by John Steinbeck | Grades: 11-12 | Ages: 16+
About The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized--and sometimes outraged--millions of readers. Nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read
First published in 1939, Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads--driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California.
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.
A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man's fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman's stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America.
At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck's powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.
"I didn't understand at the time -- no one could have -- that [ The Grapes of Wrath] was not just a historical document but also a document about our current world with its depiction of drought and its effects (...) California, where the Joads went, is no longer the reliably verdant and green paradise they found; it's now coming out of a five-year drought of its own (...) The other point that Steinbeck makes well, is that when we have huge, natural changes like these, the people who pay the largest price are the people most vulnerable and closest to the bottom (...) None of them did anything much to cause the problem, and yet they are its early victims (...) Steinbeck was trying to do something more than just simply tell a story. He's a remarkable writer, and this is his masterpiece." -- Bill McKibben, environmentalist
"Steinbeck is a poet. . . . Everything is real, everything perfect." --Upton Sinclair, Common Sense
"I think, and with earnest and honest consideration . . . that The Grapes of Wrath is the greatest American novel I have ever read." --Dorothy Parker
A Biographical Note About John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).
From 1929 into the 1960's, Steinbeck published a multitude of works, including Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, The Winter of Our Discontent, Travels With Charley, East of Eden, Tortilla Flat and many more.
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and in 1964 he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.