The Books Guide

Books from libraries and publishers worldwide


The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath is written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939. The novel received both Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature, entering the world literature elite.

The book comes from a seven-article series, “The Harvest Gypsies”, the author wrote on migrant workers during the Great Depression. When it was published, The Grapes of Wrath generated a lot of controversy, as it was banned and burned, but heavily read.

Plot Summary
The Grapes of Wrath is focused on the story of the Joads, a poor family looking for a making a living during the harsh years of the Great Depression. Recently released from jail, Tom Joad meets Jim Casy on his way back home and they become friends. As they arrive at Joad`s house, they find it empty because the family was staying at an uncle`s after crops were destroyed by the drought and the farm taken by the bank.

The only solution appears to be going to fruitful California. The family begins a long and hazardous trip to California. On their way they meet many other families driven by the same promise, but there are also stories of the ones coming back from California where it appears that things are not so as expected. The Joads have no choice but to continue their journey because they have nothing left back in Oklahoma.

Once arrived in California, they realize there is an oversupply of workers compared with the little work there is to do. In addition to the lack of work, the family is treated with no respect even by the other migrants. Even if they get work at several farms, they cannot earn enough money to survive. There are also other complications such as Tom becoming a fugitive after killing Casy`s murderer.

To make things worse, a flood happens near the end of the harvest season and makes workers seek for higher ground. The Joads find shelter on a farm. The novel ends with the scene in which Rose of Sharon, who had a stillborn child, breast-feeds a sick man who cannot eat solid food due to starvation.


The message of the book is that no matter the problems, a family surpasses anything by sticking together. The main themes are the saving power of family and fellowship, as well as man`s inhumanity to man, the dignity of wrath, the effects of altruism and selfishness.

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