Some thoughts on finishing Grapes of Wrath:
1. It’s amazing.
2. It’s disturbingly relevant.
3. Steinbeck writes beautiful prose and a beautiful story.
4. Even at 500 pages, I still didn’t want it to end.
5. It has one of the most poignant endings I’ve ever read.
The man sitting in the iron seat did not look like a man: gloved, goggled, rubber dust mask over nose and mouth, he was part of the monster, a robot in the seat. The thunder of the cylinders sounded through the country, became one with the air and the earth, so that earth and air muttered in sympathetic vibration. The driver could not control it – straight across country it went, cutting through a dozen farms and straight back. A twitch at the controls could swerve the cat’, but the driver’s hands could not twitch because the monster that built the tractors, the monster that sent the tractor out, had somehow got into the driver’s hands, into his brain and muscle, had goggled him and muzzled him – goggled his mind, muzzled his speech, goggled his perception, muzzled his protest. He could not see the land as it was, he could not smell the land as it smelled; his feet did not stamp the clods or feel the warmth and power of the earth. He sat in an iron seat and stepped on iron pedals. He could not cheer or beat or curse or encourage the extension of his power, and because of this he could not cheer or whip or curse or encourage himself. He did not know or own or trust or beseech the land. If a seed dropped did not germinate, it was nothing. If the young thrusting plant withered in drought or drowned in a flood of rain, it was no more to the driver than to the tractor.
He loved the land no more than the bank loved the land. He could admire the tractor – its machined surfaces, it surge of power, the roar of its detonating cylinders; but it was not his tractor. (page 37)
One of my favorite characters was Ma.
Ma raised her eyes to the girl’s face. Ma’s eyes were patient, but the lines of strain were on her forehead…. “When you’re young, Rosasharn, ever’thing that happens is a thing all by itself. It’s a lonely thing. I know, I ‘member, Rosasharn.” Her mouth loved the name of her daughter. “You’re gonna have a baby, Rosasharn, and that’s somepin to you lonely and away. That’s gonna hurt you, an’the hurt’ll be lonely hurt, an’ this here tent is alone in the worl’, Rosasharn.” She whipped the air for a moment to drive a buzzing blow fly on, and the big shining fly circled the tent twice and zoomed out into the blinding sunlight. And Ma went on, “They’s a time of change, and when that comes, dyin’ is a piece of all dyin’, and bearin’ is a piece of all bearin’, an bearin’ an’ dyin’ is two pieces of the same thing. An’ then things ain’t lonely any more. An’ then a hurt don’t hurt so bad, ’cause it ain’t a lonely hurt no more, Rosasharn. I wisht I could tell you so you’d know, but I can’t.” And her voice was so soft, so full of love, that tears crowded into Rose of Sharon’s eyes, and flowed over eyes and blinded her.
All I can say right now is, read it! It’s awesome!