The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath

infobox Book
name = Grapes of Wrath

image_caption= First edition cover
author = John Steinbeck
cover_artist = Elmer Hader
country = United States
language = English
genre = Novel
publisher = The Viking Press-James Lloyd
release_date = 1939
media_type = Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
pages =
oclc = 289946

"The Grapes of Wrath" is a novel published in 1939 and written by John Steinbeck, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is frequently read in American high school and college literature classes. A celebrated Hollywood film version, starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford, was made in 1940; however, the endings of the book and the movie differ greatly.

Steinbeck wrote "The Grapes of Wrath" at his home, 16250 Greenwood Lane, in what is now Monte Sereno, California. Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads, driven from their home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry. In a nearly hopeless situation, they set out for California's Central Valley along with thousands of other "Okies" in search of land, jobs, and dignity.


The narrative begins from Tom Joad's point of view just after he is paroled from prison for homicide. On his journey home, he meets a now-former preacher, Jim Casy, whom he remembers from his childhood, and the two travel together. When they arrive at his childhood farm home, they find it deserted. Disconcerted and confused, he and Casy go to his Uncle John's home nearby where he finds his family loading a Hudson truck with what remains of their possessions; the crops were destroyed in the Dust Bowl and as a result, the family had to default on their loans. With their farm repossessed, the Joads seek solace in hope; hope inscribed on the handbills which are distributed everywhere in Oklahoma, describing the beautiful and fruitful country of California and high pay to be had in that state. The Joads, along with Jim Casy, are seduced by this advertising and invest everything they have into the journey. Although leaving Oklahoma would be breaking parole, Tom decides that it is a risk, albeit minimal, that he has to take.

While en route, they discover that all of the roads and the highways are saturated with other families who are also making the same trek, ensnared by the same promise. As the Joads continue on their journey and hear many stories from others, some coming from California, they are forced to confront the possibility that their prospects may not be what they hoped. This realization, supported by the deaths of Grandpa and Grandma and the departure of Noah (the eldest Joad son) and Connie (the husband of the pregnant Joad daughter, Rose of Sharon), is forced from their thoughts: they must go on because they have no choice--there is nothing remaining for them in Oklahoma.

Upon arrival, they find little hope of finding a decent wage, as there is an oversupply of labor and a lack of rights, and the big corporate farmers are in collusion. The tragedy lies in the simplicity and impossibility of their dream: a house, a family, and a steady job. A gleam of hope is presented at Weedpatch, in one of the clean, utility-supplied camps operated by the Resettlement Administration, a New Deal agency that tried to help the migrants, but there is not enough money and space to care for all of the needy.

In response to the exploitation of laborers, the workers begin to join unions. The surviving members of the family unknowingly work as strikebreakers on an orchard involved in a strike that eventually turns violent, killing the preacher Casy and forcing Tom Joad to kill again and become a fugitive. He bids farewell to his mother, promising that no matter where he runs, he will be a tireless advocate for the oppressed. Rose of Sharon's baby is stillborn; however, Ma Joad remains steadfast and forces the family through the bereavement. In the end, Rose of Sharon commits the only act in the book that is not futile: she breast feeds a starving man, still trying to show hope in humanity after her own negative experience. This final act is said to illustrate the spontaneous mutual sharing that will lead to a new awareness of collective values.


* Tom Joad — protagonist of the story; the Joad family's second son, named for his father.
* Ma Joad — matriarch. Practical and warm-spirited, she tries to hold the family together. Her given name is never learned; it is suggested that her maiden name was Hazlett.
* Pa Joad — patriarch, also named Tom. Hardworking sharecropper and family man.
* Uncle John - older brother of Pa Joad, feels responsible for the death of his young wife years before when he ignored her pleas for a doctor because he thought she just had a stomachache. He tries to repress "sins" such as drinking, then fulfills them with gross excesses like binge drinking.
* Jim Casy — a preacher who loses his faith after committing fornication with willing members of his church numerous times, and from his perception that religion has no solace or answer for the difficulties the people are experiencing.
* Al Joad — the second youngest son who cares mainly for cars and girls; looks up to Tom, but begins to find his own way. Over the book's course he gradually matures and learns responsibility.
* Rose of Sharon Rivers ("Rosasharn") — childish and dreamy teenage daughter who develops as the novel progresses to become a mature woman. She symbolizes regrowth when she helps the starving stranger (see also Roman Charity, works of art based on the legend of a daughter as wet nurse to a dying father). Pregnant in the beginning of the novel, she delivers a stillborn baby, probably as a result of malnutrition.
* Connie Rivers — Rose of Sharon's husband. Young and naive, he is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of marriage and impending fatherhood, and abandons her at Weedpatch.
* Noah Joad — the oldest son who is the first to willingly leave the family, choosing to stay by an idyllic river and survive by fishing. Injured at birth, described as "strange", he may have slight learning difficulties or autistic spectrum disorder.
* Grandpa Joad — Tom's grandfather who expresses his strong desire to stay in Oklahoma. He is drugged to make him leave but dies shortly after of a stroke. Symbolically, it is due to his spirit staying at the farm.
* Grandma Joad — The religious wife of Grandpa Joad, she seems to lose will to live (and consequently dies while crossing the desert) after her husband's death.
* Ruthie Joad — One of the younger children. She and Winfield are close.
* Winfield Joad — A child. The youngest male in the family.
* Ivy and Sairey Wilson — Kansas folks in a smiliar predicament, who help attend the death of Grandpa and subsequently share the travelling with the Joads as far as the California state line.


The turtle in Chapter 3 is a metaphor for the working class farmers whose struggles are recounted in the novel. The dangers posed to the turtle are those of modernity and business: the intrusion of cars and the building of highways endangers the turtle, and the truck that strikes the turtle is a symbol of big business and commerce. The struggling of the turtle also evokes the workings of narratives in general, since the trajectory of the turtle mimicks the trajectory of the novel: moments of action and pauses, slow process, peripetias. This land turtle becomes a proleptic device for the following chapters.

The turtle also is a biological organism in conflict with an increasingly mechanized environment, and Steinbeck's Joad family represent an answer to problems from the biological perspective. Rose of Sharon's pregnancy holds the promise of a new beginning which is broken when she delivers a stillborn baby. However, the family moves boldly and gracefully forward, rather than slipping into despair, and the novel ends in hope, albeit again with a fundamentally biological note, as a starving man is breast-fed to keep him alive.

There are numerous Judeo-Christian symbols throughout the novel. The Joad Family, like the Israelites, are homeless and persecuted people looking for the promised land. Jim Casy can be viewed as a symbol of Jesus Christ, who began his mission after a period of solitude in the wilderness. When the group first leaves for their journey West, there are thirteen of them, representing Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles. Like Jesus, Jim offers himself as the sacrifice to save his people. Tom becomes a sometimes reluctant disciple to him. Jim's last words to the man who murdered him was: "Listen, you fellas don' know what you're doing," similar to Jesus's "Father forgive them; they know not what they do." Tom becomes Jim's disciple after his death. As well as Jim Casey's initials being JC as referenced to Jesus Christ.

In the last few pages of his book, Steinbeck employs many symbols, a number of which refer directly to episodes in the Bible. The way in which Uncle John disposes of the child's corpse recalls Moses being sent down the Nile. The image suggests that the family, like the Hebrews in Egypt, will be delivered from the slavery of its present circumstances.



Steinbeck had unusual difficulty devising a title for his novel. "The Grapes of Wrath", suggested by his wife, Carol Steinbeck, was deemed more suitable than anything the author could come up with. The title is a reference to some lyrics from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", by Julia Ward Howe:

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on."

These lyrics refer, in turn, to the biblical passage Revelation 14:19-20, an apocalyptic appeal to divine justice and deliverance from oppression in the final judgment.

And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

As might be expected, the image invoked by the title serves as a crucial symbol in the development of both the plot and the novel's greater thematic concerns: From the terrible winepress of Dust Bowl oppression will come terrible wrath but also the deliverance of workers through their cooperation.

In popular culture


* A film version was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck in 1940 and directed by John Ford. Ford won the Academy Award for Directing and Jane Darwell won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film was also nominated for several other awards: Academy Award for Best Picture, Henry Fonda for Best Actor, Robert L. Simpson for Best Film Editing, Edmund H. Hansen for Best Sound Recording, and Nunnally Johnson for Best Screenplay Writing. It has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
* The Steppenwolf Theater Company produced a stage version of the book, adapted by Frank Galati. Gary Sinise played Tom Joad for its entire run of 188 performances on Broadway in 1990, [ [ Internet Broadway Database: The Grapes of Wrath Production Credits ] ] and was shown on PBS the following year. [ [ The Grapes of Wrath (1991) (TV) ] ]
* An opera based on the novel was co-produced by the Minnesota Opera and Utah Symphony and Opera, with music by Ricky Ian Gordon and libretto by Michael Korie. The world premiere performance of the opera was given in February 2007, to favorable local reviews. [Michael Anthony, "'Grapes' is a sweet, juicy production," Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/12/2007]
* Some commentators believe that the film National Lampoon's Vacation is a loose comedic interpretation of the novel.


* Tom Joad appears as a background figure in the short story "Tom Joad" by Kim Newman and Eugene Byrne, in part of the short story collection "Back in the USSA".


* In 1940, Woody Guthrie recorded a ballad called "Tom Joad". This ballad, set to the tune of "John Hardy", summarizes the plot of the book and movie. It was so long that it had to be recorded in two parts. Woody wrote the song after seeing the movie, which he described as the "best cussed pitcher I ever seen".
* In 1995, Bruce Springsteen recorded his song "The Ghost of Tom Joad" on the album of the same name. The lyric is set in contemporary times, but the third verse quotes Tom's famous "wherever there's a ..." lines. The song was later recorded by Rage Against The Machine, José González's band Junip, and others. Springsteen has stated that he was first inspired by the John Ford film.
* [ 'The Grapes of Wrath'] was a popular Canadian alternative rock band from 1984 to 1994.
* The English progressive rock band Camel recorded an album "Dust and Dreams" (1991) inspired by "The Grapes of Wrath".
* On Pink Floyd's 1987 album "A Momentary Lapse of Reason", the opening lines for the song "Sorrow" are paraphrased from the beginning of a chapter in "The Grapes of Wrath": "Sweet smell of a great sorrow lies over the land."
* Kris Kristofferson's 1981 single "Here Comes That Rainbow Again" is based on a scene from the book.
* The Massachusetts metalcore band Killswitch Engage's 2004 album "The End of Heartache" consisted of the track, "Rose of Sharyn."


* In the "Simpsons", there is an episode called "The Crepes of Wrath". Also, in the episode "Lisa's Rival", "Nelson"'s diarama is based on the Grapes of Wrath.
* The "South Park" episode "Over Logging" is an homage to "The Grapes of Wrath", featuring the characters heading to Silicon Valley in California because of an Internet shortage in Colorado.
* In "Veronica Mars", there is an episode called "The Rapes of Graff"
* In the "Boy Meets World" episode "Me and Mr. Joad", Cory and Shawn Matthews lead their 7th grade class in a "strike" and class walkout inspired by the strike the workers did in the book. What they didn't realize however, is that there is a price to pay for standing up for your beliefs, and it's important to be sure the cause is truly worth fighting for.

Critical reception

At the time of publication, Steinbeck's novel "was a phenomenon on the scale of a national event. It was publicly banned and burned by citizens, it was debated on national radio hook-ups; but above all, it was read." [Peter Lisca, The Wide World of John Steinbeck] Steinbeck scholar John Timmerman sums up the book's impact: "The Grapes of Wrath" may well be the most thoroughly discussed novel - in criticism, reviews, and college classrooms - of twentieth century American literature."Part of its impact stemmed from its passionate depiction of the plight of the poor, and in fact, many of Steinbeck's contemporaries attacked his social and political views. Bryan Cordyack writes, "Steinbeck was attacked as a propagandist and a socialist from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The most fervent of these attacks came from the Associated Farmers of California; they were displeased with the book's depiction of California farmers' attitudes and conduct toward the migrants. They denounced the book as a 'pack of lies' and labeled it 'communist propaganda'." [cite web
last = Cordyack
first = Brian
authorlink =
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title = 20th-Century American Bestsellers: John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
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publisher = Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
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accessdate = 2007-02-18
] However, although Steinbeck was accused of exaggeration of the camp conditions to make a political point, in fact he had done the opposite, underplaying the conditions that he well knew were worse than the novel describes [,6761,643450,00.html] because he felt exact description would have gotten in the way of his story. Furthermore, there are several references to socialist politics and questions which appear in the John Ford film of 1940 which do not appear in the novel, which is less political in its terminology and interests.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was an early advocate for addressing the plight of those featured in the book.

In 1962, the Nobel Prize committee cited "Grapes of Wrath" as a "great work" and as one of the committee's main reasons for granting Steinbeck the Nobel Prize for Literature. [cite web
last = Osterling
first = Anders
title = Nobel Prize in Literature 1962 - Presentation Speech
url=| accessdate = 2007-02-18

Time Magazine included the novel in its "TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005". []

See also

* East of Eden
* John Steinbeck
* Of Mice and Men




* Gregory, James N. "Dust Bowl Legacies: the Okie Impact on California, 1939-1989." "California History" 1989 68(3): 74-85. Issn: 0162-2897
* Saxton, Alexander. "In Dubious Battle: Looking Backward." "Pacific Historical Review" 2004 73(2): 249-262. Issn: 0030-8684 Fulltext: online at Swetswise, Ingenta, Ebsco
* Sobchack, Vivian C. "The Grapes of Wrath (1940): Thematic Emphasis Through Visual Style." "American Quarterly" 1979 31(5): 596-615. Issn: 0003-0678 Fulltext: in Jstor. Discusses the visual style of John Ford's cinematic adaptation of the novel. Usually the movie is examined in terms of its literary roots or its social protest. But the imagery of the film reveals the important theme of the Joad family's coherence. The movie shows the family in closeups, cramped in small spaces on a cluttered screen, isolated from the land and their surroundings. Dim lighting helps abstract the Joad family from the reality of Dust Bowl migrants. The film's emotional and aesthetic power comes from its generalized quality attained through this visual style.
* Windschuttle, Keith. [ "Steinbeck's Myth of the Okies".] "The New Criterion", Vol. 20, No. 10, June 2002.
* Zirakzadeh, Cyrus Ernesto. "John Steinbeck on the Political Capacities of Everyday Folk: Moms, Reds, and Ma Joad's Revolt." "Polity" 2004 36(4): 595-618. Issn: 0032-3497

External links

* [ The Grapes of Wrath: a Study Guide]
* [ "Grapes of Wrath"] , available at Internet Archive
* Study of "The Grapes of Wrath" on [ Sparknotes]
* [,6761,643450,00.html Death in the Dust] : John Steinbeck's first-person account of the conditions he observed at a California squatter's camp.
* [ Woody Guthrie's "Tom Joad"]
* [ Photos of the first edition of The Grapes of Wrath]
* [ A Review Of John Steinbeck's 1939 novel "The Grapes Of Wrath"]
* [ Study resource for "Grapes of Wrath"]

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  • (the) Grapes of Wrath — The Grapes of Wrath [The Grapes of Wrath] a novel (1939) by the US writer John Steinbeck which won the ↑Pulitzer Prize. It tells the story of the Joad family, whose farm is ruined in the ↑Dust Bowl …   Useful english dictionary

  • The Grapes of Wrath — Früchte des Zorns (Titel des englischen Originals von 1939: The Grapes of Wrath) ist das bekannteste Werk des US amerikanischen Schriftstellers John Steinbeck. Der sozialkritische und naturalistisch geschriebene Roman schildert das Schicksal der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • The Grapes of Wrath — «Гроздья гнева» (англ. The Grapes of Wrath) роман Джона Стейнбека, опубликованный в 1939 году. Удостоен Пулитцеровской премии. Входит во многие учебные программы школ и колледжей США. Действие романа происходит во времена Великой депрессии.… …   Википедия

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  • The Grapes of Wrath (opera) — The Grapes of Wrath is an opera based on John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel of the same title. The opera was commissioned by the Minnesota Opera and co produced with Utah Symphony Opera, with music by Ricky Ian Gordon and libretto by Michael Korie. The… …   Wikipedia

  • The Grapes of Wrath (película) — The Grapes of Wrath Título Las uvas de la ira (España) Las viñas de la ira (Venezuela) Viñas de ira (Argentina) Ficha técnica Dirección John Ford Producción Darryl F. Zanuck …   Wikipedia Español

  • The Grapes of Wrath (novela) — The Grapes of Wrath (1939), traducida como Las uvas de la ira y Las viñas de la ira, es una novela escrita por John Steinbeck (1902 1968) que recibió el premio Pulitzer en 1940. Fue una obra muy polémica en el momento de su publicación, y resultó …   Wikipedia Español

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