on July 4, 2004
As a Junior AP English student, I was bombarded with summer work, and my assignments included chosing a summer book to read from a selected list. I chose the "Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck, and was immeadiatly captured in the sad story of the Joads and there turbulent Oddessy. Sad and depressing yes, but hopeless it is not; if anything this book is about hope and compassion and empathy for others, and for many of us, including the characters in this novel, that is a lesson learned the hard way. There will probably never be a writer as talented as John Steinbeck; he has a way of making you not only imagine, but feel what is happening in his story. Steinbeck uses his great skill to show both great beauty and harsh reality, and I hope at the time this book was published that it caused political uproar and brought the people in American aristocracy down to Earth to realize what was occurring. Although people moving from Oklahoma to California are the least of our great nation's worries, the thoughts expressed in this book have the power to open the eyes of Americans to many troubling situations that exist today.
on June 28, 2004
While I'm normally one to stick with the bestseller list or an Oprah recommendation such as "Da Vinci Code" or "Bark of the Dogwood," I do like to go back and revisit the classics. And "Grapes" IS a classic. "The Grapes of Wrath" is a compelling novel dealing with the many hardships the Joad family undergoes while struggling to survive during the depression. John Steinbeck takes the readers on an emotional roller coaster as each chapter introduces new twists and turns hooking the reader and bringing them in. Throughout their endeavors the characters seem to transform and take on new roles; whether it be a desperate man trying to forget the past, live in the present and move into the future, a hopeless reverend striving to find meaning and holiness in life or a husband coping with failure and the fact that he cannot support let alone take care of his family without the strength and guidance of his wife. The story builds up until even the last sentence and I guarantee it will take your breath away.
Some of the reviewers view this masterpiece as being a clear and historical view of the oppression felt by tens of thousands during this era. There can be no denial of this obvious fact. As this historical novel is read you not only see through the eyes of the author's characters but experience the smells, the sounds, and, most importantly, the emotional impact on the lives of the displaced sharecroppers. Other, less favorable, reviewers find this novel both depressing and very slow moving. With them I also agree for the life of the Joad's was neither joyful nor fast-paced and Steinbeck made certain that we experienced the mundaneness of their existence. My additional conclusion is that this tale can also be viewed as an allegorical of life of Universal Man. Yes, the events are magnified, the helplessness more keenly felt, the oppressors were even more foul and the Joad's life path was even more tragic, but, that being said, we are all like the Joad's and remain powerless against the slings and arrows that society throws at us. Like the Ma Joad, all we want is a peaceful end to our life story..........
on June 26, 2004
I hadn't read Steinbeck since high school and I have to admit that the brilliance of his work escaped me then. It didn't this time. This book is impressive on many levels. Steinbeck has captured the reality of life in America during the Depression like few others. In doing so, he has also captured a snapshot of America that is both poignant and enlightening. The greatest works of art and literature transcend themselves beyond the immediate and become timeless and that is very much the case here. Most readers will find they have little in common with the Joad family and yet Steinbeck portrays the human side of an Oklahoma family so well that most every reader can relate to them. Steinbeck's brilliance is apparent in his ability to portray and to relate the human condition. It is also apparent in creating a work of vision that is both immense in scope and finite in detail. Oddly, in a tragic story largely full of despair, Steinbeck still manages to communicate a sense of optimism and hope for our society. This book is worth reading more than once and I have to agree with its rating in the top 10 of the century.
on June 20, 2004
I was going to start out my review saying, "Why bother with a description of this book since most people have given one already and the rest of us have read it," then I . . . well, read one of the other reviews. Even so, I'll let other's descriptions of this epic novel stand. Suffice it to say that this is one of the best novels ever written. The only better one is Steinbeck's EAST OF EDEN. And my reason for this is based purely on the subject matter. That said, GRAPES is a must for anyone interested in serious literature and a major period in our country's heritage. It's because of Steinbeck's talent that we're captivated about anyone for X number of pages, let alone people who are poor, destitute, and trying to survive the dustbowl. This brilliant work deserves its place among the classics and hopefully will continue to be read in the years to come. After all, it's stood the test to time this far. Would also recommend Steinbeck's other work (of many) THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT and a book called THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD by an author named McCrae
on June 12, 2004
I usually prefer non-fiction such as biographies, history and so on but a few months ago I came across an Amazon.com "Listmania" list for the top 10 American works of fiction. I had read a few of the books, but not all so I decided to buy all those that I had not read. These include the present book, and some that I have now read and posted reviews including Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and On the Road by Jack Kerouac. All of the books have been interesting reads and not what I had expected - lots of surprises.
When I bought the present book I did not realize that this book is actually two books in one. There is a 44 page introduction (what I call the first book) by the Steinbeck scholar Robert DeMott. His introduction is much longer than I had anticipated. This is in fact a mini-biography that describes Steinbeck's state of mind prior to and during the writing of the book. Also DeMott describes Steinbeck's life leading up to the book and what happens after the success of Grapes of Wrath. In addition, DeMott has "suggestions for further reading". So I would recommend the present book.
It is hard for me to rate the Grapes of Wrath since it has become something of a classic with about 15 million copies or more in print. The rating is a bit subjective, but I would say 5 stars, even if it was not famous. The book is a "reality fiction", i.e.: pure fiction but like many other fiction writers it is based on real events that are accurately described and has a few characters based on friends of the author. Steinbeck received both praise and criticism for the book. Many thought he had exaggerated the problems of the migrant workers. But as explained by DeMott if anything Steinbeck who had first hand working experiences with the migrant worker has slightly moderated the descriptions of the hardships faced by the migrants as presented in the book, and in no fashion did he exaggerate their problems.
This is a very interesting book and I would highly recommend buying and reading. It seems that the world has not changed that much since 1939. We still have migrant workers working under bad conditions although they are no longer from Oklahoma. They have been replaced by illegal aliens from Mexico, eager for the jobs. We still have some corporations and politicians trying to deny the reality of the hardships and issuing counter propaganda. We have perhaps even more problems today such as global warming, also denied by some. So the world has not changed that much in 65 years - and the book is still of interest and perhaps even timely?
I did learn two things, i.e.: read more books by Steinbeck and read a biography on the man.
Jack in Toronto
on April 27, 2004
I was going to start out my review saying, "Why bother with a description of this book since most people have given one already and the rest of us have read it," then I . . . well, read one of the other reviews. Even so, I'll let other's descriptions of this epic novel stand. Suffice it to say that this is one of the best novels ever written. The only better one is Steinbeck's EAST OF EDEN. And my reason for this is based purely on the subject matter. That said, GRAPES is a must for anyone interested in serious literature and a major period in our country's heritage. It's because of Steinbeck's talent that we're captivated about anyone for X number of pages, let alone people who are poor, destitute, and trying to survive the dustbowl.
This brilliant work deserves its place among the classics and hopefully will continue to be read in the years to come. After all, it's stood the test to time this far. Would also recommend Steinbeck's other work (of many) THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT and a book called THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD by an author named McCrae.
on April 25, 2004
The author grew up in the area used as the novel's setting, and was from one of the well-off families. He tended to be unpopular among his peer group because he became a champion of the poor working class. This novel is about migrant farm workers, in particular one family who are refugees from the Dust Bowl.
The novel details the family's stuggle to survive under difficult conditions. High unemployment provides a surplus of labor which farm and orchard owners can exploit, paying them as little as possible, and gouging them further with high prices at the "company stores." Attempts by workers to advance themselves were held down. The law is on the side of the landowners. It was an era when workers were easy to replace so little thought was given to their safety and welfare.
This was an era that gave rise to labor unions, and open warfare between employers and unions. Accounts are available elsewhere of incidents such as the Everett Massacre.
It should be noted that the author received the 1940 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for this novel. He later received the Nobel Prize in literature.
on April 1, 2004
The book relates the tragic destiny of one family after the great depression in 1929, when million of American workers became unemployed. this family had been abased, and went to the california to get a life better. There, theirs dreams were broken, and they have just one wealth the brotherhood.
The book is a fantastic travel about the great depression, the author with your singular talent, wrote this book in 1939, the book isn't not considerate just a literature text, but is a social book.
The book stayed like the most favorite during five years, Steinbeck was pursued by politicians and intellectuals that hated him because the book was showing the real world after the great depression.
The impact of book was so deep, that the president's wife read it, and went see herself giving to those poor one way better to life
The book was awarded with Pulitzer and its adaptation to movie got to its director John Ford the academy award.
in the fifty's years the book was translate to forty languages, Japanese inclusive, today the book is consecrated a classical in the literature world.
on March 28, 2004
There is so much to be said about this monumental work; as another reviewer mentioned, over four hundred amazon.com reviewers referring to it in the positive can't be a fluke---this is one of, if not the, greatest American novels ever written.
The story follows the journey of the Joads, a family from Oklahoma forced to leave their land and head west in search of a better life. This is by no means an uplifting, happy book---the Depression and the Dust Bowl are the two major factors at the time the novel takes place that influence the situations in the it, and much (at times depressing) havoc is wreaked on all the characters in the story.
Very similar to Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" in its background, intent, and message, The Grapes of Wrath is extremely well written. Steinbeck flows from poetic prose in one line to the conversations of the every-day, relatively uneducated man at the time in another with beauty and ease. The book is set up with every other chapter taking a somewhat "withdrawn" sense from the actual story to provide some of the author's perspective on what's being written and what is occurring, and although often times when writers follow a similar pattern it ends up being somewhat of a childish and inane soapbox from which they stand, I looked forward to the recapitulation of sorts after each section about the Joads ended, just to see what he thought.
There are times in the book that will make you cry (the very last page is one of the saddest, yet most heart-warming signs of goodwill I've ever read) and laugh, but the intent in Steinbeck's message and the way he makes it accesible and interesting will impress you the most. The book is even aesthetically pleasing---it's got a beautiful format, an easily readable typeset (I finished it in two days without devoting too much time to it), and although there is neither an introduction nor foreword, the story itself is easily worth the price. Buy this book, you won't regret it.