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.
on January 22, 2004
The Grapes of Wrath was written by John Steinbeck. It basically describes the tragedy of the Oklahoma sandstorms. The first section of the book is nothing more than a very detailed chapter, describing the sandstorms and the lives of the people living in Oklahoma at this period of time. Steinbeck does a great job at describing the miserable life of these people. I thought this was an essential part of the book because it set the mood of the book. It showed the reader, right away, what was going on in the world, and how horrible it was, before he gets into the characters of the story.
During this horrible time, a family decides to leave Oklahoma like every other family was. They decide to travel to California in search for some fortune from the Gold Rush. Their trip is very long and harsh. They all travel across the country with a carriage and a couple of horses. They experience a lot of hardships on their journey. Close to the end of their trip a family member dies because of a disease in their foot. When the family finally gets to California they are expecting an easy life and they are expecting happiness but all they find is more poverty, like in Oklahoma. Nothing was different.
This is the part of the book when I finally realized the family's pain. I finally started to feel really bad for them. This is a huge reason why I loved this book. Towards the end of the book I had serious feelings for the characters. It amazed me.
The Grapes of Wrath doesn't have a very complex plot. It actually doesn't have much of a plot at all. It simply follows a family through a period of their life.
on August 26, 2003
"I figgered the devil was the enemy. But they's somepin worse'n the devil got hold a country, an it ain't gonna let go till it's chopped loose."
Grapes Of Wrath is the story of the desperate battle of migrant labourers with the rich, greedy, malevolent and the mean. When the Joads arrive in California from their native Oklahoma, their troubles and tribulations are rewarded not by bounty, but by even more hardship. What ensues is a timeless battle. It is waged by the spirit of the downtrodden on the one side, and by the mercenary mean muscle of the other. The story is primordial and resonates with any reader with a sense for perception.
The classic work of fiction describes a world where the rich, with their glitzy cars, ride alone and never mind hitting a man or a noble dog should one come in their way. Then there is the poor and oppressed who, despite their condition, extend a hand time and time again and never forget what is important on the great round dustbowl. The wheel in the sky seems to work against those who toil and possess a heart, but cruelty and oppression are exposed as mere facades that once removed reveal nothing more than a faceless corporate entity bereft of the right to exist.
It is in this setting that John Steinbeck writes in amazingly authentic and sanguine dialogue the flight of the strong-at-heart from, and again into, the belly of a system bent on browbeating compassion, kindness and veracity.
on July 9, 2003
This book is probably the most influential book that I've ever read. It has truly opened my eyes to a different time to help me appreciate the life that I have, now. The story follows the Joad family; they are heading West, to California, after being kicked off of the land that they farmed and were sharecroppers on. The Joads have heard that California is fruitful, rich, and beautiful. What they don't know is that 300,000 people just like them are also heading West to the "green pastures". Along the road, they battle death, hunger, and fatigue. When they get to California, they battle poverty, crooked authorities, and hunger. The family struggles to find work and find a decent place to camp. The story has varying chapters. One chapter is a generalization of what is happening at each stage of the migrants' journies. These chapters use vivid descriptions, metaphors, and history to create a picture for the reader. The other chapters are specific to the Joad family with plenty of personal adventures and dialogue. With each new chapter comes more intrigue, hardache, and adversities. Excellent, emotional portrayal of this devastating time period. I would have liked if there was a little more closure at the end. The book is long as it is, but I was left wondering about some of the characters. I guess it's just one of those cravings, same with movies, when you never want it to end. Steinbeck has opened up a world, to me, that is begging to be delved into and researched. I can't wait to learn more about what I read.
This book has really made me think about my life and the gratitude that I owe to everyone in my life. It's excellent to find that feeling of true thankfulness.
on June 19, 2003
Let me preface this review by saying that I absolutely LOVE Steinbeck. I would consider him one of my five favorite authors. I think East of Eden is one of my favorite books of all time. I especially like Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat. I even liked The Wayward Bus.
HOWEVER, having said that, I must say that I cannot handle The Grapes of Wrath. My tolerance for pain is not nearly high enough. I have to be honest - I've never actually read the entire book. It's much to difficult to read through the tears in my eyes. I am sure that it is, like most of his other novels, a well-written, fascinating account of the lives of some very interesting people. I simply cannot willingly subject myself to such abject despair. I read novels for enjoyment, and I don't enjoy the feeling of having my heart pulled apart piece by piece, page by page.
Undoubtedly it is to Steinbeck's great credit that he is able to draw that kind of emotion out of a person through simple words on a page. Only one or two books have ever been able to move me in that way. Unfortunately, it is not a feeling I desire. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive. The book made me want to open up a vein, but apparently millions of people loved it...
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