Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

the grapes of wrath
john steinbeck
c. 1939
619 pages (232 read)
stopped reading 3/28/2011

read for: back to the classics challenge, page to screen challenge, 1001 book, penguin classics

*may contain spoilers*

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.

Tom Joad is released from prison after serving a four year sentence for killing another man in a bar fight. He returns home to his family in Oklahoma and finds them packing all their belongings in one lone truck, having been pushed off the land in favor of faster and more cost efficient tractors. Deciding to break his parole, Tom joins his family as they journey to California in search of the American dream.

It took me two months and I only got this far. Some of that I can attribute to the end of the quarter and finals and all, but that's mostly an excuse. I wanted to like this book so badly! So much so that I may actually revisit it at some point. But for now I'm deciding to put it down. Despite writing my senior AP English paper on Steinbeck when I was in high school, I haven't read a whole lot of his work (in all honestly, of the three major texts I discussed in said paper, one of them actually was The Grapes of Wrath even though I didn't read it). The two novels of his I've read are not even quintessential Steinbeck. Instead of East of Eden or Of Mice and Men, I've read The Winter of Our Discontent and The Pearl. Both I really enjoyed, and I looked forward to reading his more popular work.

And there were things about Grapes I really enjoyed. Steinbeck has a beautiful voice, and he has an incredible ability to transport his readers with his words. And his characters are complex and flawed and deeply relatable, even though I've obviously never lived in Depression-era Oklahoma. Those elements were alive and well in Grapes and in those respects I really enjoyed it.

My problem reading The Grapes of Wrath came from the supplementary chapters. Every other chapter followed the story of parolee Tom Joad and his family's exodus to the bounty of California. The ones in between explored the experience of the Depression and the Dust Bowl on a more national level. These chapters were often beautifully written and were I to ever become a history teacher, many of them would be read in my class during our discussion of the Depression. However, for me, the way they broke up the action of the story completely stalled the momentum. Everything would come to a screeching halt, and the fits and starts kept me from fully engaging in what was going on. Like I said, maybe at some point I will try again, but for now I need to put it down.



(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

OH NO!!! I've been on a winning Steinbeck track lately. My next is East of Eden I hope. Have you read Of Mice and Men? Loved it.

Veronica said...

My sister loved The Grapes of Wrath, and I was surprised I didn't. And actually what I read I did enjoy, but I just couldn't engage with it enough to finish. I do want to read Of Mice and Men, just haven't managed to yet. One day...

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