The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes Of Wrath Book Review

A very, very long time ago I created a list of my 10 favorite books and have maintained and updated it ever since.

I don’t remember the exact date I created the list but I’ve always enjoyed reading. When I was still attending the one room school (Sedwick) my mother would drive me into the the small village of Alexis to the library so I could check out another set of books to devour. I acquired a reading habit then that I’ve kept throughout my life.

Recently I decided to read my 10 favorites again reasoning if I like them that much reading them again would be an enjoyable use of my precious time.

s7358-lgThe Grapes of Wrath was on my original list and has maintained its place on the list ever since. I just finished reading John Steinbeck’s saga of the dust bowl refugees last night. My first thought after closing the book was to pull it from my favorites list.

Back in the 60s when I first read The Grapes of Wrath I was an angry young man. The way the World treated the downtroden Joad family as well as all the migrant workers as less than human in the name of profit oturaged me. In the 60s we marched in the streets against discrimination of both blacks and women, disrupted the 68 Democratic National Convention, coined the phrase Make Love, Not War, and in general made a terrible nusiance of ourselves to the generation in power. We were young, full of energy, and out to change the World! Needless to say the book fit right in with my view of the Universe.

Now I’m 67, retired, and comfortable. Reading the book now just depresses me. Since the beginning of Man, men have always repressed other men, taken advantage of the less fortunate men, and even murdered them. Should we be surprised that Hitler killed 8 Million, and that ISIS is beheading inocients? Evil has been with us since Cain and Able. Tom Joad was not a bad man. He just happened to be born the son of an Oklahoma sharecropper and just happened to become a young man during the Dust Bowl. It wasn’t Tom’s fault he was born in the place and time he was born. It was just a matter of chance. There But For Fortune by Phil Ochs and sung by Joan Baez paints the picture much better than I can.

Show me the prison, show me the jail

Show me the prisoner, whose life has gone stale

And I’ll show you a young man

With so many reasons why

And there but for fortune, go you or I

After reading the book I feel both fortunate and guilty that I was born in the time and place I was born. If not for chance I could have been Tom Joad, gassed in Auschwitz, or an ISIS hostage.

In summary, The Grapes of Wrath stays on the list for now but its liable to be the first one knocked off.

Oh, and for those of you who have not read the book:

  • The Joad family are sharecroppers in Dust Bowl Oklahoma
  • Tom Joad, a son, has just been released from prison for killing a man in a barroom fight.
  • The Joads lose the farm and travel west to California hoping to find a better life.
  • In California, they lives hand to mouth working in a varitey of farms picking crops.
  • At the end of the book the Joads are broke, have no food, living in a barn, Winter is coming on, and there will be no work for at least the next 3 months.

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