time that Steinbeck wrote his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929), and met and married his first wife, Carol Henning.   Over the following decade, with Carol’s support and paycheck, he continued to pour himself into his writing.

Steinbeck’s follow-up novels, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), received tepid reviews.
It wasn’t until Tortilla Flat (1935), a humorous novel about Paisano life in the Monterey region, was released, that the writer achieved real success.   Steinbeck struck a more serious tone with In Dubious Battle (1936);  Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Long Valley (1938), a collection of short stories.

Widely considered,  Steinbeck’s finest and most ambitious novel,  The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939.
Telling the story of a dispossessed Oklahoma family and their struggle to carve out a new life in California at the height of the Great Depression.  The book captured the mood and angst of the nation during this time period.

At the height of its popularity, The Grapes of Wrath sold 10,000 copies per week.
The work eventually earned Steinbeck a Pulitzer Prize in 1940.

The 13 Best of John Steinbeck’s books
To a God Unknown 1933; The Long Valley 1938; Of Mice and Men 1937; The Dubious Battle 1936; The Grapes of Wrath 1939; The Log from the Sea of Cotez 1941; Cannery Row 1945; East of Eden 1952; A Life in Letters 1975; A Russian Jounal 1948; The Winter of our Discontent 1961; Travels with Charley 1962: America and Americans and Selected Non Fiction 1966/2002;
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The Grapes of Wrath

 

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