The Grapes of Wrath was written by John Steinbeck, in 1929. Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California. Steinbeck did not like to narrate any of his novels in which he had no background information in. That is why he would often live the life of his characters before he wrote his novels or short stories. So in preparation for The Grapes of Wrath he went to Oklahoma, joined some migrants and rode with them to California. The Grapes of Wrath starts with Tom Joad, the main character, hitchhiking a ride home after being paroled from the state prison. The reason he was in jail is because four years ago he got into a bar fight and killed a man out of self defense. That is why he only got a seven-year sentence. He gets a ride from a trucker who drops him off in front of the road that leads to his house. Tom starts walking toward his house when he comes along a man named Jim Casy, who used to be a preacher. Casy tells Tom that he doesn’t preach anymore because he has lost the call. He says that all things are holy, so why should he preach when the people are holy and he can just be with the holy people. Then Casy joins Tom on the way to his house. When they get to the house, they find that it is deserted. They can’t imagine why, when they see something. They see Muley Graves, an old crazy neighbor of the Joad family. Muley tells them that his family went to their Uncle John’s house. So Tom and Casy sleep in the fields for the night and then walk to Uncle John’s in the morning. When they get there, they notice everyone getting ready to leave. The family explains to Tom that the banks and large companies closed out all the farms and most of the farmers are heading out to California to find work. The family sold all their belongings and got a total of eighteen dollars for them. Casy then joins them because he says he has to be where the people are. Then when they are ready to leave, Grandpa Joad has a fit and the family has to drug him to calm him down. So they leave Uncle John’s for California. On the first night of the journey, Grandpa has a stroke and dies. They bury him and help a family named the Wilsons fix their broken-down car. The Joads and Wilsons travel to California together and when they get to California, Mrs. Wilson gets sick and has to stop the trip. The Joads give the Wilsons some money and then leaves them. En route to California, Grama Joad had gotten sicker and sicker. When they get to the great desert at night, Ma Joad notices that Grama is dying. Ma tells Grama that the family won’t survive if they have to stop in the desert, and that they have to make it across. Then Grama dies. When they get to a guard station, Grama is already dead, but Ma tells the guards that Grama needs to get to a doctor quickly, and the guards let them go. Once across the desert Ma tells everyone that Grama died, and they leave her to be buried, because they have no money.
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Then the family gets to a camp for migrants. All the men here are unable to find work. Then a contractor comes into the camp and is looking for workers. One of Tom’s friends asks what the man is paying, and gets accused of being a “red.” Then the man is arrested, and a fight starts. The sheriff tells everyone that the camp will be burned. So the Joads leave, with the exception of Casy who got mixed up in the run-in with the sheriff, and they find another government camp that is clean, fair, and protected from the police. Here Rose of Sharon’s husband deserts her and the family. Although Rose of Sharon, who is Tom’s sister, is pregnant. Then when the family is out of money, they leave in search of work. They hear of work in a peach orchard, and head out for that. When they get there, they are escorted into the orchard by police. Outside the front of the orchard there are many men yelling and screaming to the workers. Once inside they begin picking immediately so that they can have enough pay for dinner that night. After dinner, Tom sets out to see what all the men in front of the orchard were yelling about. He finds Jim Casy, who just got out of prison. Jim tells Tom that they are striking against the owners of the orchard who cut the wages in half. During Tom and Casy’s talk some men come looking for Casy, who is apparently the leader of the strike. The men kill Casy, then Tom kills the man who killed Casy. Tom runs back to his house and has to hide because one of the men broke his nose. They leave the orchard and find a place where they pick cotton, and Tom can hide until his nose is better. One of the Joad children gets into a fight and threatens to get her brother Tom, because he has killed someone before. Ma Joad hears this and tells Tom he has to leave. Tom feels the same way because he feels he must carry on with the work Casy was doing. So Tom takes some money from Ma Joad, and leaves. When the cotton is done being picked for the season, the rains start to be heavy. When the Joads think about leaving, Rose of Sharon, Tom’s sister, starts to have the baby for which she has been pregnant. Some of the other men try to build a dam to keep the water out of the boxcar they are staying in, but the dam does not work. When the baby is born, it is dead. The water keeps coming in, so Pa Joad builds something the family can stay on for a few days. When the rain lets up, Ma Joad says they have to leave to find a drier place. So they carry the children on their shoulders until they get to a highway. They head down the road to a barn with some dry hay inside. There they find a man who hasn’t eaten in six days, and is dying from starvation. Since the Joads have no money, or food, Ma suggests that Rose of Sharon feed the man from her breasts. Sharon lets the man drink from her breast and smiles. At the time The Grapes of Wrath was published, it was thought of as more of a document to be debated over, than a work of art. People didn’t know if this was the entire truth, or if it was falsified. The people in Oklahoma and California resented the book.
The Oklahoma people resented it because they didn’t like being called Okies , and they denied that Oklahoma was a dust bowl that couldn’t grow crops. In California people denied what was in The Grapes of Wrath. They said that the book was all black lies. Life magazine ran specials that proved that conditions were actually worse than Steinbeck told about. Many people thought that Steinbeck was a communist after The Grapes of Wrath was released. Now that the public isn’t offended by the novel we can realize that it is not a communist inspired document, but a work of art that illustrates the current troubles in that frame of American history.