John Steinbeck wrote of a time and place barely remembered by many in America. He wrote of homes lost and lives altered forever by circumstances beyond the control of families trying to eek out a living under inhospitable conditions. What is it really like to lose a dream and for hope to end? When your home is gone, where do you go? How will you feed your family and make a new start? Life under the conditions in which they lived as portrayed in The Grapes of Wrath is unimaginable for us. Sometimes, you must leave the only life you have ever known. California called to Okies and others having to leave all they had ever known to make a new start. It was "the land of milk and honey" they were told. Pictures of fruit-laden trees filled hearts with hope. Jobs to those who needed them were promised. All you had to do was make your way to California, and your family would have this and more. As is the case with many new beginnings, there is often just another ending--that is exactly what happened to the Joads as they face the hardship and trials in their new lives. Filled with fear and always hungry, they made their way as so many had before them to California and a land that was, in many ways, as inhospitable as the land they had to leave. Although the reasons were different, life was still filled with desperation and deprivation--it was a land of lost dreams and diminished hope. John Steinbeck writes of the Joads lovingly but realistically. As you come to know them, you will ache for them, cry out for them, and ache with longing for them to have a better life--you will want them together and happy. Steinbeck was not popular among the landowners in California for having written this novel. In some respects, he was as alienated from life as his fictional Joad family was. In novels of heartbreak, I marvel at how lovingly and beautifully land is portrayed. We can almost touch its beauty and smell the fruit ripening on the trees and vineyards. We can feel the hope, the promise. Few authors have written as eloquently as John Steinbeck about the love of land. You will feel the fertile soil under your feet and imagine the richness of the earth in your hands. Some stories are just a beginning. They exist to awaken us to what life was like and they remind us never to forget struggle and how hard it is sometimes just to go on. During the fall classic, Nolan Crabb will moderate a discussion about The Grapes of Wrath. A popular annual event, we invite you to this discussion of a novel that many call Steinbeck's best.
The Grapes of Wrath
Steinbeck, John. Read by Steven Carpenter. Reading time 17 hours 20 minutes.
Steinbeck's classic tale of the Joads, who, like many other families during the Great Depression, are driven from their homestead by drought, economic hardship, and the encroachment of large agricultural interests. They leave Oklahoma in search of a better life in California but meet with hardship and injustice. Pulitzer Prize. 1939.
Nolan Crabb, Facilitator