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Lobby 2. Welcome The Reading Room Reading Challenges, 2010 topic #6
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Subject: "42. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck" Previous topic | Next topic
Mesg #777 "42. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Dec 31st 2006
1631 posts
Date Thu Jun-10-10 04:22 PM
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Thu Jun-10-10 04:32 PMby alissaameth

Fiction, 581 pages.
Re-read.

I don't even know where to begin. This is the 3rd or 4th time I've read this novel, and it is my absolute favorite. I've never read anything I've loved so much. It's comfort reading, but it's also still challenging every time I read it. Today, I read the last chapter while following my mom through aisles in a store. She teased me: "Did it end differently this time?" Haha, no, but I noticed new things about how awesome of a writer Steinbeck is. One of them being that he can write a book that doesn't get old.

Over-simplified story re-cap: When tenant farmers' crops fail and they are pushed off their land by more efficient tractors, they head West in hopes of finding work and better lives in California. This story focuses on the Joad family from Oklahoma, near Sallisaw. (Side note: almost everything I know about geography West of the Mississippi, I learned from this book, and Steinbeck's others.) Set in the early 1930s, the narrative begins shortly after Tom Joad (Jr.) heads home after being released from prison. He arrives just in the nick of time, because his family is ready to head West. The big family packs everything up and hits the road. To make a long story really short, they make it to California, but find that their expectations are completely shot down as they are forced to live poorer lives than they had in Oklahoma. They have to scramble for work, and fight to keep fed. There is definitely a heavy tone to the whole ordeal, but there is also hope and a strong sense of humanity and the belief that it always overcomes.

I can't think of anything in this book that I don't like. It's a huge dose of realism. The way people talk, act and think--I recognize these things in people I've known, and situations I've been in. All the characters (especially the Joads) seem like real people. They all stay in character and their relationships function accordingly. If I had to choose favorite characters, I would have to say Tom Joad and his brother, Al.

I'm also fascinated by Steinbeck's pacing in this novel. About every other chapter is long, and the ones in between are short. The short ones speak of whole masses of people at a time, while the long ones zoom in to focus on the Joads. It's incredibly effective. On the one hand, you get the context of what's going on... the magnitude of the problems. On the other hand, you see the effects of this on one family. This brings it home and makes it personal. If we read that "a bunch of people are starving," we aren't as emotionally involved as when we read that little Winfield (the youngest Joad) is sick because they can't feed him nutritional food. So, having shown a family's private tragedy, Steinbeck zooms out again to show you that every single family is going through something like this. The tone of the shorter chapters is tangibly different from the tone of the Joad chapters, which I think is important.

I'm taking my senior seminar this Fall, and I'll be writing my thesis paper on this novel (which is why I just re-read it). I'm super excited about it. My idea is still vague, but I know this much: I'm going to focus on Steinbeck's stylistics. Diction, grammar, accents, the different between the long/short chapters, repetition, register, active/passive... Etc. When I was talking with my advisor, he said that a lot of the criticism on this novel focuses on its social justice themes and sort of assumes that the themes alone bear the brunt of the novel. (I haven't read this criticism yet. That's next on my list.) My idea is that it isn't just the fact that the social themes are compelling--it's because his writing is compelling, which contributes to how people perceive his themes. Something along those lines!

So. If you've never read this novel, I really think you should. I understand that not everybody likes Steinbeck (though I always try converting...), but I seriously think that this novel is an interesting study in terms of craft. He plays with language, and he's good at it!

ETA: I forgot to mention this. I wanted to write a note about the edition I read... There were a lot of really bad typos toward the beginning of the novel. (I didn't notice any after the first 100 pages or so.) A couple of names were misspelled, for instance, and a lot of other random words. Sometimes two on a page, even. I just tried searching for a picture of the cover to show you, but can't find it. (In case typos kill you, steer clear of this edition!) It's a penguin edition, but that's not specific enough, because I've read a different penguin edition that was fine. Anyways, this cover is pale yellow, with a picture of a farmer and his wife, plus 4-5 kids in the background. (The other penguin edition that I read was light gray, with a picture of red land.)

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Alissa's 2010 Book List [View all] , alissaameth, Wed Dec-16-09 04:20 PM
  1. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, Jan 03rd 2010, #1
2. King Lear by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 12th 2010, #2
RE: 2. King Lear by William Shakespeare, RavenCorbie, Jan 21st 2010, #5
      RE: 2. King Lear by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 23rd 2010, #8
3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat, alissaameth, Jan 18th 2010, #3
RE: 3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat, Stavechurch, Jan 26th 2010, #10
      RE: 3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat, alissaameth, Jan 30th 2010, #13
4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 20th 2010, #4
RE: 4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, blzrgurl71, Jan 21st 2010, #6
      RE: 4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 23rd 2010, #7
5. Households and Holiness by Carol Meyers, alissaameth, Jan 24th 2010, #9
6. Awakening Genius in the Classroom by Thomas Armstron..., alissaameth, Jan 29th 2010, #11
7. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Jan 30th 2010, #12
8. With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray, alissaameth, Jan 31st 2010, #14
9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, alissaameth, Feb 05th 2010, #15
RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, RavenCorbie, Feb 06th 2010, #16
      RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, alissaameth, Feb 06th 2010, #17
           RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, RavenCorbie, Feb 07th 2010, #18
10. Music as a Way of Knowing by Nick Page, alissaameth, Feb 08th 2010, #19
11. Confessions of a Thug by Captain Meadows Taylor, alissaameth, Feb 10th 2010, #20
12. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Feb 10th 2010, #21
13. And Sarah Laughed by John H. Otwell, alissaameth, Feb 12th 2010, #22
14. The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano, alissaameth, Feb 12th 2010, #23
15. The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Feb 18th 2010, #24
16. Drama as a Way of Knowing by Paul G. Heller, alissaameth, Feb 26th 2010, #25
17. She by H. Rider Haggard, alissaameth, Feb 26th 2010, #26
RE: 17. She by H. Rider Haggard, tianne, Mar 24th 2010, #35
      RE: 17. She by H. Rider Haggard, alissaameth, Mar 24th 2010, #36
18. Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Mar 01st 2010, #27
RE: 18. Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, tianne, Mar 23rd 2010, #34
19. Dance as a Way of Knowing by Jennifer Donohue Zakka..., alissaameth, Mar 10th 2010, #28
20. The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner, alissaameth, Mar 16th 2010, #29
RE: 20. The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner, RavenCorbie, Mar 16th 2010, #30
21. All's Well that Ends Well by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Mar 17th 2010, #31
22. Guanya Pau by Joseph J. Walters, alissaameth, Mar 19th 2010, #32
23. Releasing the Imagination by Maxine Greene, alissaameth, Mar 20th 2010, #33
24. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, alissaameth, Mar 31st 2010, #37
25. Hard Times by Charles Dickens, alissaameth, Mar 31st 2010, #38
RE: 25. Hard Times by Charles Dickens, tianne, Apr 16th 2010, #40
      RE: 25. Hard Times by Charles Dickens, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #44
26. Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah by Eli..., alissaameth, Apr 07th 2010, #39
27. Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #41
28. Pericles by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #42
29. Visual Arts as a Way of Knowing by Karolynne Gee, alissaameth, Apr 18th 2010, #43
30. The Missionary: An Indian Tale by Lady Morgan, alissaameth, Apr 20th 2010, #45
31. The Book of Leviticus by Gordon J. Wenham, alissaameth, Apr 21st 2010, #46
32. Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, alissaameth, Apr 27th 2010, #47
33. Walk Leviticus! by Jeffrey Enoch Feinberg, Ph.D., alissaameth, Apr 27th 2010, #48
34. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fa..., alissaameth, Apr 27th 2010, #49
35. The Real Me: Being the Girl God Sees by Natalie Gra..., alissaameth, May 13th 2010, #50
36. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, May 21st 2010, #51
37. Arrow Book of Poetry by Ann McGovern, alissaameth, May 21st 2010, #52
38. Joshua by Joseph F. Girzone, alissaameth, May 21st 2010, #53
39. How to Search the Scriptures by Dr. Fuchsia Pickett, alissaameth, May 26th 2010, #54
40. Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb, alissaameth, Jun 04th 2010, #55
41. Skate by Michael Harmon, alissaameth, Jun 10th 2010, #56
42. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, Jun 10th 2010 #57
43. Let Me Out! I'm a Prisoner in a Stained-Glass Jail ..., alissaameth, Jun 14th 2010, #58
44. Under Pressure by Frank Herbert, alissaameth, Jun 18th 2010, #59
45. The Lonely Now by Nicky Cruz, alissaameth, Jun 23rd 2010, #60
46. A Child is Born by Lennart Nilsson, alissaameth, Jul 01st 2010, #61
47. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, alissaameth, Jul 05th 2010, #62
48. The Harvest Gypsies by John Steinbeck, alissaameth, Jul 05th 2010, #63
49. A Hilltop in Tuscany by Stephanie Grace Whitson, alissaameth, Jul 12th 2010, #64
50. Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath b..., alissaameth, Jul 21st 2010, #65
51. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, alissaameth, Jul 21st 2010, #66
XX. 3 Charlie Brown comics by Charles M. Schulz, alissaameth, Jul 21st 2010, #67
XX. The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watters..., alissaameth, Jul 31st 2010, #68
52. No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, alissaameth, Aug 11th 2010, #69
53. Scottish Highlanders in Colonial Georgia by Anthony..., alissaameth, Sep 02nd 2010, #70
54. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, alissaameth, Sep 02nd 2010, #71
55. The White Plague by Frank Herbert, alissaameth, Sep 17th 2010, #72
56. The Oresteia of Aeschylus trans. by Robert Lowell, alissaameth, Oct 02nd 2010, #73
RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, Erin_M_H, Nov 19th 2010, #74
RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, alissaameth, Nov 19th 2010, #76
      RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, bpratt, Dec 05th 2010, #77
           RE: Alissa's 2010 Book List, alissaameth, Dec 07th 2010, #78
57. To Teach: The Journey, in Comics by Ayers & Alexand..., alissaameth, Nov 19th 2010, #75
58. The Rainmaker by John Grisham, alissaameth, Dec 09th 2010, #79
59. Hidden Empire by Kevin J. Anderson, alissaameth, Jan 01st 2011, #80
60. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, alissaameth, Jan 01st 2011, #81

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