Grapes of Wrath

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Winner of the 1990 Tony Award and Outer Critics Circle Award. A powerful and deeply affecting stage version of one of the masterpieces of American literature. Holding to the simplicity and directness of the original novel, the play uses the sparest of technical means to convey its timeless message of the persistence and strength of the human spirit as it battles against the adversities of nature and an uncaring society.
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Overview

Winner of the 1990 Tony Award and Outer Critics Circle Award. A powerful and deeply affecting stage version of one of the masterpieces of American literature. Holding to the simplicity and directness of the original novel, the play uses the sparest of technical means to convey its timeless message of the persistence and strength of the human spirit as it battles against the adversities of nature and an uncaring society.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

John Steinbeck's 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; became an international bestseller; and inspired an Academy Award-winning movie and an Emmy-winning play. Seventy years have not weakened the emotional force of this gripping fiction about a Dust Bowl family forced to move west during the Great Depression.

NY Times
...majestic...leaves one feeling that the generosity of spirit he saw in a brutal country is not so much lost as waiting once more to be found.
NY Post
This is, overall, a thrilling theatrical achievement that gets its power from the still sharp relevance of its human message...
NY Magazine
THE GRAPES OF WRATH is a lesson in history, stagecraft, and truth that we cannot afford not to learn.
Time Magazine
Steinbeck's best novel.
The New York Times
Majestic...leaves one feeling that the generosity of spirit he saw in a brutal country is not so much lost as waiting once more to be found.
New York Magazine
The Grapes of Wrath is a lesson in history, stagecraft, and truth that we cannot afford not to learn.
The New York Post
This is, overall, a thrilling theatrical achievement that gets its power from the still sharp relevance of its human message...
Peter Monro Jack
It is a very long novel, the longest that Steinbeck has written, and yet it reads as if it had been composed in a flash, ripped off the typewriter and delivered to the public as an ultimatum. Steinbeck has written a novel from the depths of his heart with a sincerity seldom equaled.-- New York Times Books of the Century, 1939
Time Magazine
Steinbeck's best novel.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141185064
  • Publisher: Penguin Books, Limited (UK)
  • Publication date: 9/28/2005
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).

After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.

Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.

The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.

Robert DeMott, editor, is the Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor at Ohio State University and author of Steinbeck's Typewriter, an award-winning book of critical essays.

Biography

John Ernst Steinbeck, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in Salinas, California February 27, 1902. His father, John Steinbeck, served as Monterey County Treasurer for many years. His mother, Olive Hamilton, was a former schoolteacher who developed in him a love of literature. Young Steinbeck came to know the Salinas Valley well, working as a hired hand on nearby ranches in Monterey County. In 1919, he graduated from Salinas High School as president of his class and entered Stanford University majoring in English. Stanford did not claim his undivided attention. During this time he attended only sporadically while working at a variety jobs including on with the Big Sur highway project, and one at Spreckels Sugar Company near Salinas.

Steinbeck left Stanford permanently in 1925 to pursue a career in writing in New York City. He was unsuccessful and returned, disappointed, to California the following year. Though his first novel, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929, it attracted little literary attention. Two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To A God Unknown, met the same fate.

After moving to the Monterey Peninsula in 1930, Steinbeck and his new wife, Carol Henning, made their home in Pacific Grove. Here, not far from famed Cannery Row, heart of the California sardine industry, Steinbeck found material he would later use for two more works, Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row.

With Tortilla Flat (1935), Steinbeck's career took a decidedly positive turn, receiving the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal. He felt encouraged to continue writing, relying on extensive research and personal observation of the human drama for his stories. In 1937, Of Mice and Men was published. Two years later, the novel was produced on Broadway and made into a movie. In 1940, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Grapes of Wrath, bringing to public attention the plight of dispossessed farmers.

After Steinbeck and Henning divorced in 1942, he married Gwyndolyn Conger. The couple moved to New York City and had two sons, Thomas and two years later, John. During the war years, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches reappeared in Once There Was A War. In 1945, Steinbeck published Cannery Row and continued to write prolifically, producing plays, short stories and film scripts. In 1950, he married Elaine Anderson Scott and they remained together until his death.

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "...for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and keen social perception.." In his acceptance speech, Steinbeck summarized what he sought to achieve through his works:

"...Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it and it has not changed except to become more needed. The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species...Further more, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity of greatness of heart and spirit—gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and emulation. I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature..."

Steinbeck remained a private person, shunning publicity and moving frequently in his search for privacy. He died on December 20, 1968 in New York City, where he and his family made a home. But his final resting place was the valley he had written about with such passion. At his request, his ashes were interred in the Garden of Memories cemetery in Salinas. He is survived by his son, Thomas.

Author biography courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Amnesia Glasscock
      John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (full name); Amnesia Glasscock
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 27, 1902
    2. Place of Birth:
      Salinas, California
    1. Date of Death:
      December 20, 1968
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Interviews & Essays

California Dreamer: John Steinbeck, Born a Century Ago This Year, Left Us with The Grapes of Wrath -- and Its Seismic Effects
From the May/June 2002 issue of Book magazine.

The masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath appeared in 1939, when the Depression had dragged on for nearly a decade and seemed to stretch endlessly ahead. Thousands of families had been dislodged from small farms in the Southwest, their plight exacerbated by drought conditions and a moribund economy. Like the Joads of John Steinbeck's novel, these distraught families piled into old jalopies and headed west, to California, hoping for work and a better life. When they arrived, they discovered that Californians didn't need them or even want them. They were herded into dismal government "sanitary camps," where illness and hunger were pervasive.

Steinbeck was sent by a newspaper to report on the migrant situation. Notebook in hand, he toured the camps in an old bakery truck, driving up and down California's Central Valley, an area that he knew well from his childhood. In one of his first newspaper articles for The San Francisco News, Steinbeck described the predicament of the migrants who would inspire his novel:
They arrive in California usually having used up every resource to get here, even to the selling of the poor blankets and utensils and tools on the way to buy gasoline. They arrive bewildered and beaten and usually in a state of semi-starvation, with only one necessity to face immediately, and that is to find work at any wage in order that the family may eat.
In one camp, not far from Steinbeck's hometown of Salinas, he found about 2,000 people crammed into a pathetic shelter, many suffering from typhoid, flu, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. There was little food to be had, and the drinking water was foul. Once, when a riot broke out, the police squashed it brutally. "You couldn't fight back if you didn't feel good," Steinbeck wrote. "That was the secret the bosses and police had, and they knew they'd win."

After publishing his articles on the migrants, Steinbeck correctly guessed that his material was substantial enough to form the basis of a novel, and the first glimmerings of The Grapes of Wrath came into his head. In his journal, he wrote: "If only I could do this book properly it would be one of the really fine books and a truly American book." With eight books under his belt already, including 1937's Of Mice and Men, which had been a huge success as both a novel and a play, Steinbeck felt well prepared for the task at hand; indeed, he set to work with a vengeance.

He planned to write the book on an epic scale and decided it should alternate chapters of exposition and narrative. To keep it focused, he would center the story on one family, the Joads, tracking them from their farm in Oklahoma, along Route 66, and into California, where they would be forced into a camp with thousands of other "Okies" like themselves. The book, Steinbeck noted in the journal that he kept alongside the novel, would be composed "in a musical technique." He would try "to use the forms and the mathematics of music rather than those of prose." It would be "symphonic," he said, "in composition, in movement, in tone and in scope."

Steinbeck struggled to keep his concentration and remain disciplined, and one can follow his ups and downs in his journal. The entry for June 13, 1938, is typical. Steinbeck had been drinking with his friend Martin Ray the night before, and he came into his study the next day with a hangover:
Now a new week starts and unpropitiously for me. Last night up to Ray's and drank a great deal of champagne. I pulled my punches pretty well but I am not in the dead sober state I could wish. However, I will try to go to work. Don't have to because I have a day caught up. All sorts of things might happen in the course of this book, but I must not be weak. This must be done. The failure of will even for one day has a devastating effect on the whole, far more important than just the loss of time and wordage. The whole physical basis of the novel is discipline of the writer, of his material, of the language. And sadly enough, if any of the discipline is gone, all of it suffers. And this slight fuzziness of mine may be a break in the discipline. I don't know yet. But right now I intend to find out.
Despite the hangovers and self-doubts, the writing progressed with astonishing speed and fluency. Between May and October 1938, he produced a manuscript of 200,000 words, writing in longhand with Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky playing on the gramophone behind his desk. On September 3rd, he christened the book The Grapes of Wrath, a title suggested by his wife and plucked from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." The narrative was completed on October 26th, when Steinbeck wrote in his journal: "Finished this day -- and I hope to God it's good."

Published in April 1939, The Grapes of Wrath became an enormous bestseller, winning critical praise from many of the best reviewers in the country. It also earned the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a film by director John Ford. Not surprisingly, the novel helped to focus national attention on the migrant situation. Popular first lady Eleanor Roosevelt supported the book, and her strong views were widely reported in the press. Soon after, large sums of federal money were directed to California to aid the migrants, and Steinbeck's novel became a catalyst for the change in attitude of Californians themselves, many of whom had not understood the extent of the plight of the migrants.

Steinbeck had, in fact, managed to write his "big book." The Grapes of Wrath became an instant classic, and it has maintained its position over six decades, with a readership in the millions. There are precious few "great" American novels, and this is surely one of them. (Jay Parini)
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Reading Group Guide

The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck

Prepared by Dr. Donald R. Gallo
Professor of English
Central Connecticut State University


NOTE TO THE TEACHER

The questions, exercises, and assignments on these pages are designed to guide students' reading of the literary work and to provide suggestions for exploring the implications of the story through discussions, research, and writing. Most of the items can be handled individually, but small group and whole class discussions will enhance comprehension. The Response Journal should provide students with a means, first, for recording their ideas, feelings, and concerns, and then for reflecting these thoughts in their writing assignments and class discussions. These sheets may be duplicated, but teachers should select and modify items according to the needs and abilities of their students.

INTRODUCTION

Life during the Great Depression of the 1930's was extremely difficult for almost everyone. But for those who had little to begin with, it created often unbearable circumstances. By 1935, drought and poor farming practices, especially in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, and Texas, led to the wind erosion of topsoil. So severe was this problem that the affected areas of the Great Plains were labeled the Dust Bowl. At nearly the same time, the development of the all-purpose tractor enabled large landowners to dispense with the labor of farmers who were tenants on their land. By the late '30s, a majority of the approximately 1.8 million tenant farmers in the South had been evicted from their homes. Many of the displaced farmers sought work in the "promised land" of California. Eventually, there were as many as 300,000 migrants in California, several workers for every available job in the fertile farming valleys of that state.

In 1936, John Steinbeck conducted research on the people who had moved to California from Arkansas and Oklahoma; in 1937, he toured the Dust Bowl and traveled with migrants on their relentless drive to California. From those experiences he wrote The Grapes of Wrath, which upon publication in 1939 earned Steinbeck both high praise (including the Pulitzer Prize) and harsh criticism for its strong language and sociopolitical implications. The novel continues to be one of the most highly praised and vehemently criticized pieces of American literature.

PREPARING TO READ

  1. In American history texts and other library sources, read about the Dust Bowl and other events of the Great Depression. If possible, obtain some of the famous 1930s photographs of poor farmers, migrant laborers, and people on city food lines. With other students, share what you see in the faces of those people.
  2. Discuss what happens when machines replace people. What alternatives do unskilled workers have when they are replaced?
  3. What is your definition of family? Is a family made up only of relatives? What keeps a family together? Of what importance is family unity in today's society?
  4. Obtain a road map of the United States and, as you read the first half of the novel, trace the route taken by the Joads, noting the location of major events along the way
  5. As you read through the novel, stop occasionally to record your thoughts, reactions, and concerns in a Response Journal. Your journal may be a separate notebook or individual sheets which you clip together and keep in a folder. Include statements about the characters - what you learn about them, how they affect you - and your thoughts about the key issues and events which the book explores. Also, jot down questions you have about events and statements in the book which you do not understand. Your Response Journal will come in handy when you discuss the novel in class, write a paper, or explore a related topic that interests you. In addition, because this novel contains several sophisticated words (e.g., petulant) and unusual expressions (e.g., frawny), you may want to keep a list of some of those words and their meanings in your journal.

UNDERSTANDING THE STORY

Chapters 1-11: The Land

  1. What does the setting of the opening scene suggest about the rest of the novel? What does it suggest about family structure?
  2. Animals play an important symbolic role throughout this novel. What important qualities does the land turtle have as described in Chapter 3?
  3. What opinions does Casy, the former preacher, have about sin and using "bad words"?
  4. How do the tractors operate? What role does the bank play? What power do the small farmers have against the banks and the tractors?
  5. Of what importance is Muley in this story? What's the difference between being the hunter and being the hunted?
  6. Chapters 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 tell the narrative about Tom Joad and his family the way novels usually do. What is the function of the other short chapters (1, 3, 5, etc.)? What does Chapter 7 imply about used-car salesmen?
  7. What do the faces of the Joad family reveal about them? What are the most important characteristics of Ma and Pa and of the grandparents?
  8. How does each member of the family feel about going to California? How does each feel about leaving home? What is young Tom's philosophy for dealing with the future? What does Ma's burning of the old stationery box illustrate?

Chapters 12-18: The Migration

  1. What is the first unpleasant event that occurs on the Joads' journey? What does that event portend about what lies ahead?
  2. What happens to solidify the family as they drive along? Of what significance is Grampa Joad's death? How does Granma take it? What is Ma's philosophy of "holdin' on"? What is the value of Casy's prayer?
  3. What does it show about the Joads when they befriend the Wilsons? What is the significance of the change from "I" to "We" (p. 165)?
  4. What is the function of Chapter 15? What does it imply about businessmen, waitresses, and truck drivers?
  5. When the car breaks down, what is significant about Ma's reaction? How does the mechanical difficulty affect the relationship between Tom and Al?
  6. How does the one-eyed man in the junkyard feel about the owner of the yard? What advice does Tom give him?
  7. In the camping area, what information does the ragged man give to Pa about California? What effect does that information have on the Joads?
  8. What effect does the nightly camping have on the people heading for California? How does it give them strength and power?
  9. What is the Joads' first view of California? What impressions of California do the two men from the Panhandle provide? Why does Noah leave? What is Ma's response?
  10. Why are the migrants called "Okies"? What do the two boys in the service station in Needles say about Okies?
  11. Of what symbolic value is the desert? Does California look the way the characters thought it would? What do we learn about Granma? What do Ma's reactions again show about her?

Chapters 19-30: The Promised Land

  1. How has farming changed according to Chapter 19? Why do the local people fear the migrants? What is a Hooverville? How do you suppose a Hooverville got its name? What are the "three great facts of history" (p. 263), and what do they imply about the outcome of the events in this novel?
  2. Why is it so difficult to obtain work in California? Why do wages fall? What keeps the men from uniting? What advice does Floyd Knowles give? How is Rose of Sharon affected by all of this?
  3. How do the police treat the migrants? Why? What does Casy's attack on the deputy reveal about him? Why is Uncle John so upset? What causes Connie to leave?
  4. What does Ma Joad mean when she says "Why, we're the people - we go on"?
  5. In what ways does the hostility of the local people change the migrants? How are the government camps different from the Hoovervilles? What is effective about the way they are run?
  6. How does Mr. Thomas (Chapter 22) treat the workers? How does Tom feel about working? In what ways does Mr. Thomas represent the dilemma of the small farmer?
  7. How do the Joads, especially the children, show their ignorance of "modern" conveniences?
  8. What do the events in Chapter 22 say about charity, religion, and hard work? What and who are "reds"?
  9. How is it that people are starving when fruit is overabundant? Why do the owners destroy the surplus?
  10. Why do the Joads leave the government camp at Weedpatch? How is life at the Hooper ranch different? How is it typical of the lives of migrants? What does Ma's encounter in the store show about the plight of migrant workers?
  11. What does Tom discover about Casy? How is Casy different from what he once was? How does Tom react to the attack on Casy?
  12. What do the boxcars provide besides shelter? In hiding, what decision does Tom make? How does Ma feel about that? What conclusion does Ma reach about the family? What keeps them all from giving up?
  13. How does the rain affect the lives of the migrants? Of what importance is building the dike, even if it breaks? How does Ma know they will survive?
  14. What impact does the stillbirth of Rose of Sharon's baby have? What does Uncle John do with the dead baby, and what does this act signal about him and the other migrants?
  15. Why is Rose of Sharon's feeding the starving man an appropriate ending for this novel? Why is she smiling "mysteriously"?

Digging Deeper

  1. In the beginning, each character has personal reasons for wanting to go to California. In what ways does each individual's goal change? Which people grow to see a larger purpose in life? What factors contribute to their changes?
  2. The heroes of The Grapes of Wrath are on the bottom of the social ladder; their language is often vile, their behavior is sometimes as coarse as their language, and they freely discuss bodily functions (which in the 1930s were seldom mentioned in literature). What was Steinbeck's purpose in portraying such unrefined and coarse people? What would be the effect on readers if the Joads spoke "proper" English and did not curse?
  3. According to statements made in this novel, of what importance is anger in overcoming fear? What must be done with anger in order to make it productive? Do you agree or disagree with that philosophy as expressed in this novel?
  4. What is the effect of the chapters which come between the narrative about the Joads? How would the elimination of those chapters affect the meaning and the impact of the novel?
  5. Identify as many Biblical references or parallels as you can find in the novel and discuss their effectiveness as well as their meaning.
  6. The political implications of this novel have been strongly attacked. In what ways is the novel a criticism of capitalism? Does the novel advocate communism? Defend your opinions with evidence from the novel.
  7. In what ways is your definition of the term family similar to the meaning Ma Joad gives to the term? In what ways is Ma Joad's meaning different? What do the implications of her meaning contribute to the author's message in the novel?
  8. If you had been an owner of a large California farm in 1939, how would you have felt about people like the Joads? As the owner of that farm, how might this novel have changed your feelings?
  9. Steinbeck wrote to his editor about this novel: "I've done my damndest to rip a reader's nerves to rags, I don't want him satisfied." Did he succeed in doing that to you? If, so how did he accomplish it? If not, why weren't you affected in that way?
  10. Some critics maintain that this novel promotes hatred between classes of people. In what ways does it do that? In what ways does the novel's effect go beyond that?
  11. What has become of Noah? What does Connie do with the rest of his life? What will Tom become, and will he be successful at it? What will Al do next? How will these events change Rose of Sharon?
  12. You might have utilized notes from your Response Journal to answer some of the questions above. Now select one specific, unanswered question that you raised in your journal and see if your classmates can shed some light on that issue.

WRITING RESPONSES

  1. Explain the importance of the contrast between the dryness of the first part of the novel and the floods of the final part. Note also the frequent references to the sun as a "large red drop" that made a cloud look like a bloody rag and the earth look bloody. How do those images contribute to the meaning of the novel?
  2. Describe the role women play throughout this novel. Pay particular attention to the dialog between Ma and Pa Joad on page 467, and be sure to comment on the significance of Rose of Sharon's final act in the novel.
  3. Explain how Tom's imprisonment affected the way he behaved during the journey and throughout his search for work in California.
  4. Steinbeck describes the migrants as "homeless, hardened, intent, and dangerous" (p. 257). Write a newspaper editorial about those migrants as if you were the editor of a small town newspaper in California.
  5. Steinbeck admired the poor migrants and believed that from their enduring qualities "will grow a new system and a new life which will be better than anything we have had before." Was he right? What kinds of changes have come about because of the suffering of those migrants of the '30s? In our society today, what similar problems exist? What problems in recent times have been exposed by writers the way Steinbeck did in The Grapes of Wrath?
  6. Each of the characters in the novel had a dream of what he or she wanted in the future. Describe your own dreams and expectations for the future and explain how you intend to go about attaining them.
  7. Write a short story to describe what happens to the Wilsons after the Joads leave them behind.
  8. Write a factual newspaper account of the citizens' raid on the camp at Hooverville.
  9. Some Americans believe this novel is dirty, blasphemous, advocates a communistic society, and therefore should not be taught in high schools. Explain to parents in your town why you feel the novel should be read and studied in your high school, or explain to a group of teachers why you feel the novel should not be required.

EXPLORING FURTHER

  1. To learn of the angry reactions of Californians to The Grapes of Wrath, read Frank J. Taylor's "California's Grapes of Wrath," published in 1939. Similarly interesting is Martin Shockley's "The Reception of The Grapes of Wrath in Oklahoma," which appeared in 1944. Both are reprinted in The Viking Critical Library Edition of The Grapes of Wrath: Text and Criticism, edited by Peter Lisca.
  2. Read a simpler view of migrant workers in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, or about a strike of migrant workers in his In Dubious Battle.
  3. Research the requirements for and the other recipients of the Pulitzer Prize (for fiction) and the Nobel Prize, both of which were awarded John Steinbeck. Read his Nobel Prize speech.
  4. Who are the migrant workers today in California? Are they better organized than the "Okies" were? What are the typical wages paid today for picking peaches, lettuce, and other farm produce? Research the housing and living conditions for migrant workers in your state.
  5. Who picks cotton today? Find out about the capabilities of today's modern tractors and harvesters.
  6. What is the percentage of small farms in the U.S. today? How do today's small farmers compete against the gigantic land-owners, and what are their relationships with today's bankers? What has changed for farmers since the 1930s and what problems still exist?
  7. View the 1940 film based on this novel (available on video tape). How closely do Nunnally Johnson's screenplay and John Ford's direction follow the events and the spirit of the book?
  8. Write an advertisement for jobs for migrant workers of the '30s. To what would you want to appeal?
  9. Locate and play recordings of some of the music mentioned throughout this book, such as "Ol'' Dan Tucker" and "Chicken Reel." In what ways is the music like the people in The Grapes of Wrath?
  10. Locate drawings or photographs of some of the different types of automobiles mentioned in the novel, such as Cord, LaSalle, and Zephyr. Find out why those cars are no longer manufactured.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 538 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A must read book.

    The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck is an all time classic novel that depicts the reality of the Great Depression during the 1930's. The story first takes place in Oklahoma where the Dust Bowl had hit many crops and open fields where farmers farmed, children played, and had also hit the worst place to be hit-the lives of innocent people who lived day by day off their land. Because food and jobs were scarce, many families were forced to pack up what ever belongings they had left and move west. The main characters who take on the expedition of a new life are Tom, Ma, Pa, Jim, and Rose of Sharon. Each character has their own special quality's that they carry within that suffices the long and hard journey to California. While on the road the characters find not only how difficult it is to survive, but there are many things that have to be sacrificed in order for the majority to move on. Within the storyline you will find bumpy roads and battles that the characters must endure, thus so does every other book, however, this book will catch your attention very quickly because you will not only feel empathy for each and every character, as they struggle through the day, but you will be able to relive the hardships of the 1930's and think to yourself, "Wow, this tragic event actually happened to ordinary people and they survived." John Steinbeck is an amazing author and has never let his readers down. You will be oh so very delighted to read this book and will not ever want to close it.

    52 out of 55 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Very good

    At times, I had to make myself plow through this one. It was very depressing, made more so by the fact that things like what the Joads went through actually happened. I'm 'anti-spoiler', so I won't give away the ending, but let me just say that the ending hit me hard. It's as if the whole story came back to slap me in the face, making the power of it much stronger. I'm glad I finished it.

    12 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    ANOTHER, AL TIME, CLASSIC

    As much a political manifesto as the simple story of a family forced to leave their family farm and seek a new life in California, the Grapes of Wrath is a masterpiece of American literature. Set in the American West at the start of the mass migration to the West Coast, the story follows the Joad family from the foreclosure of their farm through the long road trip along Route 66 and finally to their lives as migrant workers in a land overflowing with workers. Their lives and hardships are vividly painted in Steinbeck's outstanding prose.<BR/>Steinbeck alternates styles in each chapter. Every other chapter details the story of the Joads. In the remaining chapters Steinbeck uses a repetitive, haphazard, ungrammatical, absolutely brilliant style to sketch a scene from the life of a migrant family, ostensibly the Joads. In these chapters, he conveys scenes such as the high-paced action of a used car lot, the bitterness of a family receiving foreclosure notice, or the back breaking work of cotton picking with such clarity and color that the words of the book seem to fall away leaving the reader with a tangible world in which voices are shouting or the breeze is tossing the cotton tufts into the air. In my own reading, I've seen many authors try to mimic this unstructured, repetitive style, but never done as well as this.<BR/>The story is rich with symbolism and emotion. While there are some spots where Steinbeck seems to be working too hard, the book as a whole is a wonderful read. You will come away a little more educated about that era in America's history, a little more sympathetic to the plight of migrant workers, and maybe even a little more left-leaning in your political views. Regardless of what you intend to get out of it, the Grapes of Wrath is absolutely recommended for anyone of the maturity to understand the deep themes that run through the story. Highly recommended novel.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Disappointing

    After reading Of Mice and Men, which I loved, I was really looking forward to this book. However, no matter how many times I tried to pick it up, I just couldn't get into it. Some of the descriptive prose is beautiful, but the plot moves at a glacial pace and I couldn't understand whole chunks of dialogue. Reading multiple pages of a turtle trying to cross the road is a good metaphor of trying to get through the book.

    9 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2010

    Amazing Book!

    I had to read this book for a tenth grade summer assignment. To tell you the truth, I thought it was going to be terribly boring? I thought, "What adventures could this family possibly go through that would be worth putting into a book?" I was so wrong! This book is amazing. Not difficult to understand; definitely an ideal American Literature novel.

    The only thing I disliked about the book was the chapters in between that described in GENERAL the experiences of migrant farmers during the Great Depression. Some of them were interesting, but in general, boring and hard to understand. But don't let that stop you from reading the book. It's great!

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    a classic vintage

    Even when I first read this in high scool I enjoyed it, but now it seems eve3n better to me. Maybe it's having such a hard time with finding work or working in such a crap job when I do, but this is a book that holds up to time in both the texture and pleasure of the story and in the subjects it tacles. I recomend it to anyone willing to let a little bit of real into their fiction.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Most Profound American Novel Ever Written

    This is, as far as I'm concerned, the most perfect novel ever written. It is at once a very simple story about a simple family and their struggles during the Dust Bowl era, and at the same time it is a complex commentary on a plethora of social issues that still affect working people today. Even the language of the book is deceptively simple, until the depth of what Steinbeck is saying through his characters or through his descriptions of the land hit you. Then you realize that what he has done is amazing...he's taken the simplest words and the simplest characters and created poetry.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I got bord after the first paragraph...

    I got bord after the first paragraph worst book ever id rather wath dry paint dry thats how bord i was.:(

    5 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    From 1939 to 2009, It's a Classic Contemporary

    While having been writtin in 1939, John Steinbeck wrote a masterpiece that is as contemporary today in its ideas as it was when it was written. The simple matter is that the "monster" never went away, it only grew and, "it breathes profits. If it doesn't have profits it will wither and die." The more things have changed, the more the banks and asset holders haven't. We've gone from the Great Depression to the Great Denial, now referred to as the "Great Recession."
    This is a masterpiece that highlights the depth of people in a time of trial, and shows that even if society should lose its humanity, there will still be individuals who will bring hope for the future.
    The genius of this book is in the ending. Whether it is a tragic or hopeful ending is left to how the reader sees the last chapter, as an ending or as a new beginning.

    FD.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2013

    Uuuugh....

    I got halfway through this book and thought my eyes were going to fall out of their sockets. This book SUCKS!!!! I read it at night to put me to sleep.

    4 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    Ew

    I HATE this book with a passion.

    4 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2011

    The First Classic That I Ultimately Deplored!!!!

    First off, I would like to state that I have a love for classic reads; I have read many great literary works such as Moby Dick, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Les Miserables, and Oliver Twist, just to name a few. This was the first classic that I found myself utterly despising. Steinbeck's writing style in this novel was just. . . not good. All of his characters were the same, with no psychological means of motivation, and all of the "villains" were similar and stereotypical. The author has awful grammar, in areas in which he wasn't using the literary technique of vernacular, he would make up words (again, not in the dialogue), such a case his inventing the term "firelighted". In addition, he would forget what was occurring throughout the novel, such a case being where Tom asks where he can wash in the peach farm, at which point the officials answer shrewdly, then, a page later, Tom goes and asks his mother the same exact question! In addition, I didn't find that the author used too much description throughout the novel, as was said in numerous other reviews, but, rather, he used too little, people having to rely instead on dialogue. I'm fine with realism, I have read many nonfiction-based books, but without the backing of psychological cause there lies very little literary gratification. A terrible book, I thought, biased, with little character development, and depth that matches that of a tidal pool. Do not stereotype all classics on the basis of this book!

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    American literature at its finest!

    The Grapes of Wrath is definitely an American classic. John Steinbeck has written a magnificent story that captures the hopes, shattered dreams and intense struggles of the Joad family during the Great Depression. This book is a must read for anyone looking for a stimulating book that will leave a big impression on you for a long time!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2008

    My all time favorite!

    The Grapes of Wrath is my absolute favorite novel of all time. It's beautifully written- honestly written. I recommend this book to everyone- some may say that it starts out slow, but only to set the whole mood of the story. It is full of hardships, sadness, passion, the will to survive and the love of a family trying to hold it together while they begin to lose everything. Shocking, historical, emotional. Don't miss this book -or the powerful ending!

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2008

    The Best by Steinbeck

    This is one of the best written books from John Steinbeck. Tom Joad is a classic character. A must read for anyone interested in classic American literature.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2011

    Oh yeah, the greatest American classic ever!

    The story is about an Oklahoma family,the Joads. After Tom is released from prison for killing someone, he finds his house is torn dow, and he leads his family to work in California.

    My dad is the one who recommended this book for me, because he is a great fan of classics, and I guess I inherited that from him. This book is an absolutely, positively, must! Steinbeck, as every author does, has his own unique writing style. In a way, he is like another one of my favorite authors, Hemingway. He has a very simplistic, but beautiful writing style. The story is a sort of historical social realism and that's what makes me different from today's readers. Instead of the modern-day thriller, I'm into these kinds of stories.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2011

    Most Boring Book I've EVER Read!

    I read this book solely because I was told to by one of my teachers. I tried very hard to keep an open mind on how this book was going to be, after all, it is a clasic. Soon after opening this book, however, I started to question why anyone would want to read this. I was warned in the beginning that this book was very dull, though it was required to read. I seriously took a month to read three chapters. I had desperatly hoped that my teacher would be wrong, but to my disheartening, I found that he was absolutly correct.
    This book is a about Tom Joad, though about half way through the first 100 pages, you start to question that because John Steinbeck starts refering to him as 'Tom' as aposed to what he had previously been calling him, 'Joad'. That confused me tremendusly and made me start to question if he just did that because half way through he realized he was writing about four Joads. On the actual character of Joad, he was self-centered, rude, and very immpolite. Gradually he got better as the story progressed, but he still made it very hard to want to read about him. The other characters aren't really someone who I would want to read about either, especally his sister, she gets unbareable at times. The characters, however, are only one small part as to why I did not enjoy this book.
    The writing style I did not enjoy for two reasons: it seemed very pointless to put in the exact way they spoke, and because he had chapters on nothing, basicly. Steinbeck actually included how the different characters spoke so you would only get half of the word and like ten commas saying 'we don't say this letter so you shouldn't read it'. It drove me absoultly bonkers trying to figure out what it was that the characters were saying. I also didn't like the writing style because what Steinbeck's style of writing is that you have a chapter of story and a chapter of backround information that only partly relates to the story and for the most part has no relevance to it. Quite honestly, if I wasn't going to be quizzed on what those chapters said, I wouldn't of bothered to read them, they really didn't add anything to the story for me.
    Steinbeck's world choice was very mature and very crude. What he would do is string out an intire sentence of swear words, and then make a comment on absoutly nothing. If you have a problem with swearing, don't go anywhere near this book. Steinbeck's word choice rivals both Stephen King and J.D. Stalinger. The word choice, when it isn't all cussing, is very simple and very downward on education which did capture the characters. He didn't make a man that just spent four years in jail sound like an Ivy Leauge Scholar, which was very good in that aspect.
    In all, would much rather have not read this book. It was absolutly terrible and it made you want to throw the book at John Steinbeck. The book was boring, but it gave you a glimpse into the 1930's. This book is good for history people with a very good attention span, not so good for students.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2011

    Not the best book in the world

    I had to read this book for a summer assignment and it bored me to tears. Steinbeck uses so much description and detail that you get lost and forget what is happening in the story. I am not kidding you when i say that there is an ENTIRE chapter devoted to a box turtle crossing the street. I also did not like the end, because I felt like there was no real conclusion of the story (maybe there was closure for Rose of Sharon, but what about the other characters?). All in all, i would not recommend this book if you are looking for a quick, satisfying, and easy read because it is the exact opposite of this.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2010

    complete crap!

    I had to read this book for a summer reading assignment and it is actually MORE entertaining to watch grass grow. One of the worst books I have ever had to read.

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2009

    Save Yourselves

    I have to say right now that I really hate being the negative reviewer, but in no better words, this book totally stunk. I had to read it for junior English and thought that all 544 pages (in the copy we got stuck with, 619 (I remember every awful page)) were about as interesting as sitting in the grass and letting ants bite your toes. I should not have to read a sentence, replace the horrendous verbage with real-people words, and then reread the sentence I construct in my head. Yes, I know, it's literature and he wrote how the people spoke. So? Had the story had a little more real meat to it, I might have been able to overlook it. Might. The characters were irritating - I wanted to throttle most of them. I swore that if the turtle in the early chapters got run over that I would throw the book down and stoop to reading SparkNotes. Sadly for my sanity, the turtle was delivered. And, seriously, the end was just creepy. Really creepy. They teach this in schools, and then they wonder why so many teens have suicidal thoughts. This is why - depressing books that glorify things people are usually taught to avoid, but I probably shouldn't get into philosophy or psychology.

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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