The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers.
At once naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck's, The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most American of American classics. Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation during the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. From their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of this new America, Steinbeck creates a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity.
©1939 John Steinbeck (P)2011 Penguin
There are certain novels and works of art that one simply must engage and come to terms with. Grapes of Wrath is among these works. Moving through the story certainly is a strain of political commitment that will be unpopular to some, eye-opening to others, and surprisingly lacking in our current political debates. Both the tale, and the facts of history recounted by the tale, are parts of American history. To be more deeply American, you could do worse than to become familiar with this novel.
AND, I can highly recommend the reading of Dylan Baker. He is a virtuoso of American dialects and timbres. His creativity in voicing the (many) characters deserves a special award. BRAVO, captivating. Keeping Tom Joad's voice close to Henry Fonda's was wise as it strengthens the resonance of the character.
Some here have criticized the harmonica, and they have a point. It is a bit high in the mix and sometimes jarring. But then, Steinbeck references and described the harmonica in the book, and it seems not so alien. It captures a different flavor. Imagine setting on the running board of your broke-down jalopy and the guy in the next tent slides 'er out of his pocket. And he puffs his cheeks like a son of a bitch and damn near wakes up the whole camp. You can almost smell the gasoline and woodsmoke. Like a lot of things, once you make your peace with it, you would miss it if it were gone.
Great work. Thanks to the producers, narrator, and author.
Listening to Dylan Baker's brilliant interpretation of this classic was an emotional and intellectual journey. The Grapes of Wrath wasn't just about the excruciatingly difficult challenge facing this tough little family. It was also about society as a whole: how it is governed by politicians, manipulated by bankers, dominated day to day by the complacently rich or economically safe, the self righteous, the cruel, the uncaring. And how people with the qualities of decency, love, strong morality try to survive against these monolithic factors.
Because every word has weight and implication, listening compelled a depth of appreciation that visual reading may not have offered: such was my concern for this family that I could have been tempted to skip the superb analysis of Steinbeck's overviews.
The characters are real: they live. It is an extraordinary feeling listening and needing, wanting, to reach out and be right there with them. Help them. Change things for them.
My favorite? Of course, hard to say, but I think it would have to be the Preacher: he is the philosopher, observer of realities but ultimately, in his questioning, hopeful of something better.
The ending: I have never before finished listening to book in tears. But the ending is not a completion: it is a culmination of lives to that point, a blending of the analogies and themes that weave richly throughout the novel.
Among the many emotional impacts for me, was the realisation that this was a novel for today. Written in 1939, it describes key issues confronting my own country, Australia. Our capacity for cruel exclusions, inward looking, complacency, injustice, manufactured fears and prejudices. And the capacity of so many for bravery, compassion, cooperation, fairness, empathy.
Steinbeck was delivering an uncompromising mirror to society, his emotions powering the novel. That it was recognised as such through the accolades and awards that poured upon this book (and him as an author, Nobel Prize included), shows that his message was received and understood by many then, and ever since. He was imploring his American to be a generous and understanding society, to build on the capacity for love and caring that the journey of the Joad family, and many thousands like them, exemplified.
This has been one of my favorite novels for decades...film also. I had this tucked away in my wish list for a couple of years and decided to treat myself. Don't wait to purchase this! Dylan Baker gives this wonderful novel a new life. Ma and Tom Joad he nails to perfection! The 'women's committee' at The Weed Patch Camp have distinct personalities and bodies. Dylan reads each one with hilarity, yet gives them the respect they deserve. Grandpa Joad is even more obnoxious and stubborn if that is possible. His stubbornness is born out of fear and a deep loss.I still feel a great sadness with every read when Grandpa becomes a shell of a man being forced off his tenant farm, then dies while on the road to Caleeefornia. His sad yet dignified burial in a unmarked grave with a note written by Tom on a filmy blank page torn from a bible, stating who this dead man was, why he died (not of murder) but from a stroke. Because 'the law' is more interested in the welfare of a dead man over a live one. Steinbeck was threatened with death if he stepped one foot into California after he published this book. It wasn't only California exploiting the decamped tenant farmers. Oregon and Washington had their big fat greedy hands in the unscrupulous business of working men, women, children and the elderly into early graves. However, Ma Joad was right when she says they are the people that survive. A wonderful book indeed.
I don't write book reports.
For those who have been following my reviews, you might notice a pattern in my reading habits. I like to read different types of books all the time. I don't like to stay with one genre for most parts, just because I like to expand my mind with all types of literature.
Reading a classic like "The Grapes of Wrath", makes me appreciates at what I have and how much they use to struggle at their journey to the west. I've always wanted to read Steinbeck's masterpiece, but I heard that it was depressing.
A family traveling cross country during the dust bowl to have a better life in California is still relevant for many immigrants, crossing the boarder. Reading these types of stories about our early settlers makes me wonder what obstacles that the newcomers are facing in this cruel world.
An excellent narrator who made the book come alive. As others have mentioned, the harmonica music between chapters was a bad idea. I got over it though after a few chapters. Highly recommended.
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
I put off listening to this book for quite a while after getting it on sale. I knew it was a well-rated classic that I really wanted to read. My reluctance, however, was due to the fear that it might be outdated, slow moving, or even boring. Oh how wrong I was!
Listening to Dylan Baker's awesome narration of Steinbeck's masterpiece, it felt like I was carried away to a different time and place. Each character had their own particular voice--it was hard to believe there was only one narrator.
I was always engrossed in the story, I learned much about a period in our history that never caught my attention before, and I felt very sad as I followed the Joad familly's desperate plight for survival.
Steinbeck's writing style made it so easy to visualize the story and the characters. I felt like I was immersed in their lives, almost a fly on the wall. I really cared what happened to each and every one of them. And finally, I was prepared for an abrupt ending, but that brought quite a surprise. I wasn't sure I believed my ears. It was totally unexpected and will remain with me for a long time to come.
Highly recommended book! Don't procrastinate. Jump right in!
This book is not one to miss! John Steinbeck is masterful in his depiction of a Depression era migrant farm family struggling to survive. Dylan Baker did a highly-affective narration of all the characters in the book! Enjoyed every minute!
I love to listen or read books...I have always got one or two books on the go at any one time. I am happily married, and live a quiet life.
I loved this book, it engulfed me from the beginning. Showing the human suffering and bondage, was riveting. Always wondering how they are going to make it through another day. The bonds of family when it was tough just to survive on nothing was endearing...I would say that this is a must read book...my heart ached for each character in their individual struggles for survival and self worth...and survival, never loosing hope for a better day.
An academic who listens to novels on runs and commutes to campus.
This book, an oversight in my own literary life, tells the struggles of life during the Great Depression and the journey West to California to escape the Dust Bowl. The issue with this book, I believe, is that you have two competing forces. You have the engaging narrative of the Joad family, desperately seeking a new start, and then you have the non-specific reflections on the Great Depression told through a series of vignettes involving unnamed characters. While the two strain are related, they work against each other. The non-specific vignettes never illustrate an unknown concern; rather, they work to illustrate the general struggles of the Great Depression. However, since the Joad narrative also does this, this non-specific narrative strain is superfluous. But what works against this strain is that the characters and experiences are painted in such broad strokes that the reader can never establish anything more than a passing interest. So while I found the Joad narrative engaging and well-sketched, the secondary story seemed to take away from the book.
There's a reason they make you read this book in high school. It's brilliant on so many levels. But the best thing about this masterwork by Steinbeck is that it reaffirms the value of the human spirit over anything else in this world. Everything that is right and everything that is wrong about Mankind is laid out in simple, powerful, poetic prose. I'm kind of glad I was absent during that two week stretch in high school. I appreciate it so much more today than I would have then. And Steinbeck's take on banks and the wealthy versus the poor is downright prophetic in the context of today's political climate.
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