The Grapes of Wrath.
For the last few years, I have been having recurring nightmares about John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. One of my fears is someday I will have to read this book again. I had to read it once in high school, and twice (so far) in grad school. I agree with the social politics, but it is still a heart-wrenching story, full of heavy symbolism.
The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939. The novel is set in America during the Great Depression and is about the plight of sharecroppers who are driven from their home by economic hardship.
We can draw historical parallels between 1939 and 2009. I wonder, where have the people who recently lost their homes gone? Those people must have packed their belongings in their cars, and travelled to new places, to try to make fresh starts.
What have those people found when they reached the new places? Are there jobs? Are those vulnerable people being exploited? Are corporations more powerful than the American government?
The Grapes of Wrath is almost like an earlier version of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a novel that I liked a lot. The Road is a post-apocalyptic vision about the transcendence of love and hopefulness of faith. (I'm afraid to see the movie. I think it will haunt me even more than the book.)
The Grapes of Wrath and The Road both won the Pulitzer Prize. Here are some pictures from the film version of “The Grapes of Wrath”, with Henry Fonda:
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I'm not sure I'd want to read it three times, but I'm certainly glad I read it once. Ironically, I used to cross up Great Gatsby and Grapes of Wrath in my mind. Couldn't get two more diverse stories. But there you have it. My head's hard drive has holes in it. :)
I haven't read it since high school, but I recall it well and you make some interesting parallels to what's happening now.
I've been reluctant to read The Road. Glad you reviewed it for me.
I think I'm going to read The Road now.
I bought my wife a copy of this wonderful book for Christmas. Having just reread it myself it does make me wonder if there is not some sort of new dynamic shift underway in America, and eslewhere. The central theme for me in Steinbecks novel is the emergence of women as the best equipped to deal with the new world, as in Ma's quiet strength in holding the family together, or Rosasharn giving the gift of life to a straving man at the end. What is there that will emerge now. Great thoughtful post.
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