My All Time Favorite Novel!
The Grapes of Wrath could easily be described as one of the greatest works of American literature. At the heart of the work is the story of the Dust Bowl, a prolonged period of drought leading to severe dust storms which destroyed most farmland in the American prairie. Left homeless and with no hope of income from their ruined farms, over 2.5 million people left the prairie to go west, making the Dust Bowl exodus the largest migration in American history. A large proportion of the migrants, "Okies," left Oklahoma, and it is an Oklahoma family, the Joads, that Steinbeck focuses on in his novel. Steinbeck based the Joads on migrant workers he encountered enduring the horrible working conditions in migrant camps in California. He converted his anger and sorrow at their desperation into a novel steeped in political dissent, while at the same time masterfully telling a complex and enchanting story of a family struggling to preserve life and love in extremely trying times. The novel earned Steinbeck a National Book Award and Pulitzer prize in 1939 and was cited as one of the main reasons for his being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. Its popularity forced the nation to focus on the plight of the poor, leading to congressional hearings on the conditions of the migrant camps which inspired Steinbeck's work and , eventually, to changes in the labor laws which allowed those conditions to occur in the first place. In my opinion, a novel can be described as great when it inspires, enchants, and enlights; this book does all three better than any other book I have ever read.