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on 25 April 2011
As this novel appears on just about every Top Novel booklist out there, I decided it was high time to see what all the fuss was about. However, I couldn't possibly tell you. Perhaps Steinbeck was onto some quite groundbreaking stuff when he published this in 1939, but historical and literary significance don't excuse the fact that this is a pretty weak effort, as storytelling goes.

The story is set in the Depression era, and follows the plight of the Joads, a farming family, as they are driven off their unprofitable land and replaced by a callous man in a tractor. The action starts when young Tom Joad, recently paroled after 4 years in the can for manslaughter during a bar brawl, teams up with an ex preacher and catches his family just as they are about to set off in search of work in California, as advertised in a misleading "han'bill". As the back-cover quotation from the author himself suggests ("I've done my damnedest to rip a reader's nerves to shreds, I don't want him satisfied"), this journey will not be a barrel of laughs. They face various trials, as hopes are dashed, family members drop off one by one, and harsh reality kicks in. This all sounds like a great yarn, but if we are supposed to feel any compassion for these characters and their situation, or be any way gripped by the harrowing events, then I'm afraid it didn't work for me.

The characterization of the Joads themselves (and every other character) is one of the novel's major faults. They are all so dull-witted, naive and charmless that it is hard to feel that they are getting anything other than their just deserts. They fail to heed any good advice, go round and round in circles in their tedious discussions, and aren't the good-hearted, salt-of-the-earth people Steinbeck and his admirers would have you believe. It is sad that so many people were displaced and forced into poverty by the arrival of machines and progress, but these characters are useless, whose only skills are to breed and stir up trouble. They can't even pick fruit, for heavens' sake.

Another factor which ruins it is the over-egged prefiguring of everything that happens in the story. Not only do we know from the start that all will not be well, but we are told with little subtlety exactly how everything will pan out within the first few chapters. It is all very predictable, ponderous narrative; we have to trudge through over 500 pages to have everything confirmed.

Another poor choice was to present ideas in such a black and white fashion: simple people like the Joads are Good; anyone with half a brain who is interested in industrial progress is Bad. And the communist state is presented as some kind of paradise that will save us all from social decline. I'm sure this was regarded as controversial and revolutionary in the 1930s, but now it just seems naive and lazy. The overall tone of the novel is rather patronizing and didactic; we are not allowed to form our own opinions about capitalism: ideas are fed to us with a very large spoon.

I'm not one to complain about needless description, because descriptions can be powerful and beautiful in their own right, but Steinbeck is not a skilled painter of scenes. One example that sticks out is the pains he takes to describe a mechanical problem: pages and pages of tedious DIY, which does not move the story or the characters on one bit. And there are plenty more examples. The novel needs some drastic editing.

I have given this 2 stars because I appreciate that it is/was an important novel, but the story, message and style leave a lot to be desired. Try Zola for similar themes of poverty brought on by capitalism and family struggles, or William Faulkner for an interesting portrait of southern family life.
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on 20 June 2008
I am going to go against the grain here and only give this book three stars. I am not doubting the quality of the book and as always Steinbeck has provided a vivid account of American life. My main problem with this book is that it is rather a miserable book. I know if you had been evicted from your land and forced to work for a measly sum you would also have very little to laugh about. I also had trouble with the local dialect and I almost stopped reading after the first 100 pages.

Heres the thing, after the first 100 pages the accent really grows on you and the story really takes shape. There is very little mention of the plight of the black population in this book which might have been nice of Steinbeck to mention.

The ending is weird, I wont spoil it, I think Steinbeck was going for some level of enduring human spirit, no matter how you square it, it really is just a little odd.
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on 18 March 2003
I don't know how anyone could read this book and not give it a five star rating. The true test for me of a "great book" is one that stays with me -- one I can't stop thinking about long after I've finished. I read this book for the second time in my life a month ago (first time was in high school many years ago), and I'm still haunted by the suffering endured by the Joad family. The interesting thing is that Steinbeck wrote this book in 1939 at the height of the injustices being fraught upon the migrant workers in California. I'm sure it wasn't popular then as it brought to the forefront the corruption of some powerful people in America. It also spoke to the conscience of every American which eventually led to political reform in California. After reading this book, I did some research into Steinbeck's motivation and learned that he was haunted by the plight of California's migrant workers to the point of obsession. To fuel his anger, he would visit the migrant camps each day full of their dirt, disease and hungry people and then return home to write about those people responsible for these conditions -- people he considered to be murderers.
Steinbeck concentrated on the circumstances of one family, The Joads, tenant farmers in Oklahoma until they were forced out by the larger companies who wanted their land back. With dreams of luscious grapes and peaches in abundance waiting to be picked, they loaded up their belongings and began their journey on Route 66 headed for Bakersfield, California. They began their trip with a bevy of colorful characters led by Ma and Pa Joad. It's amazing how much power Steinbeck gave to Ma Joad -- years before women had any right to a voice. Unfortunately, just as the Joads were heading out, so were thousands upon thousands of other families. This would ultimately lead to supply and demand. There would be too many workers for the few jobs available and, consequently, people would be agreeing to work for peanuts just to be able to feed their families.
Steinbeck's writing is astounding as the unrest of the migrants builds to a crescendo and just as the dust has risen in Oklahoma, so will the voices of the poor migrant workers. Steinbeck says, "In the eyes of the hungry, there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people, the grapes of wrath are growing heavy." It is just a matter of time before their wrath is unleashed and you can feel it in every page you turn. He says that, "Our people are good people; our people are kind people. Pray God some day kind people won't all be poor. Pray God someday a kid can eat." I don't know how you can read some of his words and not get teary eyed. But sixty years have passed since the writing of this book and there are still migrant stories to be told and kids who have no food to eat yet sadly the world continues despite its injustices.
I won't kid you into believing that this is an easy book to read. The first 150 pages are so slow going that I almost had to put it down. But I kept on going just as the Joad's kept on going and I'm certainly glad I did. We could all take a lesson from their quest for survival and their quest just to be able to eat the next day. Their determination, in light of all the obstacles they had to face, is truly a lesson to be learned. You feel a sense of accomplishment after reading a book like this -- I know I did.
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on 19 March 2013
A word of warning- There are versions of this book which have BEEN CUT DOWN and the last chapter edited. YOU MUST MAKE SURE YOU BUY THE UNEXPURGIATED COPY. Readers digest did a wonderful edition with notes about the authors life included on a separate leaflet

Ive read loads of novel's and this rates as the best I have ever read. You just cannot ever forget the last scene in the book. A simple tragic and beautifully observed last chapter. DO NOT READ THE LAST CHAPTER UNTIL YOU HAVE READ IT ALL - IF YOU DO IT WILL TOTALLY RUIN IT!
The Grapes of Wrath is so good you wonder how ANYONE could put words down in such an expressive and moving way.
Absolutely astonishing! A WORK OF GENIUS.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 December 2009
Who am I to review one of the greatest literary works of all time? Could I possibly give this book anything less than the maximum rating it so richly deserves? Should I even commence? Those were just some of my private thoughts as I finally put down a copy of this book - read. This is the book which stirred the American conscience, caused political reform and brought about change when first published in 1939. This is the book which described how families were starving to death because of corruption. This is John Steinbeck at his exceptional best. For those people who never got around to reading this engaging and absorbing account of the Joad family, may I suggest you actually purchase a copy (any copy!) and finally read it.

Today the world is either in recession or emerging from the dark grip of this latest financial catastrophe. Whilst we may live in a time when millions of families are no longer allowed to starve to death - well, not in the developed world at any rate, I earnestly believe there are lessons to be learned from this book about the rich and powerful who care not for their fellow man but only for personal gain. More importantly, those lessons are as relevant today as they were in 1939.

Another similarity also failed to escape my notice; In this book we see how US police and other officials use their positions of authority to threaten and even blackmail the many thousands of American migrants who were simply looking for work in order to feed hungry mouths. These people had not arrived from any foreign country and were not even black - something which would have made their persecution much easier. No!, these ordinary white American folk were honest farmers who had been forcibly evicted from their homes and the land they had worked for generations. Seventy years on, here in the UK, we are besieged by TV programmes depicting our different police forces undertaking their various duties around the country. Yet more cheaply produced "reality" television! Significantly, however, I have occasionally noticed how some police officers deliberately provoke a hostile situation where none exists. Whilst not on the scale portrayed in this outstanding work, it is interesting that I should recognise that underlying attitude of arrogant superiority.

Whilst some may find the book slow going at the start, Steinbeck quickly gathers in those loose strands until they suddenly pull together to assume a story, reveal a mental photograph and produce a relevance into which the reader becomes fully immersed. I promptly learned local words and understood the dialect in which they were spoken as the Joad story unfolded. I could hear those southern accents as hardships are endured and explained through the actions of those who lived them. This was the organised, legalised daylight robbery and exploitation of the poor by the rich who were actively supported by the law enforcement agencies. A week's work for 1,000 fruit pickers paying 50 cents an hour is advertised to 3,000 hungry people who then pass on the message. Consequently, 5,000 starving workers arrive in search of that employment. With so much competition, the rate is lowered to 30 cents - take it or leave it! It was a deliberate ploy repeated time after time. Anyone attempting to organise his fellow workers is photographed, black-listed and branded a communist. Now feed that to your children. Then the banks insist the farmers reduced the rate to 25 cents and any landowner who questions that decision is swiftly reminded of his own vulnerability as a mortgagee! In short, either you pay them 25 cents or you join them! My own immediate reaction was to recognise a similarity between then and now - specifically with those modern banking practises which preyed on the sub-prime market. Anyone who cared to consider precisely what "sub-prime" meant, knew it was a policy destined to fail. And fail it did in spectacular fashion - and yet, the fat cat bankers still draw bonuses based on "personal performance" and not on their company's overall profit or loss...

I note from some of the comments appended to certain editions of this book, that various issues have been produced in which, apparently, Steinbeck's prose are changed to make the work an easier read. Please don't take the easy option, take the version written as it was intended to be read - i.e. the version written by Steinbeck. If not, you cannot claim to have read this book at all - instead you have the equivalent of, say, a Romeo and Juliet story - set in Manhattan in the 21st Century - and there are plenty of those...

In closing, I would urge anyone (indeed everyone) who has not already read an original version of this book, to go out and buy a copy - any old copy, and then simply read it. Having done that, you too will draw parallels with our modern age and understand what I mean. You will also be richer for having done so - as would those fat cats who, unfortunately, will probably never bother. Having finally finished reading this outstanding work, I wonder how many of you will still be wondering whatever happened to that perfectly matched pair of Bays! I do...

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on 21 June 2014
Not many people here having read over 500 pages about the suffering of a fictional dysfunctional poor family would be likely to admit that this book is tedious. If you want to spend your life on something more useful here is a brief outline of the story.

The Grapes of Wrath follows a migrant farm working family from the 1930's who, during the great depression, are forced to leave their home and their livelihood to seek a future in California and have a puncture on the way.

And as for the "ending" - don't get me started.
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on 1 July 2015
John Steinbeck's Pulitzer prize-winning novel was both a colossus of a book, an infinitely worthy winner, and a far-from perfect book, a flawed book.

On the front of the paperback version I started to read (before downloading from Kindle, as there was just too much I needed to underline) was the following quote from Steinbeck:

"I've done my damndest to rip a reader's nerves to rags, I don't want him satisfied"

The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939 when the machinery of war was providing a terrible solution to the stock market crash and depression of the 30s, which is the subject of this book. It is a book written out of white hot, red hot rage, disgust and righteous polemic against an indifferent, blinkered and self-obsessed capitalism.

The book follows the fortunes of one small family, the Joads, Oklahoma small farmers, homesteaders, and how the move from small family farming to larger and larger conglomerates, changed and destroyed our connections to the land itself, and to each other.

The Joads stand for the thousands of other, unnamed, the small men and women.

Like thousands of other homesteaders, losing their land and their livelihood in the face of conglomerate rapacity, the Joads follow the lure of jobs to be had, fruit-picking (for virtually starvation wages) in California

Steinbeck for sure uses and manipulates his readers, hectors them, lectures them, throws the red book at them, shoves our faces up against our own indifference, our sentimentality, our complicity. Having lacerated us with bruising accounts of our hard-heartedness, of our denial of the beggars in our neighbourhood, he cunningly and deliberately rubs salt in our wounds by exploiting our sentimentality.

The deaths of many, through starvation and illness because of starvation, and the deaths and the suffering of some of the individuals whose journeys we follow, in the book are intercut with the casual death and suffering of animals, whether by our carelessness, or the carelessness of a red in tooth and claw natural world.

Where are we most hurt, where do we weep most - is it for the suffering of our own kind, or is it for the suffering of another species. I knew my tears and my grief for the death of an animal were manipulated by the writer. But I also knew why, and I knew what he was showing me about myself, and could not, in any way, fault his manipulation here.

Steinbeck also punches the reader, again and again, with the righteousness of left wing politics, the infamy of capital. Yes, we live in a world where it is now easy to see that communism and socialism (not to mention other isms) can be as self-serving of its own ideology, as much inclined to sacrifice the individual on the alter of its own drive to `progress' and `the ends justify the means' - but I don't personally have any problem with his polemic, placed in its own time.

Yes, for sure there are long sections which are boring, where, for example, pages and pages are devoted to the hard graft of repairing cars - but, again, I don't mind, because he is wanting to make the reader realise the skill and the dignity of manual work. And yes, there are also at times problems with trying to give a flavour of the speech of the common man - at times the setting down of dialect gets wearing, and makes characters sound a bit simple or idiotic (my prejudices showing, clearly) , whereas this is not what is intended, and I think, again, Steinbeck is trying to offset a literature which is written by, and for, the ruling classes and the intelligentsia.

I have to forgive all these `flaws', these niceties, about what literature should be, how it should NOT be polemic, how we should NOT be so at times crassly manipulated, because this is a book whose power, whose beauty, whose hugeness overrides its imperfections.

My nerves are indeed ragged, I am sick and sore, hurt and confused. I feel as if I have been run over by a proverbial ten ton truck, repeatedly, and then, offered exquisite flowers, delicate, fragile moments, writing of transcendent glory, before, again Steinbeck punches me in the gut and delivers yet another knock-out blow, of polemic, putting me through the emotional wringer, or boring me with the innards of motors.

But I don't care. This is a book which seethes with enormous power, and the roughness of its sometime edges are part of that power. `Perfection' would be, in this case, something to inhibit the power.

I'm grateful, very grateful, to another reviewer (FictionFan) whose own superb review kicked me into reading this

Finally, this particular Kindle download version is brilliant, interlaced as it is with wonderful reproductions of paintings and drawings and stills from the movie which was made of this book. Thanks, again, to FictionFan for persuading me to this version .
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When Tom Joad returns to his parents' farm after serving a prison sentence for murder, he finds it deserted. In the four years he has been gone, the land has turned to dust through a combination of drought and poor farming practices. The onset of the Great Depression has meant that the banks have taken over ownership of vast tracts of the land and, in pursuit of profit, are expelling the small tenant farmers to create massive one-crop farms, worked by machines rather than men. Driven by poverty and lack of work, many of the farmers are uprooting their families to go to California, their own promised land, where, they are told, the country is filled with fruit ripe for picking, and there is work for all. Tom and his family join the exodus.

First published in 1939, this is a fairly contemporaneous account of the devastation wrought on Oklahoma farming communities during the Depression, and Steinbeck's anger and disgust come through loudly in the power of his prose. A starkly political novel, it's interesting that there is little or no reference to either the politicians or policies of the period. This adds to the feeling of the farmers being isolated, abandoned by their nation and utterly reliant on their own limited resources. It falls somewhere between a call to arms for the poor to unite to overthrow the forces of capitalism, and a warning to the powers that be that the result of driving people to the limits of desperation might be just such an outcome. I didn't know Steinbeck's own political stance before reading the book, but was unsurprised to read later that at this period he was involved in the Communist movement within the US.

It's undoubtedly one of the most powerful books I've read and it has left me with many indelible images. The writing is never less than excellent and is sometimes stunning, while the characterisation and brilliant use of dialect make the Joad family and the people they meet on their journey completely real. The story is a simple one, of man's inhumanity to man - a story that has been told often, but rarely with such concentration and power. But it's several weeks since I finished reading the book and I still haven't quite decided what I think of it.

On the one hand, most of the first half of the book drags terribly as Steinbeck tells the story of the journey in minute, endless detail. I feel I could now get a job as a car mechanic working on 1930s models. I get the importance of the car to these families, but I don't care whether bronze wire will wear away as the widget rubs against the doodah - I truly don't. But the tedium and repetitiveness of parts of the book didn't bother me as much as the heavy-handed and unnecessary polemical interludes, where Steinbeck spells out his message in case the reader has been too stupid to understand it. I'm guessing any reader who doesn't `get' it, will have given up the book long before Steinbeck gets to the political pamphlet chapters. Occasionally it stops feeling like a novel at all and becomes almost like a ranty student essay on the evils of capitalism. If he explained the process of supply and demand once, he must have explained it a hundred times - ironic really, since it is surely only needed once, if at all. And the constant misery! Again, yes, absolutely - the story is appalling, more so for being true, and of course we need to see the horrible impact of absolute poverty on people's lives and humanity. But when authors feel they have to top up the human misery with the old `dead dog' technique, I fear they cross the line between emotional truth and emotional trickery. Of Mice and Men was the book that taught me how easily pathos can turn into bathos, and decades later I feel exactly the same about this one. And then there's the ending... but we'll come to that...

On the other hand, the story is an important one that is as relevant today, sadly, as at the time of writing. Whether one agrees or not with Steinbeck's call of Workers Unite! and class struggle as the solution to poverty and ongoing waves of mass migration, whether one believes that capitalism or socialism is the system most likely to bring a more fair and just society in the end, the vivid picture that he draws of humanity's imperative struggle for survival in even the most hopeless of circumstances cannot fail to move and must surely stir the consciences of those of us whose present comfort depends on the poverty of others. I found myself drawing parallels with the current influx of people from Africa and Asia into Europe, and the issues surrounding illegal immigration in the US. But more than that, I discovered I was making comparisons to slavery and reflecting that at least under that repellent system, the owners felt that they had to protect their 'investment', whereas these people belonged to no-one, had no intrinsic 'economic value' and were thus ultimately even more dispensable. An uncomfortable train of thought and a tribute to Steinbeck's anger that he made me think it against everything I believe.

Sometimes the quality of the writing takes the book almost to the sublime. From the first chapter, with the unforgettable images of the windstorm and the dust and the dying corn, with the women watching to see if their men will break, he makes the land a character in its own right, as important as any Joad, and its death as moving as one of theirs. The story of the turtle's indomitable spirit as it unwittingly spreads the seed that will allow nature to have its rebirth is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have read. While I was never quite sure what message he was attempting to send with the biblical themes, they added a sense of eternality, of inevitability, to the struggle for a more just society. The sheer power and anger of the 'Moses' scene will stay with me forever, as will that ending - which I hated even while I recognised the force of its essential truthfulness, and which left me as angry about humanity being reduced to this as Steinbeck could possibly have desired. And just as angry about the emotional manipulation he used to achieve that effect.

Not a book that I can say I wholeheartedly enjoyed, but one that I am glad to have read and will not forget. 4½ stars for me, so rounded up.
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on 22 February 2015
At the funeral of Emile Zola, the great 19th-century French writer, Anatole France describes him as `a moment in the human conscience'. John Steinbeck treads ground which Zola would have recognised. His novel 'La Terre' is a story of dispossession, and powerlessness; of a peasantry faced with social and economic change. And though Steinbeck's iconography is quintessentially American, his tale of the Joads is a depressingly familiar one everywhere; of families with small parcels of land who are overtaken by the hormonal rush of pubescent capitalism.

The English Enclosure movements from the 16th to the 18th centuries drove masses of humanity out of the countryside. In rags and tatters they drifted forlornly into makeshift accommodation in the new urban areas, lacking in every amenity from sewers to a proper police force. With no poor relief their muscle and blood drove the wheels of the dark Satanic mills, or else they endured the terrors of the mines.

That was more than a century earlier. By the 1930s British workers suffered the depression no less than their American counterparts, as they turned out in their hunger marches. It is easy for those born since the great economic watershed that was the Second World War to miss the point about being penniless and destitute. But Steinbeck does not let us get away so easily. Most wonderfully of all he finds a way of describing destitution within the context of a hard-working and loving family, who remain as devoted to one another as they are to a stoical contestation of the most appalling conditions. Steinbeck's moral compass is in perfect working order. And he avoids any temptation to turn his work into a political tract. It is a story of humanity.

Notwithstanding his success as a humanitarian writer, one nonetheless feels some sympathy for those detractors, particularly among some American reviewers on Amazon.com, who draw attention to a lack of strength in the plot, and Steinbeck's less than inspirational prose. For whilst he reproduces the speech pattern of the Okies with devotion, his own articulative style, and his ability to craft a compelling storyline do seem lacking. But that is only, in my view and that of just one of those reviewers, if you compare Steinbeck to the truly great writers, the Dostoevsky's, the Dickens, the George Elliots, and even, in my own opinion, to his contemporary George Orwell.

Moreover, one just wonders whether, in America, of the period, Steinbeck had quite enough support in society at large to take on the powerful Californian moneyed interests in a more politically charged way. In Orwell's case the British working-class movement had undoubtedly been an encouragement. Steinbeck may have had to face up to being a lone voice to a greater extent. But there is no doubt Steinbeck played a part in the creation of the new order of thinking for the post-war world. Though his prose and his descriptive powers may not reach the great heights, Steinbeck is worthy, like Zola, of consideration as a `moment in the human conscience'.
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on 23 August 2014
In this epic book, Steinbeck tells the story of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl in simple terms through the eyes of one family of share-croppers caught up in events beyond their control, as the land they have farmed for generations blows away on the wind and whatever remains is razed by the landowner's tractors. Steinbeck shows how the American Dream turns into the American Nightmare, as the lives of its citizens are cast aside in a corporate land grab that seeks short-term profit from their misfortunes. The novel was a labour of love fired by the author's own experiences in California among its migrant workers, and his efforts to alleviate their suffering in flooded, disease-ridden camps. It is widely regarded as the pinnacle of his writing, and rightly takes its place as one of the great works of American literature.

The story's opening chapter gives us a long description of the changing landscape of the state of Oklahoma in the 1930s as the Dust Bowl is created by the drought and wind and the intensive crop farming of the land. Into this land comes Tom Joad, recently released on parole from the State Penitentiary at McAlester and aiming to return to his father's crop-sharing farm to try to earn a living. He hitches a ride home along the lonely highway.

These opening chapters set the contrapuntal structure of the novel, in which a short chapter will describe in general terms the world of the Dust Bowl and how it affected the lives of the tenant farmers and others caught up in it, alternating with a chapter telling the particular story of Tom Joad and his family and the characters they meet along the way. Steinbeck thus moves back and forth, from the general to the particular, and the Joad family's experience is presented as typical of what sharecroppers generally were going through at the time.

The Joad family, along with former preacher Jim Casy, joins the wave of Dust Bowl migrants streaming west to California in search of a new life, dreaming a new dream in which once again they will live off the fruits of their labour. They take to the road, on Highway 66 - "the mother road, the road of flight" - and the story becomes a road trip across the American mid-west. Life is lived on the highway and the ribbon of land to its side, and we follow the Joads and their fellow-travellers driving the two-lane blacktop heading west in search of the American Dream. 'The Grapes of Wrath' is a story of the American highway and its promise of freedom and mobility - a road novel made epic in theme and expanse, an odyssey of modern times, a new search for a promised land.

The reader is not alone on this journey, because you are always aware of the presence of the author. You are always conscious that this is a carefully crafted novel, with a serious point to make; it is not one in which you can simply lose yourself in the dynamics of the story. The interspersed, descriptive chapters - each a stylised, impressionistic essay or short story - always bring you back to the reality behind the Joads' story, and provide the factual backstory to the fictional story.

Reading this book now, the reader must remember that it is a contemporary account of America in the 1930s, describing events that were still current at the time, speculating on where they might lead, and what the future might hold. You can feel the power of the author's passion for his subject and a sense that the times were changing. You can see why many people were disturbed by his vision of America, and why others embraced that vision.

The book has since become the subject of much discussion and debate, much of this over its political perspectives, but also over its remarkable language and structure, which mix the classical with the modern. Steinbeck's abundant use of symbolism, often based on Christian imagery and icons - the exodus, the search for the Promised Land, the flood, the final scene in a stable ("huge and symbolic" as Steinbeck himself once described it), with its Madonna-like mother figure - make 'The Grapes of Wrath' an ideal subject for students of literature to interpret and study.

It took me the best part of a month to read this book, and I found it a story through which I progressed in small steps, sharing the daily experiences of the Joads as they moved from camp to camp along the way west. In 'The Grapes of Wrath', Steinbeck gives us a powerful account of how one small family's struggle to stay together and survive reveals the great contradiction of the American way: its dogged belief in individualism coming up against the unfettered power of corporate capital, and how the former is crushed by the latter. These are big themes that remain every bit as relevant today as they were those 75 years ago when Steinbeck was writing.
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