In order to keep on my schedule of reading a book per week, I routinely check the upcoming novel’s number of pages to determine how many I must read per day. At 455 pages, I was set to read about 90 pages per day for 5 days. This was the book I could not stop reading and the first I finished way ahead of schedule. As I said, I loved this book!
Having recently read Of Mice and Men, I now want to devour all things Steinbeck. If I can squeeze in an extra read, I’m thinking Tortilla Flat is the way to go!
What really made the writing superb were the little minute details sprinkled throughout the novel; the waitress in the early chapters who mindlessly plays with the little lump under her ear, young Tom Joad not wiping the liquor bottle after the preacher has taken a swig, Grampa struggling with his misaligned longjohn buttons.
What didn’t work for me were the interspersed chapters sans dialogue. While I assume this style was a way to portray the 1930’s Dust Bowl as seen by an outsider, rather than from the Joad’s perspective, I wanted to hurry through and get to the meat and potatoes. Perhaps I was just being impatient as the writing throughout was magnificent.
Each of the Joad family’s characters were so clearly developed that the reader becomes a Joad along the way. I really felt I knew each of these characters quite well and cheered for each even when their behavior was not the best; Ruthie’s bullying, Uncle John’s drinking, and Al’s carousing. Their negative traits allowed them to come to life as they struggled to a life on the road while falling apart as a family yet each member coming into their own.
Put me in a time machine because I would love to sit down with Mr. Steinbeck and discuss politics, religion, humanity and just squeeze his hands to try to get some of that writing talent from him to me osmotically. Somehow I think Steinbeck would be the coolest author to meet, thus far.
Great quotes from The Grapes of Wrath:
“But where does it stop? Who can we shoot? I don’t aim to starve to death before I kill the man that’s starving me.”
Casey said gently, “Sure I got sins. Ever’body got sins. A sin is somepin you ain’t sure about. Them people that’s sure about ever’thing an’ ain’t got no sin–well, with that kind a son-of-a-bitch, if I was God I’d kick their ass right outa heaven! I couldn’ stand ’em!”
And the companies, the banks worked at their own doom and they did not know it. The fields were fruitful, and starving men moved on the roads. The granaries were full and the children of the poor grew up rachitic, and the pustules of pellagra swelled on their sides. The great companies did not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line. And money that might have gone to wages went for gas, for guns, for agents and spies, for blacklists, for drilling. On the highways the people moved like ants and searched for work, for food. And the anger began to ferment.
My rating for The Grapes of Wrath is a 10 out of 10.
Please visit Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels to view the entire list.
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