John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath (1939)



"Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul, aní he founí he didnít have no soul that was hisín. Says he founí he jusí got a little piece of a great big soul. Says a wilderness ainít no good, ícause his little piece of a soul wasnít no good íless it was with the rest, aní was whole."

About John Steinbeck: (1902-1968)

       Born February 27, 1902 in Salinas Valley, California. Died December 20, 1968 in New York.

       Won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

       Won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939.

       His writing reflects his wide range of interests: marine biology, jazz, politics, philosophy, history, and myth.

       He was unsuccessful in getting his first works published after he dropped out of Stanford.

       Seventeen of his works went on to become films. One of them (Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat) won an Academy Award for Best Writing.

       To symbolize himself, Steinbeck used the stamp of a Pigasus, a flying pig, and the phrase Ad Astra Per Alia Porci (To the stars on wings of pigs.)

       Often showed the negative side of capitalism, causing a lot of controversy and hatred towards him.


The Grapes of Wrath: (1939)

Theme: Man's inhumanity to man - the migrant workers' suffering was not caused by worldly forces, but by the more priveleged human beings around them. The strength and power of family and fellowship are also represented in the novel. There are in fact two families: the Joads and the migrant workers, though the former is part of the latter.



       Tom Joad ó protagonist of the story (although it could be argued that this is not entirely true)

       Ma Joad ó matriarch who helps the family keep together

       Jim Casy ó a former preacher who becomes an advocate for the holiness of humanity

       Al Joad ó the second youngest son who cares mainly for cars and girls; looks up to Tom, but begins to find his own way

       Rose of Sharon ("Rosasharn") Joad ó impractical, selfish daughter who develops as the novel progresses and grows to become a mature woman. She symbolizes rebirth and regrowth when she helps the starving stranger. One of the most moving characters.


Basic Plot:

            Tom Joad, just out of prison, meets a preacher from his childhood (Jim Casy) and is distressed to find his childhood farm home deserted. They then go to his uncle's house to learn that his family lost everything in the Dust Bowl. The family plans to move to California for the advertised high wages there. On the way to California, they find thousands of other families on the same journey, some of them on the way back, and realize that California may not be the ideal location they had hoped for. When they get there, they find thousands of applicants for every job due the oversupply of labor. In response to their exploitation, workers join unions, and Tom's family gets unintentionally involved in the laborers' struggle.