The Grapes of Wrath
First sentence: 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.
What a fantastic way to begin the year's reading. I know this is a classic, and there would be little debate about its place in American literature. I probably don't have any unique commentary on this work. But I was surprised at how much I was "sucked in" to this book, and how much it stayed with me during the times I was not reading.
The powerful themes in this book, for me, were 1) the desperation of the migrant families, and 2) the intense drive to keep families together. Steinbeck is able to convey the sense of desperation so vividly, both through the Joad's experiences and through the chapters describing the world around them: the car salesmen, the people who buy off farmers' assets, the growers/canners in California, the effect of the heavy rain. And then Ma Joad's intensity around keeping the family intact throughout, and her ultimate failure to do so, is just heartbreaking. I can't imagine what it felt like, in an age without email and mobile telephones, to have one of your children go off in search of a better life on their own.
I know the ending is meant to cast a ray of hope, but I was left wondering what would happen next to these poor people, stranded in a barn in a flood with no money, no food, and no hopes.
Another thread running through my mind as I read was about society's apparent need to find a lower class who can be mistreated. In this book, and in that time period, it was the migrant workers. Today, we have found immigrants to do similar labor and their living conditions in many cases are not much better than the Joad's. There are many other groups who are also marginalized. Why is this? And why is it so difficult to eradicate this pattern of hate and discrimination?
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