The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck 6/10

Many of you might remember John Steinbeck’s novella The Pearl. This book is similar in the sense of it being somewhat of a history textbook. It is packed with facts on how the world was working at the time of which it was written. And that’s all good and well, but I felt as if Steinbeck had focused too much on the book being historically accurate than he had on it being entertaining to read.

The Grapes of Wrath is told mostly from the third person limited point of view of a young man named Tom Joad in the Dust Bowl. No sooner than one finishes the first chapter, it becomes known that Tom has just gotten freed from jail on parole for killing a man in a dispute. He makes his way to the town he used to live in, and finds Jim Casey, an ex-preacher who he had known throughout his childhood. Jim had just come back to town after trying to figure out his life, and the two of them go to the farm on which Tom had grown up on, where his family supposedly was. However, all they came to was an empty farm. But it wasn’t just his family’s farm. Everyone was gone.

It turned out that the farmers had been evicted from the land, as it was not theirs, but in fact, that of wealthy land owners, as it was no longer making profit due to the harsh happenings of the Dust Bowl. Luckily, one stubborn man by the name of Muley had stayed behind, and let the two men know that Tom’s family was staying with his uncle for a few days, after which they would set off west for California, in search of a better life. Determined to reunite with his family, Tom catches up with them only a few days from when they were to leave. His family welcomes him home, and not much later, they set off for California, only to encounter countless bumps along the way, and to find that life in California is not quite the paradise they had expected it to be.

Like in any of John Steinbeck’s books, I enjoyed how he played with the reader’s emotions throughout the novel, and used foreshadowing to create worry for a certain character. This book was filled with facts and experiences in the Dust Bowl that would be difficult to find anywhere else. However, this is not to saw that he used amplification in his writing. Rather, he would defer from Tom’s point of view every few chapters, to speak from third person omniscient, and describe an event happening at that point in time. The majority of these shorter chapters are for the purpose, as far as I can tell, of increasing the knowledge and awareness the reader has of how life was like for his characters. He teaches through sight, and descriptions, rather through plain facts written directly into the novel. The only problem with this is that it seems a little unnecessary at times, and can prove to be quite boring as well. Few of these have actually seemed to serve a purpose in the plot of the story. For this reason, I found the book to resemble a history textbook far too much, as it seemed more keen on informing me of the Dust Bowl than the characters themselves. I would recommend this book for history buffs, and those who enjoy the works of John Steinbeck and his style of writing.


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