Grapes of Wrath

I am back from my extended and unintended sabbatical. Its not that I wasn’t writing, I just didn’t feel like uploading whatever I wrote. I guess it was just a blue phase as far as blogging was concerned – if there is such a thing.

Moving on, I recently reread Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” and found it to be a lot better than my earlier readings. Perhaps now that I am older (and arguably more mature), I can relate deeply to the main plot of story. The last time I had read it was before I was married so my memories were of a good story well told. But now I found myself relating more and more to the characters and events. At one point when preacher Casy is killed, I actually found myself wondering whether socialism was actually better off than given credit for.

I am a die hard believer in democracy above all other forms of governance so you can imagine the impact the book has on the mind of its readers. Simply awesome. Steinbeck’s prose is also amazing. Its almost poetic in sections when he goes abstract and concentrates more on emotions than on grammar or POV. For me the prose is as important, if not more, than the plot and characters in a book. There is nothing better than a good story if told well. And Steinbeck has done an exceptional job. No wonder he got the Nobel prize in literature mainly due to this book as well as the Pulitzer.

After reading it as a person with a family of my own I can understand why the book was both banned and burned when it first came out, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of what life was like in the US after the great depression. It wasn’t till much later when people realized the value of this literary classic that it finally got the appreciation it deserves. And now its become required reading in both schools and colleges across the US. Its funny how people’s perception changes when they are reading about something that is happening around them and when they are reading something that happened a long time ago – especially if it’s the same thing.

He paints a grim picture of the life in post-depression era especially for farmers from central US who had to migrate to the western side looking for work. The book tells the story of a family of farmers from Oklahoma who had their land repossessed by banks for failure to repay the loans because of failed crops. They sell everything they have to migrate to California for a new life. It’s a complex tale of that family’s struggle to find the silver lining in the ever darkening skies of their lives. Its also about hope and in Robert Heinlein’s words – about victory in defeat.

This is one of the rare books that I wish I could forget so that when I read it, it will be for the first time and I could dive into it without dragging all my history with it. I doubt whether there are people who have not read it still but if you are one of those and you are looking for a read that can make a lasting impression on your mind and change the way you look at life, pick this one up and start reading it. You won’t be disappointed.

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