The Grapes of Wrath

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The Grapes of Wrath book cover

The Grapes of Wrath is a work of fiction published by John Steinbeck in 1939, in which descriptive, narrative, and philosophical passages succeed one another. Set in the Great Depression, this popular proletarian novel tells the story of migrant workers (or sharecroppers) leaving the Dust Bowl, and moving on. He follows the Joad family, 'Okie' farmers driven from their land by drought and forced to endure the hardships of life as agricultural workers. En route to California the grandparents die; on their arrival the surviving members of the family are involved in strikes that turn violent, and Tom, the son, kills a man. At the conclusion of the novel the family shows resoluteness in the face of defeat.

Steinbeck wrote this book, along with Of Mice and Men, in what is now Monte Sereno, California, in the home at 16250 Greenwood Lane.

The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940; it is frequently read in high school and college literature classes.

When Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1962), the Swedish Academy called the book "an epic chronicle".

The title is a reference to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, by Julia Ward Howe, where she describes God as "trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored". Grapes of Wrath also refers to a passage from the Book of Revelation: "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" (14:19).


In film

In popular song

  • Woody Guthrie wrote The Ballad of Tom Joad the night he saw the film. He described the film in a column:
"Shows the dam bankers men that broke us and the dust that choked us, and comes right out in plain old English and says what to do about it.
"It says you got to get together and have some meetins, and stick together, and raise old billy hell till you get youre job, and get your farm back, and your house and your chickens and your groceries and your clothes, and your money back" (reprinted in Woody Sez [New York, 1975], p. 133).

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