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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

imageJohn Steinbeck was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath On the 6 May 1940. It was published in 14 April 1939 and also won the annual National Book Award and was cited prominently when he won the Nobel Prize in 1962. Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in financial and agricultural industries on their journey to find jobs, land, dignity and a future. One of the son’s Tom Joad is paroled from McAlester prison for homicide and while returning home near Sallisaw, Oklahoma, he meets An old friend named Casy. On reaching his Farm Home they find it, deserted and an old neighbor, Muley Graves, informs them that they are at Uncle John Joad’s home nearby because the banks have evicted all the farmers and repossessed the farms after the crops failed and they were unable to pay the bank back.

Tom finds his family at Uncle Joad’s and learns that they are planning to seek work in California. Although leaving Oklahoma would be breaking parole, Tom decides it is worth the risk. Traveling west on Route 66, the Joad family find the road crowded with other “Okie” migrants Sheltering In makeshift camps. On the way Granpa and Granma die and both Noah (the eldest Joad son) and Connie Rivers (the husband of the pregnant Joad daughter, Rose of Sharon) split from the family. Led by Ma, the remaining members realize that nothing is left for them in Oklahoma and continue to California.

On Reaching California, they find that The big corporate farmers are exploiting the workers and smaller farmers are suffering from collapsing prices. Weedpatch Camp, one of the clean, utility-supplied camps operated by the Resettlement Administration, a New Deal agency, offers better conditions, but does not have enough resources to care for all the needy families. As a Federal facility, the camp protects the migrants from harassment by California deputies. Casy then creates a Labour union to protect the workers The remaining Joads work as strikebreakers in a peach orchard where Casy is involved in a strike that eventually turns violent. When Tom Joad witnesses Casy’s fatal beating, he kills the attacker and flees as a fugitive. The Joads later leave the orchard for a cotton farm, where Tom is at risk of arrest for the homicide. As if this isn’t bad enough Rose of Sharon’s baby is stillborn, then the Joads’ dwelling is flooded leading to yet more hardship.

The Grapes of Wrath is frequently read in American high school and college literature classes due to its historical context and enduring legacy. A celebrated Hollywood film version, starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford, was made in 1940.