John Steinbeck won a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath, which was inspired by the Great Depression. The story follows the journey of a poor family of Joads who were pushed out of their homes and land in Oklahoma after the banks confiscated them during the Great Depression, leaving the family homeless. In the expectation of better pay, the family and other poor tenants are persuaded to move to California.
Steinbeck aptly captures the farmers’ disappointment as they learn that the California dream they were sold was nothing more than a mirage. We are given a brief overview of life at these migrant camps through the eyes of Tom Joad, the main protagonist. During the gold rush, families could hardly scrape together enough money to feed themselves, while the wealthy profited from their labour.
Throughout the novel, we see the different challenges that these poor farmers face, from being shot for forming labour unions to family members leaving due to poverty’s hardships. When you read about the inequitable care migrant workers get, the heartbreaking injustice they experience, and the bleak and serious consequences of vulturistic capitalism that poor people face, you know that Steinbeck was able to write a book that is still socio-politically important 75 years later.
The miserable living conditions of farmers, as well as the exploitative existence of landlords, can be seen in modern society. The book appeals to many working-class people because of its authentic depiction of their struggles. When the book was first published, it drew a lot of criticism and was largely banned in California, with accusations that Steinbeck was supporting communist propaganda.
I strongly advise people to add this American classic to their reading lists because it is a beautiful story about humanity, hope, and agitation that is particularly pertinent in these times.