Summary: The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized-and sometimes outraged-millions of readers
At once naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most American of American classics. Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation during the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. From their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of this new America, Steinbeck creates a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity….Read more.
Outstanding! Great look into what life was like during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era for so many millions of Americans, forced to flee their homes in search of jobs. A classic American novel.
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John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath Audio Book Summary
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Summary of the Novel
John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was written during the Great Depression and published in 1939.
The novel follows the story of a working class American family, the Joads, as they struggle to make a living farming in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, and then leave their home to migrate west with the hopes of finding more work in California.
The book opens with its now infamous line:
To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.
Due to the harsh economic conditions created by the Depression, and the drought and other farming difficulties created by the Dust Bowl, The Joads, and thousands of other families, are forced to default on their property loans and are evicted from their farms.
Desperate and hopeless, they pack up all of their belongings and begin the journey West to California, where they’ve heard they’ll be able to find more work and land. Of course, the act of having farms to tend isn’t simply about the bare needs for survival, but the ability of the characters to establish their own sense of pride, dignity, and honor.
When they finally arrive in California, however, they find that their dreams cannot easily come true. The state is overflowing with migrant farm workers who fled the Midwest just as the Joads had done, with promises of work out West.
Finally, they find work on a peach farm, but the wages are so low and conditions harsh, that it is hardly worth it, and the family becomes involved with labor unions. Tom is forced to witness the beating of his brother during a violent strike, and watch his brother die helplessly. Tom then kills the man who beat his brother to death, and the family picks up and moves once again.
Conditions are no better there, however, and even after their hardship – including a stillborn child, Casy’s death, and Tom’s risk of being arrested for murder once again – the family finds a starving boy and help nurse him back to health.
This shows the incredible strength and compassion of the family who, despite everything they’ve been through, are shown as caring, loving individuals, and are written in a bright light in comparison to the oppressing forces and landowners they’re up against throughout the novel.
This novel, by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, is a 20th century American classic for its description of the hardships endured by the working classes during the Great Depression. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.