Understanding The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck, 1902-1968 – Author of The Grapes of Wrath

Center for Steinbeck Studies, located at San José State University, is the largest Steinbeck archive in the world housing over 30,000 items including manuscripts, original letters, film memorabilia, and over 800 photographs. This site provides details of Steinbeck’s life and work, his 1962 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, as well as a virtual tour of Steinbeck homes, locations, and Steinbeck country, Sources for Further Reading, and more.

Early Twentieth Century – John Steinbeck (1902-1968). PAL – Perspectives in American Literature – A Research and Reference Guide. Internal links include: Primary Works, Selected Bibliography, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), and Study Questions.

John Ernst Steinbeck and the FBI. From the Smoking Gun archive, an actual Memorandum dated July 20, 1965: “Although he has never been investigated by the FBI, he wrote Attorney General Biddle in May, 1942, as follows: ‘Do you suppose you could ask Edgar’s boys to stop stepping on my heels? They think I am an enemy alien. It is getting tiresome.'”

John Steinbeck – Biography. Brief biography of John Steinbeck, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1962. Site includes Steinbeck’s Presentation Speech, text of his Banquet Speech, and Other Resources.

John Steinbeck Collections from Stanford University Libraries.

John Steinbeck’s Biography. A very brief biography of John Steinbeck with a photograph.

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Analysis, Critique, Reviews and General Resources on The Grapes of Wrath

Book-a-Minute Classics: The Grapes of Wrath. An ultra-condensed humorous synopsis. Summarizes the entire novel in one succinct sentence.

The Grapes of Web is the contribution of Librarians’ Index to the Internet (lii.org) to California’s Statewide Reading Program. Topics include:John Steinbeck, The Dust Bowl, The Novel, The Great Depression, The Film, The New Deal, Music, Route 66, Humor, Oklahoma, Dorothea Lange, Agricultural Laborers, Book Clubs & Statewide Reading Projects, and Library Programs.

The Grapes of Wrath revisited: A modern-day road trip through John Steinbeck’s fiction to Barack Obama’s reality by Chris McGreal. “From dust to bust, America’s poor take on a new type of monster. Seventy years after The Grapes of Wrath, Chris McGreal recreates John Steinbeck’s famous fictional journey to reveal life in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

Kern County | Banned Books Awareness describes Kern County’s decision to ban “The Grapes of Wrath” in August of 1939.

Critical Analysis of “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck. From Inkweaver Review. “‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ by John Steinbeck is a classic novel noted for its descriptive quality, and fascinating writing techniques. However, its seemingly historical theme is mainly designed to promote socialistic theories.”

The Grapes of Wrath Analysis from shmoop.com. Includes Literary Devices: Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory, Setting, Point of View, Genre, Tone, Writing Style, Plot Analysis, Trivia, and more.

Selections for Discussion from The Great Books Foundation: The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl. Includes an Introduction to the 3 novels, and 15 questions on the Grapes of Wrath, e.g.: As Tom leaves the family, he says, “I’ll be ever’where—wherever you look” (p. 419). In what sense does he mean “everywhere”? What does Steinbeck mean when he writes, “In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage” (p. 349)? Why does the book start with drought and end with floods? What is the source of Ma’s conviction that “we’re the people—we go on” (p. 280)? Does nature function as a force for either good or evil in this book? Includes also questions for Further Reflection.

Steinbeck Bibliography: Grapes of Wrath Criticism. Annotated bibliography of 18 critical articles, arranged in alphabetical order by critics from to August to Wiener, e.g. August, Eugene. “Our Stories/Our Selves: The American Dream Remembered in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.” University of Dayton Review 23.3 (1996): 5-17. Wiener, Gary, ed. Readings on The Grapes of Wrath. Greenhaven Press Lit. Companion to Amer. Lit. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1999.

Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath by Brian Cordyack at University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Information covers Bibliographic Description, Publication History, a Brief Biography, Contemporary Reception, and a Critical Essay.

Steinbeck’s Call to Action. Review of The Grapes of Wrath by Michele Marchand. Asks whether Steinbeck’s novel still has a message for us 60 years later, with 2,500 homeless people without shelter in Seattle alone, and 70,000 homeless migrant workers statewide during the picking seasons? Article published by Real Change, Seattle’s Homeless Newspaper, circa 2000.

Steinbeck’s Myth of the Okies by Keith Windschuttle. From The New Criterion Vol. 20, No. 10, June 2002. In this article, Windschuttle argues that the story in The Grapes of Wrath has little connection to the history of the Great Depression or the experience of the great majority of the Okies. Hosted by FreeRepublic.com.

Why Read John Steinbeck? by Susan Shillinglaw, originally published in The Californian.

OKIE. An Essay on the term Okie and it’s relationship with the The Grapes of Wrath.

Study Guides on The Grapes of Wrath

Bookwolf Online Free Booknotes: The Grapes of Wrath. Contents: Context – Chapter Summaries and Interpretations, The Author, Characters, Chapters 1-30, and Questions.

The Grapes of Wrath Study Guide & Literature Essays | GradeSaver. Contents: About the Author John Steinbeck, Short Summary of the Novel, Full Summary and Analysis, Character List, Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-30, plus Essays: Contrasting the Movie and Novel Form of the Grapes of Wrath, Four Pages of Fear, Hostility, and Exploitation, and All in the Family in The Grapes of Wrath.

The Grapes of Wrath on shmoop.com. Includes In A Nutshell video, Summary, Themes, Quotes, Characters, Analysis, Questions, Photos, Quizzes, Flashcards, and more.

Grapes of Wrath eNotes. Contents: Grapes of Wrath: Introduction, John Steinbeck Biography, List of Characters, Historical Background, Chapter-by-Chapter Summary, Discussion and Analysis (Chapter-by-Chapter Critical Commentary), Character Analysis, Complete Critical Essays on Various Topics, Chapter Quizzes (Chapter-by-Chapter Questions and Answers), Suggested Essay Topics, and Sample Essay Outlines.

PinkMonkey Literature Notes on The Grapes of Wrath edited by Diane Sauder. An excellent source for an organized and structured study of the novel. Contents: Key Literary Elements covering Setting, Characters, Conflict, Plot, Themes, Mood, Background Information, and Literary/Historical Information. Chapter Summaries with Notes – Chapters 1-30, Overall Analyses of Characters, Plot, and Themes, plus Study Questions, Bibliography, as well as Comment on the study of Literature.

SparkNotes: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Contents: Context, Plot Overview, Characters, Character Analysis, Themes, Chapters 1 – 30, Quotations, Facts, Study Questions and Essay Topics, Quiz, and Further Reading.

Summary of The Grapes of Wrath (1939). A very short summary.

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath : Reader’s Guide. Read online or download E-Reader copy. “The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest … The Big Read for military communities is made possible by Boeing”–P. 4 of cover

Lesson Plans and Webquests on The Grapes of Wrath

Book Club Questions for The Grapes of Wrath. 18 analytical questions on the novel.

Creating Dramatic Monologues from “The Grapes of Wrath” from DiscoverySchool.com. Objectives of lesson plans designed for Grades 9-12 are: Students will understand the universal nature of Steinbeck’s characters’ struggles and some of the complex forces affecting their lives; and the value of primary source material in presenting an authentic picture of an given period in history. Detailed lesson plans include procedures, adaptions, discussions questions, plus other valuable resources e.g. video clip, vocabulary where you can hear the words (e.g. arable, harrowing, migrant, viracity, vigilante) pronounced and used in a sentence, links to relevant sites, and more.

The Grapes of Wrath – Scrapbooks and Artifacts: Ethnographic Field Studies in Fiction. Teacher Lesson Plan by Linda and David Lackey. Recommended Grade Level: 11-12. Teacher’s Guide: Introduction to American Memory, Lesson 1: Ethnography, Lesson 2: Photo Analysis, Lesson 3: Oral History, Lesson 4: Material Artifacts and Textual Support, Lesson 5: Museum Exhibition.

Learning Guide to: The Grapes of Wrath. From Teach with Movies. States the educational values and benefits for selecting this film: “This film is an introduction to the Great Depression. It explores the stress of hard times on a family and the oppression of migrant workers by large landowners.” Designed for students Grade 6 and up. Provides clear and concise background information on the historical context of the 1940 movie. Includes discussion questions, words and phrases, ethical emphasis, and links to other lesson plans.

John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” : Verbal Pictures from EDSITEment. Contains Introduction, Guiding Questions, Learning Questions, Background, Preparation Instructions, Lesson Activities, Assessment, and Extending the Lesson.

Woody Guthrie and The Grapes of Wrath. Rationale for lesson plan: Studying the music of Woody Guthrie along with John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath will enhance students’ understanding of both works and of the historical conditions which produced them. Students will see how these artists drew inspiration from the common people and how both attempted to use their art as agents of social change. Objectives: Students will recognize thematic parallels between Woody Guthrie’s music and Steinbeck’s novel; develop an appreciation for The Grapes of Wrath and the music of Woody Guthrie, (Tom Joad Lyrics) as works of art and historical documents; and explore the idea of the “American spirit.”

Woody Guthrie Dust Bowl Ballads. Background, Song List includes lyrics: Blowin’ Down This Old Dusty Road (1930s), (If You Ain’t Got the) Do Re Mi (1937), Dust Bowl Blues (1930s), Dust Bowl Refugee(s) (1938), Dust Can’t Kill Me (1938), Dust Pneumonia Blues (1938), Dusty Old Dust (So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh) (1935), The Great Dust Sotrm (dust Storm Disaster) (1930s), I Ain’t Got No Home (1938), Pretty Boy Floyd (Mar 1939), Talking Dust Bowl (1930s), Tom Joad (1940), and Vigilante Man (1930s).

Movies, Videos, Images, Music, Multimedia Sites on The Grapes of Wrath

An American Classic: John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath – First Edition. Intact with original beige cloth, original dust jacket. New York: Viking Press, (1939). $3000.

The Grapes of Wrath from Top 100 Movie Lists. Includes a poster, photos, sound bites on “I’ll be all around in the dark” in Henry Fonda’s voice, More Memorable quotes, plus a short Review by Aaron Caldwell.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940) from Internet Movie Database (IMDB). Film directed by John Ford. Includes a Mini Biography of John SteinbeckPhoto gallery for The Grapes of Wrath (1940) starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, Plot SummaryMemorable Quotes from The Grapes of Wrath (1940)Amazon.com ReviewsReview by Jude WanniskiReview by Brian Koller.

The Grapes of Wrath: Film, Film vs Book, Route 66. Site gives some background information about the 1940 John Ford film of The Grapes of Wrath, and mentions that Hollywood producer Daryl F. Zanuck paid Steinbeck $75,000 for the film rights to his novel within a month of its publication in March 1939. It discusses the differences between the film and the novel, and includes a history of Route 66. It points out that it was this novel “The Grapes of Wrath” that “served to immortalize Route 66 in the American consciousness. Hundreds of thousands of people migrated to California to escape the despair of the Dust Bowl, thus Route 66 symbolized the ‘road to opportunity'”. Site originates from the University of Vienna, Austria, as part of a course taught by a professor of English and American Studies. Course title: Roads in/of American Culture as Avenues of Cultural Studies.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Film site. Review by Tom Dirks.

The Grapes of Wrath: ‘Present at the Creation’ Looks Back on John Steinbeck’s Epic from NPR.org. Provides background info on Steinbeck’s experience with migrant camps in 1930s, plus links to other resources. Here you can Listen to Brian Naylor’s report on the story behind the creation of one of America’s literary landmarks, Listen to Woody Guthrie’s 1940 song Tom Joad, and Watch a video clip of the I’ll be There scene from the 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath starring Henry Fonda.

John Steinbeck Stamp. U.S. FDC: 15¢ John Steinbeck: Literary Arts Series. First Day of Issue: February 27, 1979.

“Migrant Mother” Photographs in the Farm by Dorothea Lange, made in February or March of 1936 in Nipomo, California.

Trampling Out the Vintage: Reflections on John Steinbeck and “The Grapes of Wrath”. Video. 29 minutes. From UCSD (University of California Television). “The Grapes of Wrath is arguably the most celebrated work of John Steinbeck’s illustrious career, and both the play and film based on the novel are classics in their own right. Through archival material and interviews with noted Steinbeck scholars, Trampling Out the Vintage explores the genesis and history of Steinbeck’s novel, and examines its perennial hold on the American imagination.”

Dust Bowl of the 1930s

About the Dust Bowl. Photos, map, and timeline. See also The Great Depression.

Bibliography for Dust Bowl and Migrant Workers.

Drought in the Dust Bowl Years. Topics include: 1930s Drought Costs, and Lessons Learned: The Legacy of the 1930s Drought.

Movie of a dust storm during the Dust Bowl. A brief clip showing a dust storm moving through the Dust Bowl.

Interactive Dust Bowl by Ken Burns and PBS. “What if you had lived in the Dust Bowl? On your journey you will learn about the changing market and weather conditions and be asked to make decisions about whether to play it safe and keep your farm the same size or expand it for a greater profit. You will also meet several of your ‘neighbors,’ who are doing their best to make it. Some will stay on the land, trying to scrap out a living. Others will say ‘enough’ and head west. What choices will you make?”

The Dust Bowl During the Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945 from The Learning Page, Library of Congress. See also

Surviving the Dust Bowl – The American Experience. The 60-minute film “Surviving the Dust Bowl” may be ordered from PBS Home Video. Description: “A moving and poignant look at one of the damaging scourges to blight the United States. When the rains suddenly ceased in the summer of 1931, a period of black blizzards brought financial and emotional ruin to thousands of families in the Southern Plains. The dust bowl was America’s worst ecological disaster. Featuring interviews with those who survived its terrible toll, Surviving the Dust Bowl is an emotional tribute to those who endured its traumatic consequences.” Site includes Special Features, Timeline of Dust Bowl, Map, Links to People & Events, and a Teacher’s Guide.

The Texas Dust Bowl in Historical Perspective: What Happened and Could It Happen Again? University dissertation on the Dust Bowl by Randy Francis.

Dust Bowl. An article about the Dust Bowl period during the drought years of the 1930s by Donald A. Wilhite for the Oklahoma Historical Society

Voices from the Dust Bowl. From American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection is an online presentation of the everyday life of residents of migrant work camps in central California in 1940 and 1941. Collection consists of audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, and publications. View the text of 113 Songs, Listen to recordings of these songs, Browse 363 Audio Titles, 23 Photographs, and Performers/Interviewees from A-Z. Includes The Migrant Experience.

Miscellaneous Topics on The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath, 1998. This short humorous play begins on a deserted, dust-blown street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Twilight. Tom Joad, a former mutual-fund manager just released from federal prison, stands in front of the Joad family’s luxury 6- bedroom townhouse.

Vocabulary Classic Texts: Grapes of Wrath. 88 words selected by Carey & Jan Cook from The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck in order of appearance in five chapter groupings. Site aims to encourage study and provide opportunity for students to learn SAT-College Prep vocabulary in context.

Weedpatch Camp (Arvin Federal Government Camp). “While writing The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck lived in Bakersfield, California and based his book on Arvin Federal Government Camp which he portrayed as ‘Weedpatch Camp.’ This camp exists today and is still used by migrant workers.” Here you will see an interesting photo of a migrant “motorhome” of sorts, plus a collection of Web links relating to migrant laborers, e.g. Weedpatch Camp (History, Life in the Camp, Federal government role), Personal Reminiscences, Dust Bowl Festival, Dust Bowl Shop, Migrant Mother, Children of the Dust Bowl (book) – The True Story of Weedpatch School, Dust Bowl / Migrant Workers Bibliography, Voices from the Dust Bowl, and other related links. Site is accompanied with the music of “Blue eyes crying in the rain” in the background.

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