It’s always an amazing feeling when you crack open a new book with no expectations and by the end it becomes one of your favorite novels. That’s precisely what happened with me upon reading “The Grapes of Wrath.” Steinbeck’s opus about the Joad family and the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930’s is haunting and eye-opening. It’s a window into a very specific time in American history where what we were converged upon what we would become.
“The Grapes of Wrath” is a lot of things. It’s a road narrative and a farmers gospel and a manifesto of the disenfranchised working class of the 1930’s. But these descriptions don’t do it justice. It’s about families being forced off their land, land settled by their ancestors, and pushed toward California with the promise of work. It’s about the dehumanization of a people suddenly thrust into the realm of not knowing where their next meal is coming from, or if it’s coming at all. It’s about men who just want to work for a living wage, but find themselves needing permission to do so.
Steinbeck is an amazing writer. According to the introduction he spent more time researching than actually writing, knocking out the narrative in 100 days. Clocking in at over 600 pages that is indeed impressive and inspired. Maybe even a little crazy. The dialogue feels incredibly authentic, meaning it would be a nightmare of red and green in a word processor. And the ending will have you feeling some sort of way, especially the final paragraph. For me it fit within the nature of the story and how it was told.
I’ve seen some buzz online about how “The Grapes of Wrath” is an allegory on the destructive power of capitalism and how it’s relatable today. That’s not a sentiment I buy into. The current issues of immigration and wage gaps facing America are, in my opinion, not even close to what Oklahoma farmers went through during the Dust Bowl. It actually feels insulting to compare the two. Nevertheless, people are entitled to their opinions. I just wish more research and thought went into it. But this is the internet! Receptacle for word vomit!
Anyway. Read “The Grapes of Wrath.” It’s amazing and might just change your perspective.