In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.
-From the Grapes of Wrath, page 349-
In John Steinbeck’s most renown novel, The Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad gets released from prison and returns to a home decimated by technology:
Thus, this sweeping novel takes us on a journey with the Joad family as they join thousands of migrant workers seeking a better life in the West. Steinbeck fills his novel with homespun characters and the bitter reality of life in the 1930s during the Great Dust Bowl migration.
This novel has been banned, burned and challenged since its publication in 1939 for reasons such as “vulgar language” and “sexual references.” In addition, Steinbeck angered many for his honest depiction of the political and economic landscape in the 1930s, where large landowners artificially inflated the cost of goods by destroying surpluses and drove down wages by luring thousands of workers to a California that could not support their numbers.
Steinbeck is a genius at characterization and using symbolism to draw images for the reader. Tom Joad represents all the survivors who joined together and found strength in numbers; who fought back when the future looked the bleakest; who rose up to fight for their families; and who refused to lose dignity even while camping in Hoovervilles.
The women who people this novel are wonderful – strong, authentic, the glue that holds the family together. Ma Joad’s tough, realistic character drives the novel and tugs at the reader’s heartstrings:
Beautiful descriptions of a desolate country; use of symbolism; amazing characterization; compelling dialogue; a vivid and honest portrayal of the family; and an ending which will shock…are all reasons why Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is one of the few great American novels. A must read. The Joad family will stick with the reader long after the final page has been turned.
Following are some of my favorite passages from the novel.
About the countryside:
About symbolism (the turtle):