Having finished the very serious, adult and deep prose of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series recently, I decided it was time to read something a bit more lighthearted. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath seemed a good choice. I had already read Of Mice and Men, which is enjoyable and I would recommend if only so people get my references, and was eager to read his works further.
It’s considered Steinbeck’s seminal work, winning the Pulitzer Prize and being cited as a key reason for Steinbeck being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. It’s easy to see why – the powerful, touching and vivid description of people struggling through the Great Depression is one of the most moving texts I have ever read.
The book tells the family of the Joad family, who lose their farm in Oklahoma, and are forced to travel to California to find work, only to find the grass isn’t so green as they were lead to believe. Or, more accurately, that the grass is greener, but the machinery of society we have build up – the banks, the economics and the systems of government – prevent the poorest from walking on it.
Steinbeck’s vivid language paints a detailed picture of life during the Great Depression, providing a thought provoking insight to the suffering, without dwelling on it any longer than required. The monster of the system we have created is deconstructed in a way still relevant today. As the story goes on, you feel their frustration, their anger and the unfairness of their plight.
Like many for the Great Depression, the novel doesn’t have a happy ending. Or more accurately, an ending. It isn’t an unhappy one – just one without conclusion, as the family are left to continue to struggle on, without much food or money, and with winter on the way.
On a lighter note though, I have fallen in love with the name Rose of Sharon, pronounced Rosasharn. Definitely a contentor if I ever have a daughter.
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