The Grapes of Wrath

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The Grapes of Wrath is a novel published in 1939 and written by John Steinbeck, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of sharecroppers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in financial and agricultural industries. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they were trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other "Okies", they sought jobs, land, dignity and a future. When preparing to write the novel, Steinbeck wrote: "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects]." The book won Steinbeck a large following among the working class, perhaps due to the book's sympathy to the worker's movement and its accessible prose style.[1]

The Grapes of Wrath is frequently read in American high school and college literature classes. A celebrated Hollywood film version, starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford, was made in 1940; the closing scene of the book was not included in the movie as it would not have been allowed by the review boards.[citation needed]



The narrative begins just after Tom Joad is paroled from McAlester prison for homicide. On his journey home, he meets former preacher Jim Casy whom he remembers from his childhood, and the two travel together. When they arrive at his childhood farm home, they find it deserted. Disconcerted and confused, he and Casy meet their old neighbor, Muley Graves, who tells them that the family has gone to stay at Uncle John Joad's home nearby. He goes on to tell them that the banks have kicked all the farmers off their land, but he refuses to go. Tom and Casy get up the next morning to go to Uncle John's. There, Tom finds his family loading a converted Hudson truck with what remains of their possessions; the crops were destroyed in the Dust Bowl and as a result, the family had to default on their loans. With their farm repossessed, the Joads cling to hope, mostly in the form of handbills distributed everywhere in Oklahoma, describing the fruitful country of California and the high pay to be had in that state. The Joads are seduced by this advertising and invest everything they have into the journey. Although leaving Oklahoma would be breaking parole, Tom decides that it is a risk worth taking. Casy joins the family as well.

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