There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There is just stuff people do.
November 13, 2007 8:08 PM   Subscribe

John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath on May 6, 1940. The "Wrath" link is the Henry Fonda film in its entirety.
posted by miss lynnster (30 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was about to automatically post a link to Woody Guthrie's "Tom Joad", but I see the NPR link already took care of that!

Thanks for the post, ml!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:26 PM on November 13, 2007


You know, I had honestly never seen the movie or read the book before, but I always wanted to. My grandparents did migrant work (and other things) to survive in California during the depression and I heard many stories about it from my grandma, so I've always felt it was a piece of my heritage. Watching the film, it really captures an amazing piece of American history. And it's interesting how things have changed so much in the last 60 years. Americans sure aren't picking crops for survival nowadays, 99% of migrant workers in California are from Mexico nowadays. Wouldn't even enter the average American's radar to ever be a crop worker. But back then, you did anything. My grandmother had some amazing stories about it.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:52 PM on November 13, 2007


My grandparents were among the few to stay in the Panhandle of Texas and ride out the Dust Bowl. Our family album is filled with grainy sepia-toned pictures of dust drifts covering almost every structure. The weathered face of my grandfather looked like leather by age 25.

Eventually they scraped and were there to rebuild the cotton gins and towns. When my grandfather died in the 70's his funeral was attended by almost every single person in the small Cottle County town of Paducah, TX. Not because he was a great man, simply because he was one of the few that welcomed those that came back after the rains came.

Sad part is that towns like Paducah (once deemed the " " are again drying up as younger generations forsake the family farming traditions and move to the big city, bright lights, and extravagant living promoted by television and movies. The town is once again a shadow of it's former self.
posted by HyperBlue at 9:20 PM on November 13, 2007


"Crossroads of America"
posted by HyperBlue at 9:22 PM on November 13, 2007


Unfortunates sometimes sought shelter in the county jail, and everyone deplored the dust storms.

Lyrical tributes to "The Beautiful Dust" appeared in the Paducah Post:

"The dust, the dust, the beautiful dust
On the evil and on the just,
From the North and from the South;
in the eyes, the nose, the mouth
Bear it calmly since you must
Wear it bravely as a crown.
Ope' your mouth and gulp it down."
posted by HyperBlue at 9:29 PM on November 13, 2007


I heard there was boobies in that book. Huge disappointment.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:19 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Boobs of Wrath?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:51 PM on November 13, 2007


Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful thing, you perverts. Granted, it's a disheveled thirty-something Okie, but that's symbolic.

Of Renewal.

And the Triumph of The Maternal Principle.

And Nature.

And not boobies.


Okay.


(The Grapes of Wrath)

posted by ormondsacker at 12:39 AM on November 14, 2007


Thank you, miss lynnster.

Great title quote up top, and fantastic linkage that I look forward to perusing the hell out of when I finish my evening of work.
posted by squasha at 12:42 AM on November 14, 2007


He's my all time favorite 20th century American writer, despite his flaws. What I appreciate about Steinbeck is how he slips in humor while educating you, something Hemingway never managed to do.
posted by Devils Slide at 2:24 AM on November 14, 2007


This has been on my "to watch" list for a long time. I finally got the dvd a few days ago, but the region code setting wouldn't allow it to play on my dvd player.

Thanks for posting the video link; I would've never have thought of searching for it there!
posted by hadjiboy at 3:19 AM on November 14, 2007


Thanks for the excellent post, Miss Lynnster! (It was so nice meeting and hanging out with you the other night.)

I recently read the excellent book, The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, which inspired this wonderful FPP by Jessamyn about the Dust Bowl.

The two books do really provide a great counterpoint between stories of those who left and those who stayed behind.
posted by trip and a half at 4:51 AM on November 14, 2007


I've read this book a couple of times. After East of Eden (which is absolutely amazing and couldn't be recommended highly enough to anyone who enjoys Grapes of Wrath), it is my favorite Steinbeck book. I've never seen the film. I look forward to checking this out. Thanks.
posted by YFiB at 5:53 AM on November 14, 2007


I always like looking at an authors stats on LibraryThing as it gives an idea which works are the most popular. For Steinbeck his top 6 are:

# The grapes of wrath 6285 copies
# Of mice and men 5839 copies
# East of Eden 4055 copies
# The pearl 2001 copies
# Cannery row 1653 copies
# Travels with Charley 1472 copies

after 'Travels' it drops down to less than 1000 copies each. It looks like the first three are in a "super category" of widely read.
posted by stbalbach at 6:40 AM on November 14, 2007


Steinbeck ruled. I wonder if my kids will still read "Of Mice and Men"?

I worry that classics of that ilk, like "Flowers for Algernon," are getting pushed out by fundamentalist book-banning types. Those books had meat to them. They made you speculate about moral dilemmas on an entirely analytical level and then bawl like a baby over the main characters' fates all at the same time.

What floors me about Steinbeck is that he wrote classics like OMAM and GOW and yet also authored the hilarious, irreverant "Tortilla Flats." One of the most talented authors ever, IMO.
posted by misha at 7:36 AM on November 14, 2007


Okay, so I finally watched the end of the movie just now. And wow. BTW, this page on the film is really good.

This monologue just blew me away:

Pa: You're the one that keeps us goin', Ma. I ain't no good no more, and I know it. Seems like I spend all my time these days thinkin' how it used to be. Thinkin' of home. I ain't never gonna see it no more.

Ma: Well, Pa. A woman can change better'n a man. A man lives, sorta, well, in jerks. Baby's born and somebody dies, and that's a jerk. He gets a farm or loses it, and that's a jerk. With a woman, it's all in one flow like a stream. Little eddies and waterfalls, but the river it goes right on. A woman looks at it that way.

Pa: Well, maybe, but we sure taken a beatin'.

posted by miss lynnster at 9:11 AM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


When I said monologue, I meant the performance "Ma" did on those lines.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:12 AM on November 14, 2007


I love Steinbeck and I love being in his California, especially how right he was in describing duality by means of the Salinas Valley: the rise of mountains on the east always sunlit, rosy and golden, and those to the west always with their backs turned to the sun, and gray, a great lap of fertile space between. East of Eden is by far my favorite of his works, and I think of it each time I drive to LA, just as my NPR station dies out and the sun is setting behind those shady mountains.

The hopeless sense of searching the desolate unending flatness of the places written of in The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps I bring to the story, because naturally, Oklahoma has the San Joaquin Valley beat for flat. But so much of California is an open window to the coast, or a forested perch high in the east, that the San Joaquin Valley seems to me like a lidded bowl.

Even Cannery Row seems to capture the effusive scrambling and barking of life on the Monterey shore, always echoing with the arguments of gulls and sea lions.

The Wayward Bus - a dizzying trip into the hidden Santa Ynez Valley over highway 246!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:50 AM on November 14, 2007


I was going to post a link to a copy of the actual novel ... for surely it must be in the public domain, right? Nope. Wasn't the book written ... oh, 70 years ago? Fucking Sonny Bono ...
posted by mrgrimm at 11:18 AM on November 14, 2007


This monologue just blew me away:

Just beautiful, miss lynnster. We read that book in junior high. Now here is where I grind my axe. Why give that book to 13-year-olds? How can they possibly identify with it and respond to? Literature, Great or not, is not pedagogy. When it works it is achieves a magical resonance with what one has already experienced and so knows but perhaps in an unvoiced and unanalyzed way. Show me the 13 year old 'man' or 'woman' who can relate to the quote you cite in a way that even approaches the ideas and feelings it conjures for me after four decades on this planet and I'll--never mind, that kid doesn't exist and shouldn't.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:46 AM on November 14, 2007


Why give that book to 13-year-olds?

Because it's American History, in simple language, with easy to understand literary devices and allegories. The turtle, Rose of Sharon's breast, all of it. Symbolism kids can "get" that will get them into reading. Literature isn't about relating to the specific experiences of the characters.

Why give that book to 13-year-olds?

To make them commies.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:59 AM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


If kids get it, and I'm wrong, then I freely admit my mistake. But I'm a lifelong reader and I know that that book just bored me at that age. I only read Catcher in the Rye when I bought it myself because in school I was being fed a steady diet of books like this or Wuthering Heights. The objective, as I see it, is to excite kids about reading by allowing them to experience that moment when they're sitting alone with a book, read a passage, and are shaken by the notion that, "my god, I'm not the only person who's ever felt or thought that!"

I respect your viewpoint, Ambrosia Voyeur, but my very strong personal bias is that an appreciation of literary devices and allegories merely deadens the enjoyment of reading by introducing irrelevant noise into the communication between the only two people who matter: the writer and the reader. I have enjoyed many, many books in my day and I have never, ever, sat back and pondered the symbolism the author might have employed; if it worked it worked at a subconscious and thus much more powerful level than any academic literary analysis might have yielded.

My professional background is in medicine and the life sciences. But I think the cat that gazes at you enigmatically then looks away is far more interesting and wonderful than the cat dissected.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:14 PM on November 14, 2007


To make them commies.

Well, it made me a commie. Or, actually a Canadian. Which is pretty much the same.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:26 PM on November 14, 2007


But I think the cat that gazes at you enigmatically then looks away is far more interesting and wonderful than the cat dissected.

This is a false binary. Teaching kids what literary devices look like, as or after their encounter with them, is teaching critical thinking skills, observation, rhetoric, and art appreciation. If these aren't the goals of literary education, then why not just give them any pleasure reading they choose and assign book reports on Archies Comics?

I have enjoyed many, many books in my day and I have never, ever, sat back and pondered the symbolism the author might have employed; if it worked it worked at a subconscious and thus much more powerful level than any academic literary analysis might have yielded.

Are you one of those people who "just likes" a book and "doesn't know why?" Know thyself! Verse and the soul are connected; understanding how ideas are communicated is nothing in the least like vivisection. I love to read as well as understand the poetic meanings and allegories hidden in books. Surely you won't argue that these are unimportant, and that Animal Farm, Beloved or The Great Gatsby are just absorbing narratives about the happenings in a life or two, and no more?

It sounds to me like your bias comes from a rotten introduction to books, where you had to circle every metaphor on the page or something. I do think The Grapes of Wrath is a big honker of a book for Junior High kids, but it's I read A Tale of Two Cities and Of Mice and Men at that time, and liked both of those well. What would you have them read, I wonder?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:54 PM on November 14, 2007


I'm thinking, AV, I'm thinking...

why not just give them any pleasure reading they choose and assign book reports on Archies Comics?

Because you would not be exposing them to the best, the most powerful. I'm sure we do not disagree that great writing is great writing. We do seem to differ on how to derive enjoyment...no, dammit it's more than enjoyment but let's just use that word for now...from the work of authors. Books and movies--I'm a romantic, and want them to take me to that different place, a world I can inhabit for a while. The book and movie that most effectively does that does so without letting me see the seams in the facade, which in most cases is a trick requiring considerable skill indeed.

Skill that you, observing the other side of the magic screen, would probably agree with but would reduce to its components; compare to previous performances by other practitioners. If you get enjoyment from that, and I know that you are not alone in doing so, then that is wonderful. I'd much rather be enthralled by the magician than know all his tricks.

(I do seem to be coming up with the pithy analogies today, don't I?!)
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:29 PM on November 14, 2007


Turtles: Did the version they gave you in Junior High have the breast-feeding scene or was it cut out? Most of the "great books" I was assigned in school were bowdlerized, from Silas Marner to MacBeth.
posted by CCBC at 2:04 PM on November 14, 2007


I was going to post a link to a copy of the actual novel ... for surely it must be in the public domain, right? Nope. Wasn't the book written ... oh, 70 years ago? Fucking Sonny Bono ...

I got you babe!

-Sonny Bono
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:08 PM on November 14, 2007


Two of my favorite artists: you've got your Steinbeck in my Springsteen.
posted by caddis at 4:40 PM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


AV and TATWD, I could have this debate with you all day, and argue either side with passionate intensity.

The truth is, I think a well-written book becomes even more intriguing upon analysis--but our schools do it all wrong.

We have the kids read the book chapter by chapter, often aloud in class, dissecting as they go, when it would be best to let them read the entire book, open up the class for discussion and let the ideas and impressions flow, occasionally providing a little guidance on the more advanced aspects, like symbolism, analogy, underlining themes, etc.

One of the things I absolutely HATE is when someone starts an analysis with, "What the author was trying to do here is..." Shut. the fuck. up. Did you speak with the author directly? Did he or she tell you that's what the intent was? No. You don't know. Just cut that shit out.

But I have never in my life been more moved by any discussions than I was in my college literature classes, with the prof who really loved the (Shakespearean) works we were studying, understood them, and encouraged my passion for words as no other teacher had before him.
posted by misha at 5:47 PM on November 14, 2007


Thanks, misha. Nice.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:08 PM on November 14, 2007


« Older From Dubai: Go around twice if you’re happy (YT): ...  |  A new U.S. Treasury Report (pr... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments