DIKSIA.COM - The Grapes of Wrath is one of the most celebrated and influential novels in American literature. Written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939, it tells the story of the Joad family, a poor clan of tenant farmers from Oklahoma who are forced to leave their home and seek a better life in California during the 1930s. Along the way, they face many challenges and hardships, as well as encounter the harsh realities of the economic and social conditions of the era.
The novel is based on Steinbeck's own observations and research, as well as his personal sympathy for the plight of the “Okies”, the derogatory term used for the thousands of migrants who fled the Dust Bowl, a region of severe drought and soil erosion that affected parts of the Great Plains. Steinbeck was inspired by the work of Dorothea Lange, a photographer who documented the lives and struggles of the migrants for the Farm Security Administration, a government agency that aimed to provide relief and assistance to the rural poor.
The Grapes of Wrath is not only a realistic and vivid portrayal of the Great Depression, but also a powerful and moving exploration of the themes of injustice, equality, human dignity, and social responsibility. The novel has been praised for its literary merit, its social criticism, and its moral vision, as well as criticized for its political bias, its sentimentalism, and its vulgarity. It won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and was a major factor in Steinbeck's Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.
The Title and the Symbolism
The title of the novel comes from a line in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, a patriotic song written by Julia Ward Howe in 1861 during the American Civil War. The song uses biblical imagery to express the idea of God's wrath and judgment against the enemies of freedom and justice. The line “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored” refers to the Book of Revelation, where the winepress of God's wrath is a metaphor for the final destruction of the wicked.