First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads-driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.
A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America.
The Grapes of Wrath summed up its era in the way that Uncle Tom’s Cabin summed up the years of slavery before the Civil War. Sensitive to fascist and communist criticism, Steinbeck insisted that “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” be printed in its entirety in the first edition of the book—which takes its title from the first verse: “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.
This edition contains an introduction and notes by Steinbeck scholar Robert Demott.
“Steinbeck is a poet. . . . Everything is real, everything perfect.” —Upton Sinclair, Common Sense
“I think, and with earnest and honest consideration . . . that The Grapes of Wrath is the greatest American novel I have ever read.” — Dorothy Parker
“It seems to me as great a book as has yet come out of America.” —Alexander Woollcott
A Note on the Text
I. The Grapes of Wrath: The Text
Map of the Joads’ Journey
II. The Social Context
Frank J. Taylor, California’s Grapes of Wrath
Carey McWilliams, California Pastoral
Martin Shockley, The Reception of The Grapes of Wrath in Oklahoma
III. The Creative Context
Jackson J. Benson, The Background to the Composition of The Grapes of Wrath
Robert DeMott, “Working Days and Hours”: Steinbeck’s Writing of The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck, Suggestion for an Interview with Joseph Henry Jackson
Editors’ Introduction: The Pattern of Criticism
Frederic I. Carpenter, The Philosophical Joads
Peter Lisca, The Grapes of Wrath as Fiction
Robert J. Griffin and William A. Freedman, Machines and Animals: Pervasive Motifs in The Grapes of Wrath
John R. Reed, The Grapes of Wrath and the Esthetics of Indigence
Patrick W. Shaw, Tom’s Other Trip: Psycho-Physical Questing in The Grapes of Wrath
John J. Conder, Steinbeck and Nature’s Self: The Grapes of Wrath
Louis Owens, The American Joads
John Ditsky, The Ending of The Grapes of Wrath: A Further Commentary
Nellie Y. McKay, From “Happy [?]-Wife-and-Motherdom”: The Portrayal of Ma Joad in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath
Mimi Reisel Gladstein, The Grapes of Wrath: Steinbeck and the Eternal Immigrant
Topics for Discussion and Papers