The Grapes of Wrath – First Thoughts


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.

Favorite quotes:

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!


25 thoughts on “The Grapes of Wrath – First Thoughts

  1. I had heard so many great things about “The Grapes of Wrath” before I had to read it in college. I ended up disappointed. I don’t know quite what it was that I didn’t like about it. Maybe I just couldn’t get into the story?

    1. I think I was in the perfect mindset for it. Maybe if I read it right now, it really wouldn’t have the same effect on me, who knows!

  2. This is a book I admire. I was surprised by how experimental so much of it was. I’m not sure that’s the right word. I was expecting very straightforward story telling like The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, etc. I’ll be interested in reading your full review, especially what you make of the closing scene.

    1. I was really surprised, too! I thought it was going to be a lot like Of Mice and Men, only longer, which I wasn’t sure I could handle. But it ended up being so much more, and much more beautiful.

  3. you make me want to give him another try, I remember passionately hating the red pony, but you’re really making me wonder if the grown up me would like his writing better

    1. I’ve never read the Red Pony, but I have read Of Mice and Men and I was not wowed by it like everyone else in my class seemed to be. So I approached this one cautiously! But I loved it!

  4. I read this book when I was in middle school and I doubt I appreciated it as much as I should have. It’s a book I should re-read. Can’t wait for the full review.

    1. It’s definitely one I’m glad I waited a little while for. We had the option to read it in 11th grade for a research paper, but I chose Angela’s Ashes instead. Which was a dumb idea, but still 😉 Full review may or may not be on the way at some point, haha

  5. i think steinbeck has an amazing way with words. i do ‘of mice and men’ with my students each year and can’t tell you how much imagery and allusion (biblical, mostly) is in that novella. it may be short, but it’s multi-layered and just stunning. enjoy GOW.

    1. Yup, we read that one in the 11th grade… or tenth? Ugh, I’m old, I can’t remember. I was a little disappointed though, because someone ruined the ending!

  6. The Grapes of Wrath is pitch-perfect. It has to be one of the greatest American novels of all time. I recommend reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden, if you haven’t already.

    Also, the film adaptation of Grapes of Wrath is well worth a look. John Ford directs it and it has Henry Fonda as Tom Joad. I highly recommend it.

    1. It is definitely on my list! I was told by my good friend, who is a Steinbeck fanatic, to definitely read Grapes before I read Eden. Thanks for the comment!

  7. I’m a small-family farmer who is just now reading Grapes of Wrath. When I came across the above passage about the mindless tractor driver, I cried. 70 years later, our country is still going through corporate America’s take-over of small farms. I own, love, hate, beseech, etc. my land. And whether its seeds germinate is everything to me. Everyone who is concerned about where their food comes from, and how our food choices are being made by agri-business should read Grapes of Wrath. Michael Pollen opened up the eyes of this generation of eaters, but Steinbeck had already been there, done that.

    1. I’m glad to hear you were so moved. I haven’t read Pollan’s book, but I definitely seen the parallels from what I know about it. Thanks for visiting!

  8. It is a great novel, though there is too much preaching. That is a pity, but it can easily be skipped. So for instance I would have resented what you copied above as your favourite quote. It is much too repetitive and even rhythmical, and that is invasive .

    This goes towards poetry, like music, is governed by other laws. In a political novel the appeal should remain rational.

    1. That’s a great point! I guess the poet in me is just drawn to things like that 😉 I suppose it is, undoubtedly, a political novel, but I really couldn’t help distancing the politics of it from the story of it’s family. There were times when I felt preached to, but it also felt justified. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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