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The Grapes of Wrath – realist fiction novel

This book was published in 1975 but written in the 1930’s. It won the Pulitzer Prize and the author also won the 1962 Nobel Prize for Literature. The book is a story of the Joad family, and their trip to California. It tells of the migration of thousands of homeless families from Oklahoma to California. It follows the Joad family, who, evicted from the land by the bank decide to head for the ‘Golden West’ to a land of plenty. When there they encounter poverty and oppression. The book stirs emotion from deep within. It shows the strength of the human spirit under stress and the dreadful conditions the Joad family suffered.

The Joad family began with Ma, Pa, Granpa, Granma, Tom, Al, Ruthie, Connie, Rose of Sharon, Winfield, Uncle John and Casey a former preacher. Whilst on the road they meet the Wilsons who let the Joad’s use their tent when Granpa was dying. Many other characters drift in and out during the unfolding story. The character of Tom Joad is the most interesting. Tom is the oldest child and a paroled convict. He was sent to Pentridge when during a drunken fight he hit a neighbor’s son over the head with a shovel killing him in the process. On elease he hitches back to his parents’ farm and on arrival finds the shocking truth – it is deserted with the doors ripped off.

He finds out from a neighbor who is living off the land while hiding from the bank that, his family and many others were evicted from the land by the bank. He then walks to his uncle John’s whereupon he finds his family loading up the truck to head for California. He is invaluable to his family, using the skills he learnt in prison – car repair, reading and writing. He keeps the whole family moving at times. His younger rother Al who thinks he is god reveres him. A theme that comes through strongly is that a family is a family and should never be broken up either willingly or unwillingly.

This can be seen in many places throughout the book. When they are about to leave Ma has still not heard from Tom whom she believes is still in Pentridge. She is worried and doesn’t want to leave. She is extremely relieved when he arrives even if it is unannounced. Unemployment is another major theme through the book. The Joad family head west to California to find work but the reams do not materialize and they remain jobless and with little money. The biggest theme through the book is money. Every time the family need food, petrol, or car repairs they need money.

It is a constant specter haunting their heads every day especially on the trip west. They did not know whether they had enough money to actually arrive in California. The Grapes of Wrath is realist fiction novel. The author has gone to great lengths in his thick description and inventive but realistic dialogue. This included with the very realistic themes akes good reading. John Steinback shows his disapproval of the bankrupt socio-political and economic system that led to the Great Depression of the 1930’s that is so well depicted in this book.

This novel is as much an insight into the harsh conditions endured by many out of work families in the Great Depression as an entertaining read. The book is not easy to read and at times is slow but in the end the result is an entertaining and touching novel. The powerfully thick description allowed me to picture the book in my mind’s eye.

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