The Grapes of Wrath

What some people find in religion a writer may find in his craft… a kind of breaking through to glory’ – Steinbeck, 1965 I’m an English and Writing student at Macquarie University, so as you can probably guess, I don’t have a lot of time for reading for pleasure. This means that when I eventually do pick up something to read for my own enjoyment, it had better be good.

Last term holidays, I read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. From the first chapter, I was in love. Steinbeck’s style is something that I’ve tried to replicate in my own writing. His stories have a beautiful flow to them, and although they usually focus on more desperate and dismal times, he manages to find beauty within hardship.

The Grapes of Wrath is a realist novel which follows the story of the Joad family after their oldest son, Tom is released from prison and the family is driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work. The Joads pack their truck full of all their belongings and set off for California with dreams of orange picking and stable work.

However, as they get closer to their destination they meet more and more immigrants who tell tales about the lack of jobs, and the terrible working-conditions even if you were lucky enough to secure employment. These stories do nothing to stop the Joads, who keep making their way to California despite the problems they encounter along the way.

What I love most about this book is the way the family perseveres. It seems that every chapter something new has gone awry in their journey, but none the less, they push through and continue on their way, working together to make it to their version of the promised land.

This novel is tragically beautiful. It deals with death, depression and poverty. Steinbeck is able to create tragic situations, drawing the reader in so you share the desolate feelings of the characters. However, this book highlights the importance of family in these hard times, as the only way the Joads are able to keep going is because of the love they share for each other and their desire to save their family no matter what.

In short, this book is a classic which is certainly worth a read. It has the busy Uni student with a study reading list a mile long tick of approval!