The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
“Well, there’s a president of the bank. There’s a board of directors. I’ll fill up the magazine of the rifle and go into the bank.”
– Tenant, East of Eden
While not quite as wonderful as East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath has beautiful writing from Steinbeck in spades. The book focuses on the Joad family in the great depression. Tom Joad comes back from prison to find that his family has been forced to sell their farm by the bank, and they intend to drive west to California to find work. Their poverty stricken journey across America is heartbreaking and desperate, and they reach California only to find that there is no work and their kind is despised as “Okies”.
Well, Okie use’ ta mean you was from Oklahoma. Now it means you’re a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you’re scum.
– Tom Joad
It wasn’t until the ending of the book that I realised the Joad family’s situation was a downward spiral into poverty that they could not escape, their family torn apart by the journey. Each time things would go well for a while for the family, after a time their situation would inevitably worsen and they would be forced to move on. The novel was bleak and depressing though not without its moments of hope, and the ending was surreal and beautiful in a strange way.
I enjoyed the character of the (ex-)Reverend Jim Casey and his speeches, and Ma who was the rock of the family after Pa lost the farm. Tom Joad was great as well, and his direct manner of speaking to other characters. The way his life turned out seemed a shame, as he seemed quite smart, and under a different time and circumstances he would have been better off.
The novel was full of beautiful but depressing prose, and sure did make me want biscuits and gravy!