Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath
(researched by Brian Cordyack)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Copyright 1939 by John Steinbeck. First published in April 1939 by The Viking Press, New York. Printed in U.S.A. by Stratford Press; distributed in Canada by the Macmillian Company of Canada, LTD.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
Cloth
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
Three Hundred twelve leaves. [title page(i), publishing information(ii), dedication(iii),blank(iv)] [short title page(1), blank(2), text(3-619), blank (620)]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Not edited or introduced
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
Not illustrated
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The book is printed well. The text is simple, yet very readable. The title page is very bright and attractive. The physical presentation of text, chapter pages, and the title page is simple and appealing.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper has held up over time. It is fairly thin and light. There was a slightly yellowish tint to the Special Collections edition, which was more pronounced in the regular Alderman Library copy.
11 Description of binding(s)
Beige cloth with line drawings in reddish-brown on lower half of front cover, spine, and rear cover. Spine printed in reddish-brown. The spine is glued. Portion of the score to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" printed in reddish-brown on endpapers. Top edges stained in yellow, all edges trimmed.
12 Transcription of title page
The | Grapes of | Wrath/ JOHN STEINBECK[separation device]THE VIKING PRESS * NEW YORK
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Special Collections in Alderman Library at the University of Virginia
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The inside of the dust jacket contains the words "FIRST EDITION". There is a dedication that says, "To Carol, who willed it" "To Tom, who lived it". The dust jacket is illustrated by Elmer Hader. The original price was $2.75. The back inside cover of the dust jacket contains critical reviews of "The Long Valley" and also the prices of other Steinbeck plays and novels ranging between $2 and $2.50.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Viking critical edition (Studs Terkel), 1989; Viking Bantam Books Series edition, 1964; Viking Braille edition, 1939; Book Club edition, 1939; Viking Compass edition, 1982
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
Unable to locate information.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Knopf (1993); Library of America ("Grapes of Wrath and Other Writings, 1936-41"); Heinemann (1994); Everyman's Library (1994); Mandarin (1990); World Publishing (1947); Penguin Books (1989, 96); Chelsea House Publishers (1996); Sun Dial Press (1941); The Modern Library (A division of Random House, 1941) New York Council on Books in Wartime (1939); P.F. Collier and Son Corporation (1939); The Limited Editions Club (1940); The Heritage Press (1940); Penguin (1977); Collector's Reprints, Inc. (1989); Globe Fearson (1996); Continental Books Co. (1947); Heinemann and Secker and Warburg (1983); Franklin Library (1983); Book-of-the Month Club (1995); Heinemann (1939); International collectors Library (1939); Reader's Digest Association (1991); The Easton Press (1968); F. Watts (1939); Milestone Editions (1967); Book Club Associates (1969); J.G. Ferguson (1939); Progress Publishers (1978); World Books (1940); Pan Books (1975); Bordas (1972); World Publishing Company (1947); Heron Books (1971)
6 Last date in print?
1997 by Viking Penguin
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
2,100,908 copies sold between 1939 and 1975.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Unable to locate information.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The New York Times Book Review on Sunday, April 16, and Sunday, April 23, 1939. The ad included in large type: John | Steinbeck's | The | Grapes | of | Wrath. It gives The Viking Press' address and includes a picture of Steinbeck, and selected quotes: "Öhis biggest and richest and ripest, his toughest book and his tenderestÖ" - Lewis Gannett, "By all odds Steinbeck's greatest novel." -John Chamberlain, "Worth all the talk, all the anticipation, all the enthusiasm." -George Stevens. The April 16th ad carries the simple words: John Steinbeck's new novel The GRAPES of WRATH. It also contains in script the words: Just Published
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
A21019980222193141.jpg
11 Other promotion
Unable to find any other promotion. Steinbeck wouldn't promote the book personally. He felt the book should have to sell itself.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
A movie was made in 1940 entitled "The Grapes of Wrath". It was produced by Darryl F. Zanucks for 20th Century Fox, directed by John Ford, and starred Henry Fonda. A play version of the book was performed in 1988 at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
German: "Die Fruchte des Zornes", Zurich; Humanitas, Verlag, 1940 (3 p.1, 7-675 p.21 cm). Swedish: "Vredens druvor", Stockholm, Bokforlaget Aldus Bonniers, 1965 (478, 1, pg. 19cm). Japanese: "Ikari no budo" (translated by Yasuo Okobo), Tokyo, Shincho-sha, 1953 (526, pg. 20cm). French: "Grappes d'amertume" (translated by Karin Hatker), Bruxelles, De Kooe, 1944 (704, pg. 19cm).French: "Les raisin de colere" (Marcel Duhand) Paris, Galimard, 1947. Argentina: "Vinas de ira" (B. Diaz Gracian) Buenos Aires, Editorial Claridad, 1941. Braille: American Printing House for the Blind, 1970. Korean: "Punno nun p'odo ch'orom" (Pong-sik Kang) Soul, Uryu Munhwasa, 1976. Turkish: "Gazap Uzumleri", Istabul, Engin Yayincilik. Finland: "Vihan Hedelmat", Helsinki, Kustannusosakeyhtio Tammi, 1989. Spain: "El raim de la ira", Barcelona, Edicions, 1993. Japanese: "Sutainbekku" (Masaji Onoe), Tokyo, Chokoronsha, 1971. Romania: "Erik a gyumoles: regeny" Bukurest, Kriterion Konyrkiado, 1971.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
Steinbeck wrote a series of seven articles commissioned by the San Francisco News. The series, called "The Harvest Gypsies," was published later by The Simon S. Lubin Society of California as a pamphlet entitled, "Their Blood is Strong." In 1988 Heyday republished this under its original title: "The Harvest Gypsies: On the Road to the Grapes of Wrath"
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
None have been written.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
John Ernst Steinbeck was born at 132 Central Avenue in Salinas, California on February 27, 1902. His father, John Steinbeck, Sr., served as the County Treasurer, while his mother, Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, was a local school teacher. Through his mother, Steinbeck learned his love of reading and literature. He had three sisters, Elizabeth Steinbeck Ainsworth, Esther Steinbeck Rogers, and Mary Steinbeck Dekker. Growing up in Salinas, Steinbeck spent his summers as a hired hand at nearby ranches, working under the hot sun and nourishing his respect for the land of California and the people that inhabited it. This respect would show up in his novels, as most of his stories are set in his home state of California. He graduated from Salinas High School in June of 1919. Steinbeck enrolled in Stanford University that fall. He remained there six years, from 1919 to 1925. He originally declared a major of English, but decided after a year to pursue a program of independent study. His attendance was sporadic and he never completed his degree. During his time at Stanford, he held various jobs, finally deciding to pursue a career in writing in 1925. Leaving Stanford, Steinbeck traveled to New York, where he worked as a bricklayer, reporter, and a manual laborer for the construction of Madison Square Garden while he tried to find a publisher for his writings. Unsuccessful, he returned to California in 1927. In 1929, at age 27, Steinbeck published his first work, "Cup of Gold". This novel and the two subsequent to it, "The Pastures of Heaven" and "To a God Unknown" were poorly received by the literary world. Steinbeck married his first wife, Carol Henning, in 1930 and they moved to his family's home in Pacific Grove, California. Basing much of the material for the novel on Pacific Grove, Steinbeck published "Tortilla Flat" in 1935. Coupled with "In Dubious Battle" (1936), and "Of Mice and Men" (1937), these novels marked the turning point in Steinbeck's career. "Tortilla Flat" received the Commonwealth's Gold Medal for best novel by a California author, and brought him his first critical success. Following the publication of "Of Mice and Men", Steinbeck traveled to Oklahoma, where he joined a group of farmers embarking for California. Living and working with this family for two years, Steinbeck collected the experience that he would pour into his greatest work: "The Grapes of Wrath". Published in 1939, "The Grapes of Wrath" established Steinbeck's prominence in the literary world, earning him the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. Steinbeck divorced in 1942, and remarried Gwyndolyn Conger in 1943. He had two sons with Gwyndolen, Thomas and John. During this time, Steinbeck worked as a war correspondent in Italy and Northern Africa for the New York Herald Tribune. He published "Cannery Row" in 1945, "The Log from the Sea of Cortez" in 1951, "East of Eden " in 1952, and "Travels With Charley" in 1962. While remaining popular, these novels failed to earn him the critical support of his 1930's works. He divorced in 1948, and remarried Elaine Scott in 1950. In 1962, Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "?for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and a keen social perception." Steinbeck died on December 20, 1968 in New York City, his last place of residence. His ashes were placed in the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Salinas. Most of his original manuscripts and papers are located in the Special Collections at the University of Virginia.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
With its release in April of 1939, The Grapes of Wrath swept the country, bringing on a storm of reviews. In his writing on Steinbeck's career, Peter Lisca recalled the impact of the book's publication: "The Gra
pes of Wrath was a phenomenon on the scale of a national event. It was publicly banned and burned by citizens, it was debated on national radio hook-ups; but above all, it was read." Steinbeck's passionate portrayal of the journey of the starving Joad
family from the dust bowls of Oklahoma to the fertile valley of California evoked an emotional response in all that read it. Earle Birney called the writing of the book, "a 'deed' - the act of a man out of the pity and wrath of his heart," while a crit
ic for the London Times named it "one of the most arresting [novels] of its time." Steinbeck's popularity with the American public soared, as they found his words to be from the heart of a man whose novels celebrated life and the common fellowship of ma
n. This ability to evoke emotion led to serious criticism of the message of The Grapes of Wrath, as Steinbeck was attacked as a propagandist and a socialist from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The most fervent of these attacks ca
me from the Associated Farmers of California, as they were displeased with the book's depiction of California farmer's attitudes and conduct toward the migrants. They denounced the book as a "pack of lies" and labeled it "communist propaganda". Along
with this group, Steinbeck's novel garnered a negative response from a variety of other sources. Burton Rascoe of Newsweek called Grapes of Wrath a "mess of silly propaganda, superficial observation, careless infidelity to the proper use of idiom, taste
less pornographical and scatagorical talk." Despite the prevalence of these glaringly critical responses, most other negative thoughts were on Steinbeck's literary technique, writing style, or characterization. Coupled with almost every one of these ne
gative responses, was the reviewer's insistence that this novel was a great and important one. Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Peter Monro Jack qualifies his criticisms about plot structure: "All this is true enough but the real truth is tha
t Steinbeck has written a novel from the depth's of his heart with a sincerity seldom equaled. It may be an exaggeration, but it is the exaggeration of an honest and splendid writer." While provoking criticism from various groups for the book's messa
ge, and various reviewers for technical aspects, The Grapes of Wrath captured the popularity of the American public, securing it as one of the best "protest" novels of all time.
Peter Monro Jack, New York Times; Edward Weeks, Atlantic, Booklist; J.H. Jackson, Books; E.B. Garside, Boston Transcript; Earle Birney, Canadian Forum; Art Kuhl, Catholic World; L.A.S., Christian Science Monitor, Cleveland Open Shelf; J.N. Vaughan, Co
mmonweal; M.L. Elting, Forum; Wilfrid Gibson, Manchester Guardian; Louis Kronenberger, Nation; Malcolm Cowley, New Republic; Anthony West, New Statesman and Nation; Clifton Fadiman, New Yorker; Charles Angoff, North America, Pratt; George Stevens,
Saturday review of Literature; J.H. Caskey, Saturday review of Literature; Kate O'Brien, Spec, Springfield Republican; Leon Whipple, Survey G; Time, Times [London] Literature Supplement, Wis Lib Bull (abr); Ralph Thompson, Yale Review; Burton Rasc
oe, Newsweek; Philip Rahv, Partisan Review; Rev. Arthur D. Spearman, Albany Times-Union; London Times; Westbrook Pegler; Raymond Calpper; Frank J. Taylor, Forum; Collier
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
With its release in April of 1939, The Grapes of Wrath swept the country, bringing on a storm of reviews. In his writing on Steinbeck's career, Peter Lisca recalled the impact of the book's publication: "The Gra
pes of Wrath was a phenomenon on the scale of a national event. It was publicly banned and burned by citizens, it was debated on national radio hook-ups; but above all, it was read." Steinbeck's passionate portrayal of the journey of the starving Joad
family from the dust bowls of Oklahoma to the fertile valley of California evoked an emotional response in all that read it. Earle Birney called the writing of the book, "a 'deed' - the act of a man out of the pity and wrath of his heart," while a crit
ic for the London Times named it "one of the most arresting [novels] of its time." Steinbeck's popularity with the American public soared, as they found his words to be from the heart of a man whose novels celebrated life and the common fellowship of ma
n. This ability to evoke emotion led to serious criticism of the message of The Grapes of Wrath, as Steinbeck was attacked as a propagandist and a socialist from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The most fervent of these attacks ca
me from the Associated Farmers of California, as they were displeased with the book's depiction of California farmer's attitudes and conduct toward the migrants. They denounced the book as a "pack of lies" and labeled it "communist propaganda". Along
with this group, Steinbeck's novel garnered a negative response from a variety of other sources. Burton Rascoe of Newsweek called Grapes of Wrath a "mess of silly propaganda, superficial observation, careless infidelity to the proper use of idiom, taste
less pornographical and scatagorical talk." Despite the prevalence of these glaringly critical responses, most other negative thoughts were on Steinbeck's literary technique, writing style, or characterization. Coupled with almost every one of these ne
gative responses, was the reviewer's insistence that this novel was a great and important one. Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Peter Monro Jack qualifies his criticisms about plot structure: "All this is true enough but the real truth is tha
t Steinbeck has written a novel from the depth's of his heart with a sincerity seldom equaled. It may be an exaggeration, but it is the exaggeration of an honest and splendid writer." While provoking criticism from various groups for the book's messa
ge, and various reviewers for technical aspects, The Grapes of Wrath captured the popularity of the American public, securing it as one of the best "protest" novels of all time.
Peter Monro Jack, New York Times; Edward Weeks, Atlantic, Booklist; J.H. Jackson, Books; E.B. Garside, Boston Transcript; Earle Birney, Canadian Forum; Art Kuhl, Catholic World; L.A.S., Christian Science Monitor, Cleveland Open Shelf; J.N. Vaughan, Co
mmonweal; M.L. Elting, Forum; Wilfrid Gibson, Manchester Guardian; Louis Kronenberger, Nation; Malcolm Cowley, New Republic; Anthony West, New Statesman and Nation; Clifton Fadiman, New Yorker; Charles Angoff, North America, Pratt; George Stevens,
Saturday review of Literature; J.H. Caskey, Saturday review of Literature; Kate O'Brien, Spec, Springfield Republican; Leon Whipple, Survey G; Time, Times [London] Literature Supplement, Wis Lib Bull (abr); Ralph Thompson, Yale Review; Burton Rasc
oe, Newsweek; Philip Rahv, Partisan Review; Rev. Arthur D. Spearman, Albany Times-Union; London Times; Westbrook Pegler; Raymond Calpper; Frank J. Taylor, Forum; Collier
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath couples social protest with a celebration of life and humanity, securing it both a critical and public popularity that has remained since its publication in 1939. Steinbeck
combines intense understanding with a social awareness to portray the cruel journey of the Joad family from the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma to the fertile valley of Steinbeck's native California. Secure in the familiar surroundings of his home, Steinbeck is f
ree to dive into the social injustice set upon the starving migrant workers by the big farm owner associations. This struggle was raging at the time of the book's publication, giving its message added poignancy. Despite early labels of "communist prop
aganda", The Grapes of Wrath extolled the common humanity of man, as the Joads joined thousands of similar migrants on the road to the promise land of California. The common bond between man flows thematically throughout the book, supporting Steinbeck's
belief in human strength during times of strife. Reinforced by the movie release in 1940, the story of the Joads awoke in America a sense of outrage at the human suffering taking place around them. While this emotion was ever more prominent in the era
in which it was written, the continued popularity of the book gives testament to the universal realism of the Joad's plight. Relying on hard work and commitment in his work, Steinbeck conveyed his integrity to the public, thus aiding the truth of the bo
ok's message. Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath from the anger and passion in his heart, and the power of his statement has insured the book's popularity. Published in April of 1939, The Grapes of Wrath's message of social protest led to its initial popularity. With the suffering of the migrant workers already spanning the country's newspapers, America finally got an inside look at the people involved.
With so prevalent a subject, book sales swelled. In writing about the publication of the Grapes of Wrath, Daniel Aaron describes the formula Steinbeck possessed that facilitated the novel's initial success: "A special combination of marketable literary
talent, historical timing, eye for the significant subject, and power of identification." He adds that this combination made the book "the first of the Thirties protest novels to be read on a comparable scale with?best-selling novels." The power of iden
tification allowed readers to empathize with the Joads suffering and thus recognize the social peril occurring in the country. The significance of the book's message thus ignited heated discussion over not only the book itself, but also the situation it
depicted. Peter Lisca illustrates the national impact of its publication: "The Grapes of Wrath was a phenomenon on the scale of a national event. It was publicly banned and burned by citizens; it was debated on national radio hook-ups; but above all it
was read." Many reviews at the time of publication recognized the significance the book held for the American conscience. In writing for Atlantic Monthly, Edward Weeks displayed the power of the situation: "To me, The Grapes of Wrath is the summation o
f eighteen years of realism, a novel whose hunger, passion, and poetry are in direct answer to the angry stirring of our conscience these past seven years." Evoking emotion and awareness of the migrant workers' dismal condition, the book quickly became
the number one national best seller. In order to evoke the emotional response which allowed his social criticism to flourish, Steinbeck fortified his book with solid realism. For two years prior to the publication of The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck spent his time with a group of migrant wor
kers making their way towards California. Travelling and working with the laborers, Steinbeck found the heartfelt material in which to base his book. Daniel Aaron explains the need for first-hand experience: "To make their story convincing, he had to re
port their lives with fidelity." Steinbeck was able to translate his experiences with the migrants into a careful realism that evoked sympathy and understanding in the reader. He possessed what Fredrick Bracher described as, "a way of looking at things ch
aracteristic of a biologist." This ability allowed him to create characters and scenes mirroring reality. Illustrating his objective approach, Steinbeck was not blind to the imperfections of the migrants. Warren French explains Steinbeck's description
: "He shows clearly that he writes about a group of thoughtless, impetuous, suspicious, ignorant people." Coupled with the book's authentic characters, the descriptive setting adds to the realistic portrayal. Steinbeck was a native of California, and as
Nancy McWilliams suggests, "his writings never succeeded very well when he tried to walk alien soil." Steinbeck's descriptive power shows clearly as the Joads come upon the fertile valley of California: "Suddenly they saw the great valley below them.
Al jammed on the brake and stopped in the middle of the road, and 'Jesus Christ!' Look!' he said. The vineyards, the orchards, the great flat valley, green and beautiful, the trees set in rows, and the farm houses." The power of Steinbeck's persona
lized account of the migrant workers and the land they work added weight and validity to his social criticism. In reading The Grapes of Wrath, the public discovered realistic suffering which illuminated the book's message and ignited its popularity. Steinbeck's descriptive power was a perfect basis for a movie version, which aided the book's popularity tremendously. Released in 1940 starring Henry Fonda, The Grapes of Wrath movie brought Steinbeck's authentic story of human suffering to even mor
e of the population. The novel itself contained all the ingredients for a film version, for, as Aaron writes, the novel "unfolds cinematically almost as if Steinbeck had conceived of it as a documentary film." As is often the case, the movie's release a
dded to book sales. Scott Simkins explains, "With the release of Grapes of Wrath and its film adaptation by John Ford a year later, Steinbeck's popularity with the American public soared, and with that public his reputation never diminished." In the ca
se of the religiously charged best-selling novel, The Robe, the release of the movie a decade after the publication of the book placed the book back atop the bestseller list. While not as extreme, the release of the movie version of The Grapes of Wrath h
elped the book to stay on the best seller charts two years in a row. Just as Steinbeck's realistic portrayal facilitates the reader's connection and understanding of the Joads, the release of the movie brought these characters to life for thousands of A
mericans, aiding the book's popularity. From the initial boost of social relevance coupled with a film version, the book's popularity has remained high, owing, in large part, to its continued appeal both publicly and critically. As Jackson Benson points out, unswerving reader loyalty can of
ten adversely affect a writer's critical reception; however, this was not the case for The Grapes of Wrath. Even with the huge popular following garnered by the book upon publication, its critical reception remained strong. In examining the novel, the
answer becomes clear, as Steinbeck's obvious passion and positive celebration of man's strength in the face of adversity relates to a basic level of humanity found in everyone. Stemming from his first hand experience with the migrants, Steinbeck poured
his personal anger and indignation at their condition into the pages of The Grapes of Wrath. In addition to his ability to report his subjects objectively and realistically, Steinbeck's emotion permeated the story. Nancy McWilliams and Wilson McWillam
s elaborate on the strength of his writing: "The real power of The Grapes of Wrath is the savage anger at the impersonal process that uproots men from the land and rapes it." In almost every review of the book, the obvious power of Steinbeck's feeling c
omes through, exhibiting how real and attractive it is. Earle Birney defined it as "what Milton would call a 'deed' - the act of a man out of the wrath and pity of his heart." This passion adds weight to the story and appeals to the public and critics
alike. As noted earlier, Steinbeck had the formula based in social protest for writing a great novel, he just needed the heartfelt emotion to drive him to completion. Steinbeck's anger at the migrant condition flows neatly into his belief in the impor
tance of man's strength and life. This belief permeates throughout his works, and in the case of The Grapes of Wrath, his optimistic picture of man in the midst of suffering accounts for much of his popularity. In his review for the Saturday Review of L
iterature, George Stevens explained the special characteristic of the book: "The unique quality of The Grapes of Wrath?is an understanding of courage; courage that exists as the last affirmation of human dignity." Steinbeck's understanding of human chara
cter and dignity allows The Grapes of Wrath to raise man above suffering, offering a message of hope to readers. Walter Allen explains Steinbeck's philosophy and how it differed from even his social anger: "he has a generous indignation at the spectacle
of human suffering. But apart from this, he is the celebrant of life, any kind of life, just because it is life." By focusing on the resilience and glory of human life, Steinbeck set himself apart from his contemporaries. The anger of injustice couple
d with a belief in life form a crucial reason for the book's continued popularity. In addition to the emotional philosophy behind the story, The Grapes of Wrath continues to stand out both because of the universal appeal of Steinbeck's depiction of a collective humanity. In combating the oppressive structure of large-scale growers, th
e migrants have to adapt in order to survive. Following a theme prominent in all his works, Steinbeck reveals man's tendency to find strength within a group. While the migrant's plight is uniquely American, their reverting to interdependence among one
another in order to survive is something that spans all cultures. This pervading theme contributes to the continued popularity locally as well as internationally. Translated into almost every language, The Grapes of Wrath promotes a universal identific
ation with the characters. As the migrants move steadily towards California, Steinbeck describes the phenomenon of human connection: "Because they were all lonely and perplexed, because they had all come from a place of sadness and worry and defeat, and
because they were all going to a new mysterious place, they huddled together; they shared their lives?in the evening a strange thing happened: the twenty families became one family." Steinbeck shows man's natural tendency to group together in order to f
ind strength, thus illustrating his plea for a return to the importance of group dependence in the lives of individuals. While some called this a Communist attitude, Steinbeck saw it as the only way to heal an increasingly selfish society. Despite the A
merican setting of the novel, the universal theme of the importance of humanity earned it international success, while facilitating its continued popularity with the passage of time. Though much of the book's success is based on the power of Steinbeck's writing and thought, his public persona as a man of integrity can not be overlooked. His work habit and public comments lent authenticity to the realism of his book's story. Wor
king with his publisher in advertising The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck flatly refused to publicly promote the book, asserting that it had to stand on its own merit. This decision reveals just how passionate he felt about the subject of his book, consequen
tly informing the public of just how strong a story it was. In a modern age in which anything and everything has been done in order to publicize a book or movie, the public can often fail to recognize sincerity when they see it. Earning the Nobel Prize i
n 1962, Steinbeck emphasized the integrity and passion that drove his literature: "the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit - for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion, and love?I
hold that writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature." His words clearly show his noble attitude toward his profession of writing. Throughout his career, his dedication, passio
n, and integrity have shown through to the public, increasing the popularity of his books. The Grapes of Wrath is rich with the indignation and passion of a man deeply moved by human suffering. With it's popularity based in the social turmoil of Dust Bowl migration, Steinbeck combined detailed realism with powerful emotion to create a univer
sal notion of humanity. The book has appealed to both the public and critics since its publication, earning the status of a classic of American literature. While this gives the book an almost secure critical status, its potentially wavering popularity r
emains strong. Over 100,000 copies are still sold annually all over the world. The Grapes of Wrath is a moving story of human courage and strength with a universal appeal that has withstood the passage of time.
Supplemental Material
First ad for "The Grapes of Wrath" appearing in the New York Times Book Review on April 16, 1939
Poster ad for the 1940 movie version of "The Grapes of Wrath"
You are not logged in. (Sign in)