The Critical Response to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

By Barbara A. Heavilin | Go to book overview

"bourgeois circles" who are the only available audience may understate the consequences of the techniques novelists may have to use to accomplish that task. Reaching that audience might entail the simultaneous (and intimately related) dilution of the novel's politics and distortion of its form.

From Studies in American Fiction (Spring 1994), 22:1, pp. 19-36.


Notes
1.
Harry Thornton Moore, The Novels of John Steinbeck: A First Critical Study ( 1939; 2nd ed. New York: Kennikat, 1968).
2.
David Craig and Michael Egan, Extreme Situations: Literature and Crisis from the Great Way to the Atom Bomb ( London: Macmillan, 1979), pp. 162-63.
3.
Frederick Engels, "Letter to Minna Kautsky, November 16, 1885," in Marx and Engels on Literature and Art, ed. Lee Baxandall and Stephan Morawski ( St. Louis: Telos, 1973), p. 113.
4.
Quoted by Peter Lisca, The Wide World of John Steinbeck ( New Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1958), p. 148.
5.
Warren French, The Social Novel at the End of an Era ( Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1966), p. 47.
6.
Craig and Egan, p. 162.
7.
Jean-Paul Sartre, What is Literature, trans. Bernard Frechtman ( London: Methuen, 1955), especially the chapter entitled "For Whom Does One Write," pp. 49-122. The notion of a virtual public raises a contentious issue, since theorists have recently been calling into question the practice of speaking "on behalf of" others, asserting that to do so is presumptuous and patronizing. While such reservations usefully lay bare what are often unfounded claims to be able to "represent" the oppressed in both the artistic and political senses of the word-- something too readily assumed in much would-be radical literature--at the same time the position itself too easily absolves writers of any broader social role whatever and licenses them to confine their efforts to untrammeled textuality. For a succinct statement of the complex meanings of "represent," see W. J. T. Mitchell, "Representation," in Critical Terms for Literary Study, ed. Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin ( Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 11-22.
8.
Quoted by Lisca, p. 146.
9.
Sartre, p. 72.
10.
J ohn Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath ( London: Pan, 1975), p. 218. Further references will be given parenthetically in the text.
11.
See Benson, pp. 420-23 and Lisca, pp. 144-50.
12.
Quoted by Benson, p. 375.
13.
It is not usually noted that the awkwardness of the scene stems in part from the fact that while Ma shoos the family from the barn, learning Rose of Sharon

-218-

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