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...
on February 15, 2004
In Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath", readers are introduced to the Joad family in their miserable living conditions in Oklahoma and their dreams of a new and better life in California. All thirteen Joads pack up in one old truck and begin their journey on Highway 66 to California along with thousands of other families looking for any work. Their trip take them through the loss of five of their passengers for various reasons, bullying from cops, threats of starvation and no money, and even the death of their dog. Yet, there is some sunshine as they meet up with another family halfway through who become their travel mates for a while. As the Joads enter California, they eventually find refuge at a government camp for migrant families looking for work. However, their luck is minimal as they know they can't stay and continue on, looking for better work and wages. This brings them to their last stop in the novel which isn't any better than the last few. Steinbeck leaves the readers almost wishing they hadn't even read the book, because there is no solitude for either the Joads or the readers.
I gave this novel two stars, because it did not appeal to me. The story itself was depressing; it starts out sad, gets worse, and ends even more sad than it started. The bad plot doesn't make the novel any better, either. The book is literally just about a family riding in a car, looking for work. Another big factor was the writing style. I don't know if this novel is an example of all of Steinback's writing, but only half the novel was actually about the Joad family. The chapters alternated between the Joad family story and a story about migrants in general. This approach wasn't appealing. I found the book to have a very slow start, and once it started moving along, the chapters about the migrants just seemed to be in the way, prolonging the story for nothing. I wouldn't recommend this book, unless you're a fan of Steinbeck.
on February 26, 2003
The Grapes of Wrath may be to many people a triumph of American storytelling, but I found it to very stale and overwrought. This may be due solely to the fact that I do not enjoy Steinbeck's writing style, but I think it is also because he pushes the story to the limit, and in essence milks all of the entertaining qualities of his characters to death way before the story is over.
While the Grapes of Wrath has several 'nuggets' of brilliance (my favorite one involving a Native American chief), they are so swamped in boring sub-plots and narratives that switch back and forth that the novel can hardly be considered a masterpiece. By the end of the 619 pages you hardly care what happens to the Joad family, just as long as the darn thing is over with.
In short, while I hate to discourage those who think this book is a triumph of 'American perseverance', I have to say that if you really want to know about the Dust Bowl (which is actually a fascinating period in history) read a history book, not this novel.
on July 18, 2002
Steinbeck is not an great author. Rather, he is an author who knows how to pick his topic and manipulate his readers. As in his other well known novels/novellas such as "Of Mice and Men" and "The Pearl", Steinbeck had again chosen a innocent good (the Okies) struggling against a unlimited evil (the California captalists). To give credit where credit is due, Steinbeck indeed does potray the hardships of the dustbowl sharecroppers vividly and at the same time, tells us of the awsome collective powers of humanity and society via Jim Casy. Unfortunately, the literary value of "Grapes of Wrath" ends up just about there. As Steinbeck repeatedly stresses the Joad Family's mistreatment, he does not explain nor justify why the so called "big greedy captalist" exploit the "impoverished sharecroppers". Furthermore, Steinbeck does not offer us a fair resolution, he simply and conviently leaves the readers hanging in the end without new revelations. Think of "To Kill a Mockingbird" or "Cry, the Beloved Country", we learn that sometimes the society is filled injustice, however, in the end, all people, white or black, rich or poor are inherently good. Sadly, "The Grapes of Wrath" fails to transcend its melodramatics. In essence, like a teenager's unwarranted complaint against his or her "phony" society which cannot be called literature, "The Grapes of Wrath" does not deserve the label "a great American novel".
on August 9, 1999
Well, well, well.
This book is a doozy, that's for sure. I read The Grapes of Wrath in 8th grade for "fun" and re-read it this year for summer reading (i'm 16) and wasn't too fond of the book either time. I'm probably going to be lumped into the category of "all the high schoolers who read it for english and didn't like it because their generation has attention-span problems," but, frankly, that's not true. I've read and loved such wordy books as The Scarlet Letter, each of Umberto Eco's tomes (essays indcluded), The Great Political Theories (volumes one and two, no less), among others.
The Grapes of Wrath, though, was just boring. It's sort of like an old-school Saving Private Ryan - let's beat into our readers'/watchers' heads the horrors of a terrible time in our history. What comes from this are preachy stories without base because, ultimately, we realize they are fictional. There was no Tom Joad or Private Ryan. The Depression existed, yes, but none of these characters did.
Why should this make a difference? The story is fiction, after all, right? The difference is that Steinbeck, as in almost all of his mediocre books, tries to make us, through deathly boring descriptions and symbols, that his characters really existed. Oh well. I guess people are going to keep on reading this, so what I say here doesn't really matter. Read it once, and regret you ever did.
on February 2, 1999
I have to disagree with most of the reviews on this page. The book is no great American novel but it is not piece of sh*t either. I had to read this book for my 11th grade AP English class and in general I like the book. It has strong themes, great characters and lots of symbolism. The Grapes of Wrath is more important as a political work that gives an overview of the Great Depression than as a literary one. The details do get very tedious. I had to read some chapters twice because I kept forgeting who the characters were. Once the Joads start their journey all the characters tend to blend together, especially the male characters. Steinbeck also tried to throw a few to many symbols in. It got so bad that I got a headache trying to find the deeper meaning in Tom using his own urine to heal a cut. In the end though all you can do is get through it. I doubt very much theres an American highschool student who hasn't read this book> Whether you liked it or you hated you must see Dorothea Lang's pictures. They really give face to the characters.
on August 15, 2002
I find it highly irritating when others start acting condescending towards people just for not liking their choice in books. I am eighteen years old, and I read THE GRAPES OF WRATH "for fun" (in other words, it was not a school assignment) in high school. I did not like it. Does that make me an "immature" reader? I don't think so! Contrary to what you seem to think about those who hate TGoW, I do enjoy "serious" books (The Good Earth; The Butcher Boy; Animal Farm; 1984; those not serious enough for you?) You would do better to stop making such outrageous presumptuous remarks based on a teenager's taste in books. Obviously, you cannot be much more mature than the readers you criticize, if you cannot handle a difference in taste. I personally love Lord of the Flies, for instance, but I understand that there are those who do not. Unlike you, I do not go around saying that those who do not like LotF are simply missing the bigger meaning behind the work.
on February 2, 1999
I have to disagree with most of the reviews on this page. The book is no great American novel but it is not piece of sh*t either. I had to read this book for my 11th grade AP English class and in general I like the book. It has strong themes, great characters and lots of symbolism. The Grapes of Wrath is more important as a political work that gives an overview of the Great Depression than as a literary one. The details do get very tedious. I had to read some chapters twice because I kept forgeting who the characters were. Once the Joads start their journey all the characters tend to blend together, especially the male characters. Steinbeck also tried to throw a few to many symbols in. It got so bad that I got a headache trying to find the deeper meaning in Tom using his own urine to heal a cut. In the end though all you can do is get through it. I doubt very much theres an American highschool student who hasn't read this book>
on October 11, 2001
Now unlike many of the other readers for Grapes of Wrath, I disliked most of the book. Yes it does tell the story of the migrant workers in California. And yes John Stienbeck is descriptive. In my opinion the way his writing is completely bored me. I had to literally force myself to read this book it was so boring. It was far sure way to long and also a very slow reading book. This book bored me so much that I would fall asleep when reading it. Every now and then there was a good chapter but mostly pretty boring of a book. His writing is not nearly as interesting as other authors. Stienbeck is considered a great author, but not really to me. Save yourself some pain and do not read this book unless you have to!
on August 22, 2002
I am also a teen who had to read this book for high school summer reading, and I entirely disagree with the statement of teens not being able to read "mature" books. I think George Orwell was a great writer (1984 especially), To Kill a Mockingbird was excellent, and I absolutely loved Les Mis, just to name a few. This book definetley has an interesting background plot, and the writing style is very good, but like another reviewer commented, it seems half-finished. Almost like Steinbeck got the idea in his head and then half-way through developed writer's block. It was a pretty good story, but it just didn't have that deeper kick to pull me in.