Socialist Worker

Vintage picture of hungry years

by Audrey Farrell
Issue No. 1711

THE GRAPES of Wrath by John Steinbeck is an experience, not just a good read. It's about the Joad family and friends being forced to migrate in the US during the 1930s Great Depression.

They move from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to the hope of work and a decent living in California. They are humiliated as migrants and suffer horribly. Poverty degrades them. But as the migrants flee from the terrors strange things happen to them-some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful.

You can smell the deliciousness of meals cooking on a fire when their hunger is being fed: 'At the camps at night 20 families became one family... a birth there in the tent, a hundred people share the birth joy in the morning.' There is the violence of exploitation in the fruit and cotton fields, and bitter struggles. But the last sentence of this epic is full of the confidence and faith that the struggle will continue.

Capitalism creates vicious waste and pain, and 'in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.'

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (Arrow Press, £6.99).

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Article information

Sat 26 Aug 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1711
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