ningerbil (ningerbil) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Book 34- The Grapes of Wrath

I'm surprised I hadn't read this one; I've loved Steinbeck even as a high schooler. The Pearl had always been my favorite, but now it's hard to choose between that and Grapes of Wrath. It starts out a bit slow but then picks up. Really, this should be required reading for everyone. High school. Those in public office. Those who think wealth accumulation is not a zero sum game, those who think the poor don't do enough to get out of poverty, and rock bottom wages one can't live off of are justifiable because only the nonskilled will make them, they really need to read this book. It may be set during the Depression, but there are some frightening parallels to today (including the droughts). The story follows the Joad family, who wind up forced from their farm after the bank seizes the property. They make the trek to California, where liberally-distributed handbills tantalizingly describe hundreds of jobs for the taking, green fields full of fruit trees, basically the land of milk and honey. It's no spoiler to say that the reality does not live up to the advertisement. Of course, the Joads often find themselves thwarted as they pursue their dream of regular work and a permanent home. What surprised me, though, were the many moments of charity, of heart, from the people the Joad family come across. There are so many great characters, particularly Tom Jr., a young man released from parole after killing a man in a fight, but who has not been embittered by his time in jail; Casy, a former preacher who is trying to find his spiritual footing; and Ma Joad, who is now one of my favorite fictional characters. Ma Joad is someone with an instinct for what people need, whether it's the soft, diplomatic touch, a stern warming or a healthy dose of fire. The reader will see liberal doses of all three.
Tags: classic, fiction

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