“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…”
~ The Battle Hymn of the Republic
“In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage”
The Grapes of Wrath is one of my favorite movies and yet somehow I’d never read Steinbeck’s 1940 Pulitzer Prize winning novel. It’s complicating to read a book after the movie because no matter how hard you try, what you see as you read, is the movie. Tom Joad is Henry Fonda for me. I will never envision him, or hear him, any other way. Unlike many films, seeing the movie before reading the book does nothing to diminish either. The stark movie so closely follows the book that the dialogue and soliloquys are verbatim, the scenery and background exactly as described.
This is a deeply poetic, heart-wrenching and picturesque read. An American Literature Classic and often required reading in high school, the novel has inspired many to social justice, to a left-wing political mindset, and in so doing, it has contributed greatly to making America better than she would have been without it, to laws and policies that put people before business, to easing the suffering of the elderly, children and those down on their luck through no fault of their own, to making society more compassionate.
The Joad family has sharecropped the same Oklahoma land for generations. It’s their home. The Great Depression hits. The drought hits. They are barely surviving. Then big farm business and the banks come in and tell them they must go. Where? We don’t care, but you must leave here. We’ll go west. California needs farm workers, they have jobs. California squeezes the last bit of life out of them and then says get out “Okies”, we don’t want you here.
Steinbeck eloquently speaks for the poor, for immigrants, for the working man, for those trampled by the machines of capitalism at its worst, capitalism without the necessary balancing humanitarian voices. He lived it with them, writing articles to the San Francisco newspapers about the atrocities these laboring human beings from Oklahoma were suffering, demanding that people take notice and act to right the wrongs. And they did.
If you haven’t read this inspirational book, I humbly suggest that you add it to your TBR – even if like me, you’ve seen the movie. Literature just doesn’t get much better.
√ A book made into a movie you’ve already seen