Way Late and a Dollar Short: Grapes of Wrath Readalong Wrap-up

This is the fourth and final post in Devourer of Texts Grapes of Wrath readalong. It was supposed to go up last Tuesday, but then Sandy came along and took out my power, and then I forgot to write it when my power came back on (a mere 24 hours later, so no complaints there). But better late than never, they say!

So... when we last left off, The Grapes of Wrath was generally sad, depressing, and a bit preachy, with occasional bits of humor and/or hopefulness thrown in. But we all knew all along that those bits of humor and/or joy were just a tease, and things were never going to end well for the poor, kind Joads.

They didn't. As if destitution, poverty, and hunger weren't enough, Steinbeck throws in [spoilers: highlight to read] some serious flooding and a stillborn baby for good measure. Oh, and union strikes and scab workers and the rest of it.

And we're left with an utterly depressing picture of humanity and all of its wrongs, of the big corporations and their desire for profit at the expense of human life, of the power of people when they come together as a group but their utter powerlessness when they focus only on what is best for themselves, of the rights of workers and farmers and farmhands and salesmen and shop clerks and everyone else to make their way in the world.

I didn't think of it at the time, but The Grapes of Wrath proved the perfect pre-election read as things wound up to what culminated in an Obama victory last night. Though, as I've mentioned, Steinbeck can go all preachy-like at times, standing on his workers'-rights-soapbox or his corporations-are-evil soapbox, his less-than-subtle hints at the importance of banding together, and looking out for those less fortunate than ourselves, accepting those not like ourselves, and preserving a sense of human dignity throughout it all were key themes in the 2012 election.

Those messages, sometimes delivered subtly through Ma's strength or Rose of Sharon's naivete or Tom's stoicism and sometimes hammered into our heads with Steinbeck's in-between chapters, are the silver lining here. Through all of the sadness and hardships thrown on the Joads, they can, at the very least, teach us something about ourselves and our country today--a pretty hefty tribute to pay to a seventy-year old novel.


Thoughts from other bookworms:
Devouring Texts
Reading Rambo
What Red Read


The Grapes of Wrath | John Steinbeck | Originally published 1939 | 619 pages | Buy from an independent near you


  1. Yay that your power came back quickly! Are you getting hit by the nor'eastern now? Mother Nature, please back off for a little while.

    ANYWAY, Grapes!
    "the importance of banding together, and looking out for those less fortunate than ourselves, accepting those not like ourselves, and preserving a sense of human dignity throughout" - yes so true. I wish Steinbeck could have been less preachy about it, but still the messages are good.

    1. It is VERY cold and grey and icky here, but nothing too bad yet. How about you? And yes, I could use a serious break from freak weather systems these days!

      Agreed on the preachy bits. I actually found that writing about this a few weeks later was good for me because I'd forgiven most of the preachiness and all that lingered were the feelings about ALL THE THINGS.

    2. It has started snowing here so I am GLARING at it. That'll teach it. Luckily nothing is sticking yet. I just really, really don't want the power to go out again. I like heat so much.


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