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The Grapes of Wrath

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This novel is immense and compelling, one of the best books I have ever read.

Set against the migration of families from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to California. It follows the Joad family and the hardships they experience.

I could not put it down.

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It's many years since I first read this book: it made a great impression on me at the time and got me started on other of Steinbeck's novels. I remember getting totally immersed in these people's lives. There was a grandeur about it.

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Would the Grapes of Wrath make good holiday reading or would it be too miserable. I believe it's about the hardship of the "Oakies" ~ might be a bit too gloomy for holiday reading perhaps??????

 

I've heard about the Wrath of Grapes ~ but not sure if it's a hangover or an embarrassing illness?

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This novel is immense and compelling, one of the best books I have ever read.
I am so pleased to read this mac. This is the next read at my library RG. Someone told me years ago that this was the best book she had ever read and I've meant to read it ever since. I hope to return when I have read it and add my comments.

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WOW! Can writing or reading get any better? This American classic was written from Steinbeck's heart ... he lived with the Oakies as they slowly made their way across the country to what they thought would be their heaven on earth: California. The Joads are a composite of the many, many people and families he witnessed as they suffered, sickened, died, gave birth but never gave up.

 

When someone uses the expression "The salt of the earth" I am always reminded of this book and the characters who seem like old friends.

 

 

As an aside I also recommend the Henry Fonda film which is mesmerizing. It's one of the best movies ever made.

 

 

As for a holiday gift? It depends how deeply your recipient likes to read. GOW is not a happy book even though the ending does bring some relief and augers better times in the future. Maybe for merry-making something elses would be more appropriate? How about a gift card? Those are all I ask for these days.

GOOD LUCK

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I'm 100 pages in and totally hooked. The construct of the novel, called a contrapuntal structure according to the Introduction in my Penguin version, different structures in alternate chapters, is fascinating and so insightful. It is almost like listening to classical music with the main theme inerspersed with underlying structures or events written in a different voice but singing the same song. Wonderful.

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this was a great story. an intense read. a fine read

 

i had bought it in my local bookshop. the man who owns it was saying at first it wwas banned in ireland

 

and think when i did the leaving certificate, there was a passage on the creative writing bit about it back in 2002.

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i had bought it in my local bookshop. the man who owns it was saying at first it wwas banned in ireland

 

Everything was banned in Ireland once upon a time.

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Everything was banned in Ireland once upon a time.

 

ahwell we have now got rid of the censors office :)

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It must be nearly 25 years since I read The Grapes of Wrath - a school book - but it left a lasting impression. I still recall the immense hope of the Joads, set against what becomes quickly apparent to the reader as a hopeless situation. It's to Steinbeck's credit that he kept the hope alive - a good farmer; a government camp; Rose of Sharon's baby - but each fresh glimmer of hope came to nothing. I remember willing the Joads to stay at the Government camp when they wanted to move on - sure, they weren't going to improve as long as they stayed there but they weren't going to get any worse.

 

The political chapters also left a lasting memory. Of all the American presidents, Herbert Hoover intrigues me the most. Perhaps it is the photo of a slightly plump man with round corners on his shirt collar. But perhaps it is a fascination with a man whose presidency became a byword for bad government - the Hoovervilles named after him. I imagined a rich, complacent man who was oblivious to people's suffering all around him. But after later visits to Belgium, I found his name was revered as a man who had alleviated starvation after the First World War. He had buildings named after him! Further reading revealed a man who appeared to be kind, compassionate, but utterly overwhelmed by the circumstances in front of him.

 

But I was really haunted by the Joad chapters. The grandparents died on the journey; we lived with the fear that the rest of the Joads could go in the same, unmarked, low key way. A far cry from the squeezable oranges of which they dreamed. Having been brought up in a world where we believed in a safety net - a welfare state that would pick up the pieces if push came to shove - we saw a vision of a world where the situation could hit rock bottom - and then get worse. People could starve.

 

I've since read William Carleton and seen that this went on in our supposedly United Kingdom in the 1840s. That sounds a long time ago, but my granddad knew people who'd lived through those years. And there are parts of the world where this still happens.

 

This was a very, very important novel and one which should be required reading.

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Having finished TGOW I have to admit to feeling totally drained. There is a quote on the back of my copy that reads, 'I've done my damndest to rip a reader's nerves to rags, I don't want him satisfied.' Steinbeck apparently said this when the book was first published in 1939. And he certainly has done that.

 

This book pulled at every nerve ending in my body and at the end left me feeling drained. I followed the trials and troubles of the Joad family in every way. Their journey was so graphically written. All the characters were real, not at first perhaps, but they grew slowly so that by the end of the book it was almost as if you knew each and every one of them personally.

 

The interspersed chapters of exposition on background seemed to become more and more political as the book progressed. Or was that because I was getting so annoyed with the way life was panning out for the migrants? Either way by the time I got to Chapter 25 and Steinbeck writes 'There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation.' when speaking of the way the migrants were being treated, I was feeling it so much. Not just the fact, but the way Steinbeck wrote - it was so poetic, so powerful. No wonder he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature.

 

As you say Mr.H, and many have said to me on other occasions, this is a book that stays with the reader for a very long time.

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The interspersed chapters of exposition on background seemed to become more and more political as the book progressed. Or was that because I was getting so annoyed with the way life was panning out for the migrants?

I think that's right. The novel moves from a very personal beginning (Tom Joad having just been released from prison) through to a wider, family perspective on the road, and ultimately to a more universal level as we saw many, many families in the same position in camps and on farms. At the same time as the camera pulls back on the Joad family group, so the political messages become more universal and more powerful. But I think the novel needed that personal identification to build first in order to give meaning to the global picture - in order to counterpoint the poverty and squalor with the awfulness of shattered dreams and lost hope.

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I have now had more time to think about this novel, and also to do some background reading. I read somewhere about the themes in the book that has put a whole new perspective on it for me.

 

The biggest of these themes was the religious one. Some of these I did notice as I was reading, but I didn't pick up on all of them or put them together as such a strong element of the novel.

 

The Joad family, homeless and persecuted are like the Israelites, looking for the Promised Land. When they leave for California there are thirteen of them, representative of Jesus and the twelve apostles. I have to admit I had not counted the bodies and didn't realise this until I read about it. I can see how Jim could be cast as Jesus, because he began the journey after being in solitude for some time -or the wilderness. Later in the book Jim gives up his life for the cause he fights - trying to unionise or perhaps just organise the workers, in order for them to obtain their rights of a fair day's pay. When he is killed by the deputy thugs he tells them you 'don't know what you're doing'; resonant of Jesus on the cross. I certainly picked this one up when reading.

 

There is inference to the Good Samaritans, as the Joad's help others along their journey. In return they also meet Good Samaritans. The flood at the end of the novel is like Noah and the Great Flood. I could see the religious connotations of the flood, but was unaware that a flood symbolised both death and, at the same time, regenerative birth. As does the way Uncle John puts the stillborn baby in a box and lets it float down the flooded river like Moses on the Nile - this symbol of hope was more obvious to me when I was reading. As is the end of the book when Rose of Sharron tries to save a starving man - the milk of human kindness!

 

There was also the turtle. I don't see this as a religious symbol, just nature reflecting human behaviour. This too would seem to be significant because of the fact that like the Joads, it kept heading west no matter what calamaties fell across its path - there was only one way to go.

 

I love all these underlying themes, even when you have to read more to understand them. For me it makes the book even more impressive and mind stretching. And apart from all that, it was such a lovely classic novel to read.

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Having just read The Great Gatsby I picked this up hoping for a sequel. I've read only 80 pages and already I'm thinking that literature really is proof that history repeats itself.

 

I'm on the chapter where the car salesmen are doing everything they can to move unsold stock that nobody has enough money to buy. Does this remind anyone of anything?

 

 

Phoebus

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I think the strength of Grapes of Wrath is the contrast between what seems normal: the car salesmen; the fuel stations with sweets on the counter; the Californian policeman who had moved out from Oklahoma; the nice Californian farmer - and what seems shocking: the shanty towns; the starvation; the mass migration. Just when it seems that normality has triumphed, things are plunged into chaos. And every now and again, in the chaos there is some grounding in normality to make the reader stop and think.

 

I'm sure one of Steinbeck's intentions was to make readers wonder just how close they might be to the situation of the Joads. Most recently in Europe, you had the descent of a civilized nation - Yugoslavia - into utter chaos, mass migration, starvation and genocide. It really can happen, even in developed countries.

 

Perhaps it is the illusion of looking back on childhood with rose tinted spectacles, but The Grapes of Wrath strikes me as being one of the greatest novels of all time.

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a recent South Park made clear references to Grapes of Wrath when everyone across the US wakes up and finds the internet is gone. Stan's family heads out west in search of the internet

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Panoramic.

 

Steinbeck opens our eyes to the great vista of life and the vast emptiness of death.

 

The words burn like the sun.

 

From the first line

 

"To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.

 

To the last

 

"She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously."

 

The words gnaw like a hunger, they draw like a wound, they flow like the march of time, they work hard and bury themselves deep within the mind.

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I read this with my RL book club a couple of years ago. What a book! I love Steinbeck's way of writing, his descriptive painting of people, scenes, environment, situations. Fabulous.

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I rarely post on a book until I have finished it but feel compelled to do so with this novel.

 

I cannot think of any good or acceptable reason why I have not read this book before; it is stupendous and I simply cannot put it down.  About 370 pages in and I am just rooting for the Joad family and for something positive to happen to them.  

 

The situation that they and thousands like them find themselves in is almost incomprehensible to us, and the hardships they endure are at times heartbreaking, but all the way through, with odd exceptions, there is still a strength of human spirit in the way that people in dire circumstances and with virtually nothing of their own will still try to help their fellow man.

 

I am finding it a very moving and humbling book.

Edited by Ragamuffin Gunner

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Finished Grapes Of Wrath today, and almost felt out of breath as I read the last pages.  This surely will be a book to remember for a long time.  Before reading it, and as I mentioned in the previous post, I cannot fathom why it has taken until now to read it, I was aware of the subject matter but not of the manner in which the story would unfold; so no pre-conceptions of whether this would end happily for the Joad family or not.

 

All the way through this saga I have been hoping upon hope that, no matter how bad things were or how much worse they became, somehow there would be a positive outcome for them, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that they had set out believing California to be.  By the end, however, things were about as bad as they had ever been, and as I put the finished book down I felt almost a sense of guilt, in that I had become so attached to the Joads that by finishing the book I felt as though I was simply abandoning them to their trials and tribulations and goodness knows what eventual fate.

 

I once saw written down, or may have heard it in a film or somesuch, a quote that "humans are at their best when things are at their worst" and in so many instances in this book that is so true.  Among the migrant travellers, despite their financial poverty and lack of prospect for anything better, they were always ready and willing to help each other in their adversity, and in doing so also tried to maintain some sense of pride and honour.  The Joads may have been poor in monetary terms but they were morally wealthy, as were many others that they encountered and lost along the way (the Wilsons for example).

 

I found the style of Steinbeck's writing both powerful and descriptive, and I liked the way in which each chapter or episode directly relating to the Joads' journey was interspersed with a short chapter that stood on its own, but which dealt with connected aspects of their plight.  In particular I found the chapters concerning the used car salesman, the roadside diner on Highway 66, and the wanton destruction of surplus crops and foods in California when "Okies" were starving compelling.

 

Their was a great sadness too in the fact that the group ended up so much depleted from that which had started out from Oklahoma.  Both Grandparents die on the trip. a brother wanders off to stay by a river they have stopped at, a son-in-law runs away from the responsibility of marriage and family, the brutal killing of the 'preacher' and young Tom in hiding.  Despite Ma's best efforts to keep the group together, and it is essentially her that drives them forward and makes a lot of the big decisions, events simply over-run them.  It was interesting to see just how dominant a personality Ma became once the journey had commenced.

 

To cap it all, one of the most poignant, moving and, yes, unexpected endings to a book I have yet come across.  Quite symbolic, and I suspect at the time the book was written, quite controversial and shocking to readers.  Maybe not quite so today, although I cannot help but feel that there would still be those who might feel uncomfortable with the scene.  I found it heartbreaking, yet at the same time uplifting in its portrayal of one human being's kindness to another.

 

I am overwhelmingly glad that I have read this novel, and not surprised that it has had the impact it has over the years.  

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I am so glad that RG motivated me to read this book. I always planned to read it, but might never actually have done so. For me, this is not only a great American novel, but one of the most powerful novels I have ever read. I think RG has already said everything I think and feel about it. One of the things that was done so brilliantly was Steinbeck's alternating between the personal (the Joads and the people they come in contact with) and the general plight of the migrants, as well as other people trying to eke out a living during that time period. And Ma is one of those characters that I will never forget.

 

I have heard from a few people that the film with Henry Fonda does justice to the book, so I am going to look for it. In some parts of the book, the dialogue was so beautifully written that I could hear it my head as I was reading. 

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Now that RG has finished this book and while we still have it from the library I have decided to re-read it. It is about 35 years ago that I last read this book but as an older teenager it had a lasting impression upon me and aspects of the book I remember to this day. I am about 100 hundred pages in and am finding it compelling reading having been hooked from page one! As Kerry has stated, the way that Steinbeck intersperses odd chapters describing the general plight of Americans at that time with the personal story of the Joads is very clever. I feel that in this way it is bourne home to the reader that this is not merely a work of complete fiction but tells of a painful period of American history.

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I am so glad that RG motivated me to read this book. I always planned to read it, but might never actually have done so. For me, this is not only a great American novel, but one of the most powerful novels I have ever read. I think RG has already said everything I think and feel about it. One of the things that was done so brilliantly was Steinbeck's alternating between the personal (the Joads and the people they come in contact with) and the general plight of the migrants, as well as other people trying to eke out a living during that time period. And Ma is one of those characters that I will never forget.

 

I have heard from a few people that the film with Henry Fonda does justice to the book, so I am going to look for it. In some parts of the book, the dialogue was so beautifully written that I could hear it my head as I was reading. 

 

Hadn't seen this post Kerry, and I am glad that you are glad that I motivated you to read it!  I think that is probably a first for me!  It is a cracking book though.

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I am about a third of the way through this book, rather slower going than normal due to all that is going on at the moment and not because I am not enjoying the book although the word enjoy may not be quite the right choice of word to use when describing my reaction to re-reading this classic. A couple of times already the book has simply stopped me in tracks as I have felt as if my breath has simply been knocked out of me.

 

Kerry, your post is the only one I have read so far and I would have to say that as the book progresses I agree more and more with you when you stated that the odd little chapters describing the state of the nation at the time of the book really do add to the power of the novel as a whole. As the book is progressing I not only feel for the Joads but I feel a real ache for all those poor people who lost their homes and desperately tried to find a better life for themselves and their families. What is upsetting me most are the odd acts of kindness and support shown in amongst the misery of it all, the sense of community is still there no matter what has to be faced. There is also a feeling of the families concerned desperately trying to hang onto a semblence of their own tradtions and history no matter how little they have.

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