It is widely considered as one of the most influential and important works of American literature, as it depicts the hardships and struggles of migrant farmworkers during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.
The novel follows the Joad family, a poor family of tenant farmers from Oklahoma, who are forced to leave their home and land due to drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes, and bank foreclosures.
They join thousands of other “Okies” who are heading west to California, hoping to find jobs, land, dignity, and a future.
Along the way, they face many challenges and obstacles, such as hunger, illness, death, discrimination, exploitation, and violence.
They also encounter different people and places that reflect the social and political realities of the era, such as labor camps, Hoovervilles, strikes, vigilantes, and government agencies.
The novel is not only a realistic and vivid portrayal of the human condition, but also a powerful and poetic expression of the American spirit.
Steinbeck uses various literary techniques, such as symbolism, imagery, dialogue, intercalary chapters, and biblical allusions, to convey his themes and messages.
He also draws on his own experiences as a journalist and a worker in California during the 1930s, as well as his extensive research and interviews with migrants and activists.
Some of the main themes that Steinbeck explores in The Grapes of Wrath are:
- The injustice and oppression of the poor and marginalized by the powerful and wealthy
- The resilience and endurance of the human spirit in the face of adversity
- The importance and value of family, community, solidarity, and compassion
- The conflict and contrast between individualism and collectivism, selfishness and altruism, greed and generosity
- The role and responsibility of religion and morality in society
- The connection and harmony between humans and nature
The novel has had a lasting impact on American culture and history. It has inspired many artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, activists, and scholars to create works that reflect or respond to its themes and issues.