The Grapes of Wrath is one of my all-time favorites and I’m excited to read it again. If you haven’t read it, put it on your list. It’s the kind of book that will keep you thinking about American farmers during The Great Depression and Steinbeck’s terrific characters long after you’ve finished.
Set during the Depression, Steinbeck tells the story of the Joads, a poor migrant farming family from Oklahoma. For thousands of tenant farmers, the Dust Bowl brought on great economic hardship, and the growth of big farming businesses squeezed workers out of their place in the economy. With nowhere else to go, the Joads headed to California, in search of land, jobs and a better life.
Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath because he wanted to show his sympathy for the migrants’ plight. Here’s what he said,
“I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this.” He later added, “I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags.”
Steinbeck had trouble coming up with a title. His wife suggested The Grapes of Wrath. This phrase comes from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
These lyrics refer to a biblical passage from The New Testament in the Book of Revelation:
And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
John Steinbeck was an American writer of novels and short stories. Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden are some of his most widely read books. He’s well-known for portraying California migrant workers during the Depression. The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939. It won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. After literary critics denounced the choice, even Steinbeck said he didn’t think he deserved the award. In 2012, the Nobel Prize committee opened its archives and notes revealed that Steinbeck was a “compromise choice” in a pool of unqualified candidates. Hard to believe!
Thanks to Wikipedia for these interesting facts!
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