Amazing Prose: The Grapes of Wrath

Well, I’m not done with it yet, but this amazing book deserves some “in the middle” posts. I’m about halfway through Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and am absolutely blown away by it. This book makes me want to linger on every word, read chapters twice. Just flat unbelievable. I can’t believe that I’ve never read it before. The thing that’s amazing to me so far is the way that Steinbeck captures the large (what was happening to America during that period) and the small (the details of the Joad family as they head from Oklahoma to California). Just amazing.

Here’s something from chapter 5, where he’s talking about the banks and the companies pushing out the families. Listen:

Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves. Some of them hated the mathematics that drove them, and some were afraid, and some worshiped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling. If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner man said, the Bank–or the Company–needs–wants–insists–must have–as thoughthe Bank of the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to such cold and powerful masters.

What’s incredible to me is how perfectly that describes a million different situations in our lives today. Anytime you’ve stood in line at the DMV, or tried to get your airline ticket changed, or tried to explain how an American isn’t the same thing as the American government.

Anyway, I’ll post more before I’m done, no doubt. Just thought it was worth mentioning that I’ll run out of superlatives by the end.

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