Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

I didn't grow up in Oklahoma so I wasn't required to read The Grapes of Wrath in high school, instead we read Of Mice and Men. But I've lived here longer now than anywhere else and figured it was about time I was schooled on the Okies.

Before I read it, I knew it was about some Oklahoman's heading to California during the dust bowl. I thought it would tell of the struggles faced by these people as they moved their way across the country. I was right, the Joad's do grudgingly leave their farm in OK, lured to CA by some ads promising work. And I was wrong, the struggles related in this story aren't from the land or the hardships of travel, the struggles faced by this family are from other people. Some of them are desperate for money and need work to feed their families just like the Joad's. Some are CA landowners taking advantage of these wanderers, and some are big businesses that want low-wage workers. In some areas, the migrants attempt to band together against the businesses, but in the end starving people take the work and their efforts are fruitless. Other ideas presented are prejudice, government subsidies, capitalism, fairness, selfishness, generosity, life and death.

Throughout the book themes are presented beginning with a broad, nation-wide perspective then gradually focusing to a state level position and finally offering the individual point of view.

It can be difficult to read the "accents" and there are some pretty hard and harsh treatments of people, but I think it would offer great classroom discussion in many subject areas. Glad I finally read it!

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