Book Review: Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath is an American classic by John Steinbeck written in 1939 about the great depression and a Oklahoma family who lost their farm and packed everything up to try to make a new life for themselves in California.

I’m sure I read the novel in high school or at some point, but don’t really remember, definitely do not remember the magnitude of despair nor the strength of the family. It’s almost a shame that such great books are “wasted” as assigned reading to teenagers. I would almost reverse it and let the kids read fun horror and sci-fi that they might enjoy and cultivate a love for reading; leaving the classics for when they get old.

The Grapes of Wrath is a pretty amazing story, especially reading it in today’s climate with so many people feeling forgotten and cast aside. The book is over 75 years old and the human struggle still resonates today. Even with all the struggles, it gives a small bit of encouragement that conditions are improving, systems are in place to help, fewer people are starving, baby mortality rates are improved, life expectancy is longer.

The people in flight from the terror behind—strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever.

I always remembered the story as the families needed to move because of the dust storms and the inability to farm. However, it is a bit more nuanced, yes the family goes through a few bad seasons which require them to take a loan. Once the loan is started they end up falling behind and unable to pay it back; finally losing the farm to the bank. The banks repossess the family farms, displacing the families, and use new tractors to manage the expansive farmlands with minimal workers. A similar story of innovation and progress displacing laborers, and the greed and corruption of power.

If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it ’cause he feels awful poor inside hisself

Steinbeck does a wonderful job capturing the family, the emotions, the power of human spirit and strength for them to keep going on. He writes in the dialect o the family which at times can be tricky to read, but captures their essence well.

It is an amazing story of America, the good and the bad.

Length: 464 pages
Reading time: 15 days