Book Review: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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

On agriculture and owning land as a business
When you’re forced off your land…
Machines distance us from reality
How Agriculture is corrupted
Burning Farm Produce to keep prices high

Comments

  1. Shail says:

    This will definitely make it to my reading list.

  2. Thurman says:

    I tried to read The Jungle shortly before I dove into Grapes of Wrath but I didn’t make it very far. Not only was it depressing, but the author went on and on with so many details that reading it simply became too tedious to continue. I like to be stimulated when I read; The Jungle simply made me want to gouge my eyes out.

    When I started reading The Grapes of Wrath I was already what the people in the story would call a “Red,” and it only burned my resolve deeper. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and planned to until I read up on it. Let me know what you think after you see it. I understand it deviates far from the original, but agin, I suppose we have to consider the times (not that much different from these times once you dig beneath the details).

    • bhagwad says:

      I liked “The Jungle” because of the descriptions of the working conditions in the meat packing factories. It does tend to get a bit tedious, but I didn’t get bored by it…different things for different people I guess.

      Let’s see how the movie turns out…

  3. Sakthi says:

    Lovely Lovely Lovely.. The most beautiful.. Though I took the shortcut out.. Hope I will be able to sit down with this book something..

    Touching.. Heart Wrenching.. Most Realistic..

    Kind of opened my mind to movies of this genre and of this time and I ended up watching another wonderful movie “How the west was won”..

  4. Charakan says:

    Grapes of Wrath is one of my all time favorite book.Must have read it first when I was around 15 in Malayalam translation from a local library. The English book was one of the first book I bought when I started to earn. I had even told the story to my kids a few times now. Reading this post will surely make me take up that book again.

    • bhagwad says:

      It really is a classic. The unusual storytelling was a new experience for me…first the personal story of the Joads and then the story of everyone…

  5. Marisa says:

    Although I would not categorize this novel as a fantasy book, you are correct with putting it in the same category as The Jungle. I read the latter just earlier this year and while reading The Grapes of Wrath I couldn’t help but mentally compare the two. They both had struggle after struggle and downfall after downfall, which made it hard to read at times but by pushing through you are left with two truly inspiring novels. Like you, I have not yet seen the movie, but plan to very soon.

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