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The Grapes of Wrathby John Steinbeck
Synopses & Reviews
Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisons against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots, Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity.
"The first book I remember that really grabbed me was a book that Miss McGuffey made us read, a book called Tortilla Flat by Steinbeck. When I read it, I really enjoyed the book. So I went to her and said,'I like this.' She was shocked that I would show any interest in what she was making us do. So she said, okay, read this. The next one was, Of Mice and Men. So she sort of fed the Steinbeck books to me. When I read The Grapes of Wrath — we saved that for last — I knew that was a very powerful book. I don't know if it had anything to do with my writing style, or me as a writer, because I wasn't thinking about it back then. It had a lot to do with the way I viewed humanity and the struggles of little people against big people. It was a very important book for me." John Grisham
"As a high school kid struggling to write fiction, some books meant more than others, and some burst upon me with the power of a thunderbolt. John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath was one of those." Stephen King
"It is a very long novel, the longest that Steinbeck has written, and yet it reads as though it had been composed in a flash, ripped off a typewriter and delivered to the public as an ultimatum. It is a long and thoughtful novel as one thinks about it. It is a short and vivid scene as one feels it." The New York Times Book Review
"[T]here are moments when The Grapes of Wrath reads like an early glimpse of what would become the phenomenon of economic globalization." Times Literary Supplement
First published in 1939, Steinbecks 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 mans fierce reaction to injustice, and of one womans stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America.
The Grapes of Wrath summed up its era in the way that Uncle Toms Cabin summed up the years of slavery before the Civil War. Sensitive to fascist and communist criticism, Steinbeck insisted that The Battle Hymn of the Republic” be printed in its entirety in the first edition of the book—which takes its title from the first verse: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbecks powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.
The Great Books Foundation Discussion Guide for The Grapes of Wrath is available at www.penguinputnam.com and at www.greatbooks.org.
About the Author
No writer is more quintessentially American than John Steinbeck. Born in 1902 in Salinas, California, Steinbeck attended Stanford University before working at a series of mostly blue-collar jobs and embarking on his literary career. Profoundly committed to social progress, he used his writing to raise issues of labor exploitation and the plight of the common man, penning some of the greatest American novels of the twentieth century and winning such prestigious awards as the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He received the Nobel Prize in 1962, "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception." Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.
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