Classic: Grapes of Wrath

We have our internet service back!! Hoo-ray!! Thanks everyone for hanging in with me. Finally, here’s my review of a great classic.


GrapesOfWrathAuthor: John Steinback

Publisher: The Viking Press, 1939

Awards Won: National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and cited when Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962

Genre: Classic Historical Fiction

Source: Library

Format: Audiobook, Dylan Baker – Reader

My Rating: B+

The members of my book club have fallen in love with John Steinbeck. We can’t get enough of him although we are getting close to doing that. His books always give us so much to talk about. Grapes of Wrath was jam-packed with discussion topics. In addition, Steinbeck’s beautiful way with words was so satisfying, even if the story was a sad one.

My club’s members are all of an age that we have heard stories about the late 1920s and 30s from our parents and grandparents. I certainly recall tales of the Depression-era’s hard times, and my husband’s family related stories of the great dust storms in Kansas. It seems like a part of our family’s history.

When Grapes of Wrath opens with the description of small-town and rural Oklahoma, it didn’t seem foreign at all. I could easily “see” the countryside and “hear” the voices of the Joad family.

As the story begins, the family is preparing to move to California. They have seen handbills advertising plenty of good jobs available there. This is good news for the hard-working Joad family. They have been evicted from their 40 acre tenant farm and have nowhere else to go, nor are there any jobs available anywhere in their area.

It’s heart-breking but the family has sold or given away nearly all their possessions in order to fund the trip. They have about $150, lots of salt pork and potatoes, and seven people to load into their make-shift vehicle. Fortunately, two of the grown sons are good at repairing vehicles.

The people they meet and the places they stay along the famous Route 66 is the most interesting part of the book. It’s an excellent snapshot of this time period in our country’s life. Although the Joad family is extremely poor they have their own standards of behavior. Cleanliness is important as is modesty, good manners and the willingness to befriend strangers.

California was not what the Joad family was expecting. Jobs were not plentiful and it was a fight just to keep from starving. In addition, the family learned they were “Oakies” and considered the scum of the earth.

The story does not end with a happy-ever-after. In spite of that, I highly recommend Grapes of Wrath to you. Most of the characters are so well developed, you’ll swear you’ve met them. Steinbeck also alternates the story of the Joad family with chapters devoted to other things happening at the time. For instance, there is a beautiful chapter on Route 66 that reads like poetry. Another chapter that sticks in my memory is of a small town diner and the patrons that pass through it. It’s amazing literature.

Overall, Grapes of Wrath is a look at the determination of human nature to survive and do well, no matter what it takes. It’s as relevent today as it was in the 1930s.

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5 Responses to Classic: Grapes of Wrath

  1. JoAnn says:

    I’m a huge Steinbeck fan and really liked The Grapes of Wrath back in high school. It’s on my Classics Club list, so I plan to reread it in the next couple of years… will be curious to see how it strikes me as an adult. I hadn’t thought about listening, but will sample of the version you read and see what I think. Thanks for the review, Margot.

  2. Barbara says:

    I should reread this one. I remember loving it when I was young although it is so sad. I could relate to those people, having been born into a small town Midwestern family, some of whom moved west. I grew up on Rt. 66 and I had forgotten the chapter you mention.

  3. I think I read this in high school because the basic story is familiar to me. I really should re-read some of the classics.

  4. Ti says:

    Grapes is not an enjoyable book to read but Steinbeck sure makes you feel as if you were in the fields with the dust in your mouth, etc. He puts you right in the center of it. That is what I like about Steinbeck’s work.

  5. kelley says:

    I’ve put off reading this one–you make it sound like it shouldn’t be missed.

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