This book came just at the right time for me in the process of this project as I am currently looking for work. Steinbeck’s 1940 winner The Grapes of Wrath encapsulates the plight of a generation of forgotten people that suffered under the great wheels of oppression. The grist of a mill, slowly all that the Joad family had was taken from them one person and circumstance at a time. Drew and I know this sentiment well as each of us struggle to tender a keeping from the bitter soil of the new millennium. Similar to the Joads, we seemed to be promised a keeping from all of our family’s understanding of how the world worked. I use the past tense here because it seems that that world has changed, passed on, and left us with a much different reality that is trickier to manage and live in. I feel like we live in a hollowed out version of that reality that seems pregnant with possibility and disappointment. I cannot recall how many jobs I have had during the course of this project, but I know that in my short working life I have had 28 jobs and I am currently looking for number 29. All of the jobs leaping from the pages of Craig’s List are not the enchantment we dreamed of as children. I know that Drew has had his own struggles, and possibly couldn’t count up his numerous jobs. I don’t think that the Joads were keeping track either.
What is the most remarkable about this novel is the way it truly stands the test of time. Steinbeck was describing very recent circumstances and complicated issues which still ring exceptionally true to today. Steinbeck perfectly executes the profound mixture of anger and disappointment that must have pulsed through those affected by their circumstance. The same blood pumps through this generations veins. I do not feel that the sentiment of my peers is that we have a over-inflated sense of self worth. The work I have done has not been beneath me. I have worked and accepted what I have received as grace regardless. Instead, I feel there is a systemic issue that goes unaddressed in the discourse of our time as it did for the Joads. What I found remarkable is that Steinbeck struggles with the ineffable in this way as well. Steinbeck is writing about these issues shortly after they happened, and people were still struggling to understand what had just happened to the country. Steinbeck sees the pain and plight, and paints a horrifying picture back to the American people and he is made famous for it. Steinbeck in this manner is the bravest writer I can think of, and was awarded for his bravery which does not seem to always happen to the artist and I wanted to mark that here. I appreciated this book dearly, and I am sad that it is over. It was difficult to read. I cannot believe that this book was assigned to me in high school and I didn’t read it then. The Grapes of Wrath is worth every ounce of praise it receives. I felt the echo of the Battle hymn of the Republic as the final pages wound down into the unusual final scene. One thing that I regret is that I was so familiar with this story that none of it came as a surprise. I would have liked that the initial reading of this book in 1940; but I am grateful to have read it at all.