Monday, June 16, 2008

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

1940 Pulitzer Prize

The Great Plains were hit with major dust storms during the early 1930's. The Dust Bowl was caused by drought and farm mismanagement. Combined with the beginning of the Great Depression, farming families were unable to hold onto their land. Around 500,000 people were forced to leave their homes and go in search of work. The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family as they try to find a new place for themselves.

As the book opens, Tom Joad has just been released from prison for killing a man in a bar fight. He returns to his family's farm to find everyone gone. A passing neighbor tells him the family is at Uncle John's but will soon be leaving. Handbills advertising for pickers for California fruit have been distributed and people are heading west.

So after selling what they can't talk with them, the Joad family goes west. Thirteen people, 1 dog and everything they have left on one truck. But once on the road they find people from everywhere are doing the same. And some are returning because there are too many people and not enough jobs. Giant farm conglomerates are paying slave wages. They've built company stores with exorbitant prices. They have the police arresting anyone who even whispers "union". And if a profit can't be made, crops are destroyed rather than giving them to the starving migrants.

Steibeck tells the story of one family trying to survive. But he also writes sections about the era in general. These help explain how conditions got so bad and what should have been dome to ease the hardships the migrants faced.

I loved this book. It was incredible. Of Mice and Men is my favorite book. Looks like I'm destined to be a Steinbeck fan.

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