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books pdf The Grapes of Wrath –

The Pulitzer Prize Winning Epic Of The Great Depression, A Book That Galvanized And Sometimes Outraged Millions Of ReadersFirst Published In , Steinbeck S Pulitzer Prize Winning Epic Of The Great Depression Chronicles The Dust Bowl Migration Of The S And Tells The Story Of One Oklahoma Farm Family, The Joads Driven From Their Homestead And Forced To Travel West To The Promised Land Of California Out Of Their Trials And Their Repeated Collisions Against The Hard Realities Of An America Divided Into Haves And Have Nots Evolves A Drama That Is Intensely Human Yet Majestic In Its Scale And Moral Vision, Elemental Yet Plainspoken, Tragic But Ultimately Stirring In Its Human Dignity A Portrait Of The Conflict Between The Powerful And The Powerless, Of One Man S Fierce Reaction To Injustice, And Of One Woman S Stoical Strength, The Novel Captures The Horrors Of The Great Depression And Probes Into The Very Nature Of Equality And Justice In America At Once A Naturalistic Epic, Captivity Narrative, Road Novel, And Transcendental Gospel, Steinbeck S Powerful Landmark Novel Is Perhaps The Most American Of American Classics How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his childrenThe Grapes of Wrath won John Steinbeck both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, firmly engraving his name on the stone tablet featuring the canon of Great American Writers Published in 1939, it is arguably Steinbeck s best known work and is still widely read today Admirers praised Steinbeck for writing an epic tale of Biblical proportions, singing songs of the common men and women and their struggle against exploitation by the rich and powerful, the strength of a family and the endurance human spirit in the Great Depression and the tragedy of the Dust Bowl, which forced many families to abandon land which was their livelihood for generations Detractors accuse Steinbeck of being sentimental and one sided, of greatly exaggerating the effect that the period and the surrounding had on the people he describes, of being a socialist, a Marxist, a communist and a propagandist sometimes not all at once Associated Farmers of California called the book a pack of lies and communist propaganda , while Burton Rascoe writing for Newsweek added that The Grapes of Wrath was nothingthan superficial observation, careless infidelity to the proper use of idiom, tasteless pornographical and scatagorical talk.Criticism didn t stop at negative reviews The book was banned across the country and sometimes publicly burned by enraged citizens Steinbeck received hate mail and death threats The book made him a lot of powerful enemies The Associated Farmers have begun an hysterical personal attack on me both in the papers and a whispering campaign, he said, I m a Jew,a pervert, a drunk, a dope fiend A whispering smear campaign against Steinbeck was set in motion by his new enemies, aiming to defame him and turn him from a celebrated author into a figure of hatred they accused him of being a Jew, who wanted to deliberately undermine the economy and acted in Zionist communist interest The Associated Farmers are really working up a campaign, he wrote to his agent, I have made powerful enemies with the Grapes They will not kill me, I think, but they will destroy me if and when they can He was right When Lewis Milestone, author of the screenplay for Mice and Men came to central California to explore possible locations for the movie, Steinbeck never stopped at any ranches in fear that they might get physically assaulted by their residents The undersheriff of Santa Clara County was a friend of Steinbeck, and warned him to never stay in a hotel room alone the boys got a rape case set for you You get alone in a hotel and a dame will come in, tear off her clothes, scratch her face and scream and you try to talk yourself out of that one They won t touch your book but there s easier ways Steinbeck found himself under enormous stress and strain as he realized that Associated Farmers controlled the sheriff s office in California, and were capable of anything he was also investigated by the FBI under president Hoover, which saw him as a dangerous subversive He had to adopt an alias while visiting Los Angeles and keep secret files He was aware that most of the people who hated him have themselves been victims of propaganda used precisely by those who accused him of being a propagandist he told his agent that The articles written against me are all by people who admit they haven t read Grapes, indeed wouldn t dirty their minds with it John Steinbeck in 1939, when the book was publishedStill, at the same time, many other readers found The Grapes of Wrath to be enthralling and necessary a book which attracted attention to the plight of poor migrant farm workers to the West, showed the brutality and harshness of their condition and challenged the nation to do better for those people Earle Birney called the book a deed the act of a man out of the pity and wrath of his heart, and it was read and loved as such It captured the turbulent period of American history and provoked a reaction It made an impact, a real and lasting one which is its greatest achievement Interestingly enough, within months of its publication journalist Carey McWilliams published his own work on treatment of migrant workers in CaliforniaFactories in the Field The Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California was a landmark study which exposed the social and environmental damage inflicted by the growth of corporate agriculture in California, and a condemnation of both the politics and consequences of large scale agribusiness McWilliams documented the social and economic trends which led to establishment of huge land holdings in California and the constant need for cheap migrant labor he found that the Okies were only the latest group to be exploited by the invisible owners of California s first industry The previous groups included Native Americans and immigrants from China, Japan, Mexico, India, Armenia and the Philippines Shortly before the publication of Factories in the Field, McWilliams became the head of California s Division of Immigration and Housing where he focused on improving wages for agricultural workers and their living conditions he increased inspections of labor camps owned by the growers, as he felt that on farm housing made the workersdependent on their employers, and changed the formula which was used to deny relief to workers who refused to accept farm work at prevailing piece wages, effectively forcing some of the growers to increase their piece rates Understandably, McWilliams and his work were also not well received by California growers they called him an Agricultural Pest Number One, worse than pear blight or boll weevils, and accused of conspiring together with Steinbeck to ruin their reputation Funnily enough the two never met, and did not arrange the release dates of their work in any way McWilliams was also involved in the committee led by senator Robert La Follette Jr., which became known as La Follette Civil Liberties Committee and which has performed the most extensive investigation in American history into employer violations of the rights or workers to organize and bargain collectively Between 1936 and 1941, the committee conducted extensive hearings and collected a vast number of testimonies These hearings exposed the tactics used by America s leading corporations to prevent their workers from forming unions employment of extensive industrial espionage and strikebreaking services, stockpiling munitions such as submachine guns, rifles and tear gas, and even subverting local law by hiring their own police forces The committee closed its hearings in late 1939 and early 1940, when it traveled up and down the California coast and collected testimonies ofthan four hundred labor organizers, growers and farm workers McWilliams ghostwrote the committee s report, a stern indictment of California s agricultural factory system, but it was not presented to Congress until October 1942, without much impact no one was listening and no one cared, for we were at war.McWilliams felt that the War enabled both growers and state officials from implementing a reform which they would almost certainly would have been forced to implement otherwise, and that the whole country went to sleep until a young black girl named Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 He, however, did not stay silent and stop working On the contrary, failure to implement recommended reforms seemed to give himstrength to combat injustice he published Prejudice Japanese Americans, Symbol of Racial Intolerance, a sharp critique and a chronicle of internment of Japanese Americans during the War, and was active in opposing McCarthyism In 1960 Carey McWilliams became the first American reporter to reveal that the CIA was training a group of Cuban exiles in Guatemala to serve as guerrillas in the Bay of Pigs Invasion His article appeared in October, five months before the invasion happened He died in 1980 Carey McWilliams, a good man. The copy of The Grapes of Wrath that I read had a great introduction by Robert DeMott, who provided plenty of excerpts from Steinbeck s journal and revealed his ambitions and doubts as he was composing the book Steinbeck was convinced that if he could do the book properly , it would be a truly American book and one of the really fine books At the same time, he was constantly thinking about what he perceived to be his own lack of ability and limitations as a writer, which greatly troubled him Honesty was what he saw as the answer and the way to write the book if he could keep the honesty in, everything would be fine Steibeck had plenty of opportunity to do exactly that While his initial writings have not been successful, he struck a chord with 1935 s Tortilla Flat which tells the story of Danny and his friends, a group of paisanos who live in post war Monterey But real success came with a series of California novels, stories of common people trying to make it during the Great Depression In Dubious Battle, Of Mice and Men and the most important one, The Grapes of Wrath.The severe drought of the early 1930 s resulted in a massive agricultural failure in the southern region of the Great Plains, above all in western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle, where the fields have been heavily overcultivated by wheat farmers after the first World War The area consisted of millions of acres of exposed topsoil, no longer anchored by growing roots as the crops withered and died from lack of rainfall Constant sunshine dried the soil and turned it into dust, which then blew away in amounts sufficient to black out the sky and reduce visibility to a few feet these immense dust storms centered on the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas, and the adjacent areas of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico By the mid 1930 s countless families have been deprived of means to earn their livelihood, pay their mortgages and buy equipment necessary to stay competitive with growing industrialization Dust Bowl victims were forced to leave their lands, and without any real prospects of employment move to California the promised land A dust storm hitting Boise City, right in the panhandle of Oklahoma on April 14th, 1935 This storm was particularly severe, and was one of the worst dust storms in American history, causing immense economic and agricultural damage it is estimated to have displaced 300 million tons of topsoil in the Great Plains It became known as the Black Sunday. Right click open in a new tab for a bigger photo In 1936 Steinbeck was hired by the San Francisco News, which commissioned him to write a series of articles on the Dust Bowl migration To write the seven articles, published as The Harvest Gypsies, Steinbeck traveled to California and visited local labor camps, shantytowns and Hoovervilles migrant settlements named so after President Herbert Hoover, who was widely blamed for the Depression There he met Tom Collins, manager of the Weedpatch Camp who became a major source of information and a travelling companion Collins collected statistics on camp life which Steinbeck used as primary material for his articles, and both traveled together on three trips through California They visited the settlements, went to meetings, stayed on camps and ranches, worked in the fields After the publication Steinbeck and his wife drove west along Route 66, from Oklahoma to California, like countless migrants before them.These experiences provided Steinbeck withthan enough material to depict the lives of poor farmers forced to migrate west He set out to write a novel, conscious of the importance of what he saw and experienced I am not writing a satisfying story, he told his editor, Pascal Covici I ve done my damnedest to rip a reader s nerves to rags, I don t want him satisfiedI tried to write this book the way lives are being lived not the way books are written.All through the process, Steinbeck remained aware of the fact that he was creating a literary work DeMott describes The Grapes of Wrath as an engaged novel with a partisan posture, many complex voices, and passionate prose styles. Steinbeck saw the composition process of the novel similar to the composition of a symphony he wanted his chapters, voices and styles speak to each other, resonate with recurring themes, the total impression farpowerful than its individual parts Steinbeck wrote of events and people he himself experienced and knew, and his concern was humanitarian to do justice to the migrant men and women, their desire to work and their efforts to retain their dignity and settle in the Promised Land, be an advocate for the common working people whose abuse by their corporate employers was largely a silent tragedy Men willing to work were hungry and starved in the land of plenty, which for Steinbeck and any moral human being was unacceptable He sided with David rather than Goliath, and set out to write an epic which would surpass all of his other work This must be a good book, he wrote in his journal, it simply must I haven t any choice It must be far and away the best thing I have ever attempted slow but sure, piling detail on detail until a picture and an experience emerge Until the whole throbbing thing emerges.Steinbeck was aware of his ambition and consciously employed imagery from and parallels to the single best read epic text in the US the Bible The exodus of the Joad family to California was written with the attention and momentum of the Biblical Exodus of the Isrealites, led by Moses out of Egypt California is the Promised Land,a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey Exodus 3 7 9 The Okies arriving at the border of California are stopped by the border patrol guards, who refuse to let them enter except for when the labor is needed much like the Israelites faced persecution and cruelty from the Amonites, Moabites and Edomites when they were trying to enter Caanan Tom Joad can be seen as Moses he killed a man who spoke bad about Jim Casy, like Moses killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave, and both served as leader figures for their people Jim Casy is a Christ figure, down to the same initials a preacher who questioned the established religion and fought the temptations of flesh, and lead the twelve Joads like Christ lead his twelve disciples Like Jesus, he disappeared and wandered alone He taught the gospel of social and spiritual unity love for all men, sympathy for the poor and oppressed view spoiler Casy believed in his mission to save the suffering workers so much that he was willing to give his life for it, and his death is exactly like that of Christ he dies a martyr, killed because of his beliefs, murdered by an agent of power with a piece of wood hide spoiler Whenever I revisit a classic I m struck by how muchI get out of it now than I did when I was 24 or 19 or, God forbid, 15 Giving a book like the Grapes of Wrath to a 15 year old serves largely to put them off fine literature for the rest of their lives The depth of understanding and compassion for the human condition as communicated by a book like this is simply unfathomable to those who haven t lived much life yet, but after you ve gotten a healthy dose of living, it comes across like fine music to a trained ear My heart doesn t bleed for the Joads today as it might have 25 years ago Yes, it s grim and unfair, but it s no longer shocking or disturbing, and I can see now that Steinbeck didn t intend sensationalism to be the main point What he s about is revealing the human dignity, the innate goodness and unbreakable pride of these people, and by extension the American people in general, something that still resonates today, especially with reference to the working classes When the Joads and their kind decline government hand outs, requesting instead the simple opportunity to work hard and be rewarded commensurate with their labor even if it means a grueling cross country journey to a place they don t know one can hear today s white working poors exasperated disdain for government, insisting that they simply be allowed to keepof their pay and not be held back in their efforts by nit picking legalities and cultural trivialities that disapprove of their lifestyles Sadly, most such people will never read the Grapes of Wrath Worse yet, many liberal lawmakers won t read it again after high school and won t glean from it an essential understanding about the pride and perseverance of the American working class which the far right is playing like a fiddle much to the detriment of the entire nation A book like the Grapes of Wrath should be required reading for every American over 30. If you are an American you need to read The Grapes of Wrath It scares the poop out of me because, my fellow Americans, we are repeating history If live anywhere else read it as well as a guide for what not to do.In the Grapes of Wrath Mr Steinbeck tells the tale of the first great depression through the Joad family from Oklahoma, who has been displaced from their family farm through no fault of their own You see, there was a big bad drought which made farming impossible In those days the family farm fed the family and what they had left over they sold But when the drought hit the only thing that would grow was cotton, you can t eat cotton, and that crop sucked the life right out of the soil so no other crop could grow in it for a very long timeThese things were lost, and crops were reckoned in dollars, and land was valued by principal plus interest, and crops were bought and sold before they were planted Then crop failure, drought, and flood were no longer little deaths within life, but simple losses of money And all their love was thinned with money, and all their fierceness dribbled away in interest until they were no longer farmers at all, but little shopkeepers of crops, little manufacturers who must sell before they can make Then those farmers who were not good shopkeepers lost their land to good shopkeepers No matter how clever, how loving a man might be with earth and growing things, he could not survive if he were not also a good shopkeeper And as time went on, the business men had the farms, and the farms grew larger, but there were fewer of them Some guys with a lot of cash came along and bought up all the struggling family farms and leased the land back to the former family farmers and when they couldn t produce, the new Owners kicked the families out of their homes Put them on the streets, children and elderly and all..who cares, right Poor people are less than.From California came hand bills, pamphlets promising jobs and urging the homeless to drag their whole lives via barely moving junk heaps to the golden state where grapes grew in bunches by the side of the road What choice did they have They drove across deserts and mountains, losing loved ones along the way, they answered those hand bills in droves What else could they do What happened when they got to California They didn t get jobs, they got ridicule They were called Okies and shitheals and were looked down upon How can they live like that The people with money would ask, as if being poor was a choice As if they were just lazy and all it would take to get out of poverty was to get a job but there were no fucking jobs The owners sent outhandbills then they needed to Why Because themen begging for a job the less the owners would have to pay them Supply and demand The greedy sons a bitches wanted to pay as little as possible, and that is exactly what they did The Okies did not have a union of courseAnd the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away And that companion fact when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed The great owners ignored the three cries of history The land fell into fewer hands, the number of the dispossessed increased, and every effort of the great owners was directed at repression The money was spent for arms, for gas to protect the great holdings, and spies were sent to catch the murmuring of revolt so that it might be stamped out The changing economy was ignored, plans for the change ignored and only means to destroy revolt were considered, while the causes of revolt went on Who are the great owners today The Walton family of Walmart , six of them, have the same amount of money as the bottom 40% of Americans That is 124,720,000 people, people 93 billion..BILLION and they want ,money than could be spent in several lifetimes They don t need it all, but the rest of America does Do you think the Walton s might have an interest in keeping people poor Go check out who s in that store at 3am Let s also take a look at who is running against President Obama Mittens is so rich that he doesn t even know what a doughnut is, and he s fighting for the Waltons and all of the 1 % He s so rich he thinks he is entitled to the office and us people do not need to see his tax returns the nerve of us, move on We need to sit down, shut up, and stop asking questions because he, being a rich bastard, is an owner and we should know our place Not bloody likelyOur people are good people our people are kind people Pray God some day kind people won t all be poor Pray God some day a kid can eat.And the associations of owners knew that some day the praying would stop.And there s the end Also posted at Shelfinflicted This is another review as I go, which helps me capture my thoughts of the moment, before I forget them One thing that strikes me in these early pages is Steinbeck s technique of focusing on things that are supposedly tangential to the main narrative of the Joad family but yet are central to their fate I m thinking of the descriptions of the natural world like that wonderful chapter about the turtle, who eventually gets scooped up by Tom You see the world through the turtle s eyes for a moment and you see how the indifference of the characters to nature is a larger phenomenon that leads to their own ruin Steinbeck reinforces this theme later when he talks about how farmers can no longer afford to feel and relate to nature, that they re basically chemists dealing in nitrogen and machine operators dealing with tractors But, he says, when the wonder is gone, people are doomed And of course the entire book is about the doomed nature of the dust bowl, and this he says is how we got there, through this kind of moral breakdown.There s another, similar type of moral breakdown at work in the wonderful passage about the car dealers talking about how to rip people off Here we see other forces greed, capitalism, deceit that also serve as a form of human self sabotage.This is what I appreciate so far that this book is ABOUT SOMETHING That Steinbeck has something to say about the human endeavor I find this element missing in so much contemporary fiction, which doesn t really seem to be about much of anything at all.As it gets closer to California, and the landscape changes, the first ominous whisperings appear that California will not be the paradise the Joads expect Still they carry on, feeling like they have no choice, swept up in this tide of history.At first the Joads encounter only the cruelty of capitalism that the large field owners want to have hundreds of thousands of poor workers to choose from because it will keep wages low Then in the government camp, they finally meet with simple human kindness really the antithesis of all that Steinbeck is showing how important kindness is and how it is crushed in the capitalist machine Money becomes like an ideology, a mask that shields the owners from the consequences of their bad actions But it s also become necessary for survival No longer can small farmers work their own land They are forced into the larger economy, forced to earn wages and participate in the world of money in order to survive Thus, the Joads are eventually forced to leave the government camp in search of work Where They don t know Somewhere vaguely north.Eventually they find work picking peaches, but they soon become caught up in labor unrest that spills into fatal violence, and they re forced to leave I won t give away much of what follows Suffice it to say that the harrowing ordeals don t end there, nor the emphasis on simple human kindness as the antidote to the capitalist machine Simple human kindness becomes, by the end, the mother s milk that can sustain them, but only barely and uncertainly, and we re left with the indelible portrait of people trying to survive, unsure how it might turn out.A brave, fierce work that brims with the sense that it doesn t have to be this way that people have made choices to be cruel but can make choices to be kind, as well That something has to change because for most people, this architecture and logic of cruelty brings no relief and no joy.