Friday, April 14, 1989

John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath: Published 50 Years Ago Today

Updated 11/2/2020.

The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck

First Publication: April 14, 1939

Category: realist novel

Sales: 15 million


About the Book:

“Few novels can claim that their message led to actual legislation, but The Grapes of Wrath did just that.” LC “At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel” AZ It is “perhaps the most American of American Classics.” AZ It “chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s” AZ during the Great Depression. It “ignited a movement in Congress to pass laws benefiting farm workers. When Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962, the committee specifically cited this novel as one of the main reasons for the award.” LC

The story focuses on the Joad family. They are “driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes, and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work.” WK They “set out for California. Along with thousands of other ‘Okies,’ they seek jobs, land, dignity, and a future.” WK

“A portrait…of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel…probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America.” AZ “Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.” AZ

The Grapes of Wrath is frequently read in American high school and college literature classes due to its historical context and enduring legacy. A celebrated Hollywood film version, starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford, was released in 1940.” WK

Resources and Related Links:

In July 2018, I became the organizer of the Classic Novels Book Club. Check out the Book Club tab here or Meetup for more information. This is our December 2020 book.