It’s books like this which make reading truly worthwhile. Though I’m also a big fan of “unputdownable” fantasy novels, works like “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck enrich me and expand my mind. It has only a few central characters which is a big plus for me. The characterizations are strong and archetypal and is fitting given that the book aims to capture the spirit of the age in which it was written. It follows the lives of a single family as they’re driven from their homes and forced to try and adapt to the new ultra capitalistic environment in the United States.
In that regard, it falls into the same category as “The Jungle,” though not as depressing. There’s a thread of hope underlying the entire story even as misery befalls the Joad family. But as I said, it’s a period piece and there are two distinct parts to the book which are interwoven. The first part is about the specific situation of the Joads. The second is where the author talks about the people as a whole – specifically the migrants. It’s a powerful combination and each complements the other.
The Grapes of Wrath isn’t about one family. It’s about all the families in that situation.
There are some very memorable quotes in the book which I snipped out from my Kindle as I was reading. I’ve linked to them below. Steinbeck has a way of putting things which directly captures your heart. I can see why it was banned and burned when it was first released. It’s powerful stuff.
Sometimes nothing explains the state of affairs better than a story. Personally I feel that books and most recently movies can effect real social change since it takes people out of their worlds and puts them right in the middle of whatever situation the characters are facing. This removes the biggest hurdle to social change, namely that people don’t have the time or the ability to let go of themselves and go into another person’s world.
I found that “The Grapes of Wrath” was also made into an acclaimed movie – I’ll be watching it as soon as I get the chance. If you’re too busy to read the book, it might be a good compromise for you to watch it too!
Quotes from the book