Understanding The Grapes of Wrath: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding The Grapes of Wrath: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding The Grapes of Wrath: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding The Grapes of Wrath: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

When The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939, it had an explosive effect on the public, calling attention to the problems of migrant farm workers during the Great Depression. This casebook provides a rich source of primary materials on the period and the plight of the migrant farm worker that brings to life the problems Steinbeck immortalized in the novel. Included are interviews with eyewitnesses to the Dust Bowl, firsthand accounts and investigative reports of the causes and effects of the Great Depression, letters, diaries and autobiographies of migrant farm workers in the 1930s, newspaper articles and editorials of the period, affidavits by union activists, and other unique materials, many of which have never before appeared in print. All these materials can be used in literature, American history, and interdisciplinary classes to enrich the study of this novel and its times.

Excerpt

In 1939, as the nation continued to suffer from an economic depression regarded as one of the most devastating events in its history, a young California writer namedJohn Steinbecksaw into print a novel about a family of migrant agricultural workers who had fled Oklahoma to find a new life in California. The novel, titled The Grapes of Wrath, had an immediate and explosive effect on the public. In some quarters, especially in the fields of California where he had worked alongside migrant laborers,Steinbeck was regarded as a hero who had had the courage to portray appalling conditions as they really were.

The demand for the book by the reading public made it an instant best-seller. It has often been observed thatThe Grapes of Wrathwas theUncle Tom's Cabinof its time, creating an immediate sensation. Even in Oklahoma, whereSteinbeck's novel was roundly denounced, it was the biggest selling novel since the widely popularGone with the Wind. In1940, the novel was made into a film -- directed byJohn Ford and starringHenry Fonda- that is still regarded as a classic.

Yet, the novel was not received with universal admiration by any means. In California, growers and politicians alike called the author the most dangerous man in America. As soon as the book appeared on library shelves in California, it was ordered removed.

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