Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Grapes of Wrath

18114322First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into haves and have-nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.

A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes the very nature of equality and justice in America.

*May Contain Spoilers*

John Steinbeck has always been known to me as a fantastic writer. He won the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for goodness sake. It's obvious that his work will be canonized forever. But admittedly, I had never read The Grapes of Wrath until this past week. I've been doing research on Steinbeck for the past few weeks for a paper I'm working on and well, I did not expect such a harrowing tale of family love, loyalty, and most of all -- loss. 

The Joad family makes up the main characters of this novel. Ma, Pa, Tom, Al, Rose of Sharon, Winfield, Noah, and Ruthie. Readers will be able to connect with every character on various levels, but I think the connection with Ma, Tom, and Rose of Sharon will be the strongest. 

Mama Joad is an impressive woman. She can make supper with nothing, argue with the men til they think she's right, and keep the family together (for the most part). She's a very strong character, mentally and emotionally. I don't know how she kept her wits about her with all of the stress she was under. I suppose that's just how mother's had to be. They didn't have time to dwell on the bad. And the bad piles up high in this novel. 

Tom Joad is the favorite son of the Joad family. At the beginning of the novel, Tom has just been released early from prison for good behavior, which I didn't know was possible for murder. But there is the sense of self-defense implied. Tom's love for his family is obvious and his loyalty is strong. He hardly ever complains about the situation, and tries to find ways to work hard and help his family. He jokes around with his brothers and is doted on by his mother. His interaction with other characters shows readers how amiable Tom is. 

Rose of Sharon is the pregnant sister of the Joad family. She is a bit of dreamer -- hoping her and her fiance, Connie, will end up with a house of their own and a great job opportunity. Her situation will draw sympathy from readers when Connie disappears, leaving Rose of Sharon feeling lost and alone. As she realizes that Connie isn't coming back, readers will feel pity and empathy for her character. Her sickness reinforces these feelings. The death of her baby will shock and sadden readers as they see how much Rose of Sharon's gone through only to lose. Her character goes through the most turmoil and at the very end of the novel, she still manages to help someone even less fortunate than herself. 

The plot of The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family across the United States from Oklahoma to California. They're kicked off their own land and forced to move to California, where there are empty promises of work and land. Steinbeck used this book as a social commentary on the labor issue in the 1930s, as he did other novels. The power of this novel is unbelievable, from his word choice to his writing style, Steinbeck impacts readers deeply. Fantastic and horrifying novel of the struggle between man and business. 

Rating: 4/5 Cups

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