Rating: 4/5 stars.
“‘How can you tell?’ Uncle John demanded. ‘What’s to keep ever’thing from stoppin’; all the folks from jus’ gittin’ tired an’ layin’ down?’
‘Hard to say,’ she said. ‘Ever’thing we do – seems to me is aimed right at goin’ on. Seems that way to me. Even gettin’ hungry – even bein’ sick; some die, but the rest is tougher. Jus’ try to live the day, jus’ the day.'”
Through his telling of the Okies’ struggle to survive the Dust Bowl, John Steinbeck temporarily made me a misanthrope. While I was reading the book I once annotated “why must mankind suck so much”. The Grapes of Wrath, for some, may not be an easy book to stomach due to the horrific hardships the Joads had to handle – not only from their environment and their ill-fortune, but also because of the cruelty of their fellow man.
There are other minor issues that may irritate readers (they got to me, occasionally). Some will find the passages pertaining to the setting of the story boring and verbose, while others will dislike Steinbeck’s colloquial writing style. For me, this book does not live up to what I deem Steinbeck’s masterpiece, East of Eden.
However, The Grapes of Wrath acts as the antithesis of East of Eden – in a good way. While East of Eden focused on the power of the individual, The Grapes of Wrath centered on the interconnection of mankind and how we should all treat each other compassionately. There are myriad other themes that I enjoyed analyzing and learning from, such as the practical uses of anger, the falseness of the just-world phenomenon, and the plight of the common man as well as that of the farmer. Steinbeck’s writing shines as always and it is obvious as to why this novel earned the Pulitzer Prize.
But most importantly, Steinbeck shows – especially through the ending – that in the end, humans are capable of altruistic kindness. We do possess the ability to take action for the good side, even when everything is broken and bleak and completely bad. And that’s an idea that I would love to live by.