The Grapes of Wrath Study Guide

The Grapes of Wrath Study Guide

Original title:
The Grapes of Wrath
April 10th 2014 by Viking (first published April 14th 1939)
Oklahoma (United States), California (United States)
ISBN 067001690X (ISBN13: 9780670016907)

Even though it wasn’t “The Grapes of Wrath” that won John Steinbeck his Novel Prize, it is still a very strong book of realist fiction genre in his portfolio. Published in 1939, the novel looks back at the Great Depression times and explores the travels of a poor farmer’s family looking for job and survival. 

The book begins with a story of Tom Joad who spent the last four years of his life in prison. When he returns to his family farm in Oklahoma he discovers that it no longer exists because all of the farmers left looking for jobs elsewhere. Together with a friend named Jim Casy they take off on a journey to California. 

The legendary Highway 66 is nothing like the reader is used to portraying it in other books or films. It is full of cars and trucks left behind and it is a real crossroad for Americans from all corners of the country looking for a better life. Throughout the journey, we meet different people each of whom has their own story. Some of them die without a chance to tell this story. 

The historical background of the book is one of the reasons to read it. There’s no simple answer to the reason of Tom’s family farm business failure. It can be the weather conditions, but there are also other factors like changing economy, the financial turbulence of that time and mental changes of the population. Throughout the book and its characters, the reader discovers how real Americans lived at the beginning of the 20th century.

This is an immense text about a whole period of world’s existence. It is about confrontation of humans and machines, the dependency of poor on those who are rich, the ability of people to organize themselves for their wellbeing. It is about you, him, and me. Definitely, a must read for those who want to understand this world better. 

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