Grapes of Wrath Criticism
| August, Eugene. “Our Stories/Our Selves: The American Dream Remembered in
John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.” University of Dayton Review 23.3
Focuses on the Great Depression as an event that challenged the American Dream, and
on the stories that define the Depression. Asserts that the American Dream, although it
has many modified versions, is based on the single story of Exodus and that Steinbeck
refashions this Exodus story in The Grapes of Wrath. Summarizes the novel and points
out its many biblical allusions.
Bain, Robert. “Two Versions of the West: The Grapes of Wrath and The Big Rock
Candy Mountain.” Steinbeck Newsletter 10.1 (1997): 14-17.
States that even though The Grapes of Wrath and Big Rock Candy Mountain have many
similarities, they present very different fictional Wests. Explores the differences in use of
dialect, religion, place and past, and narrator.
Bednarek, Janet R. Daly. “An Historian’s View of The Grapes of Wrath.” University
of Dayton Review 23.3 (1996): 83-88.
Argues that The Grapes of Wrath can be used to demonstrate the history of the idea
of the American Dream. Addresses the ambiguity with which Americans treat
immigrants and migrants. Explains how the federal government has come to have a
role in helping Americans realize the American Dream. Uses the novel to point out that,
in the past, the poor and oppressed clung to the hope of enjoying the American Dream, but
states that this is no longer so.
Burns, Wayne. “Triumph of the Monster: A Study of Carolyn Chute’s Merry Men
in Relation to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.” Recovering Literature: A Journal
of Contextualist Criticism 23 (1996): 5-32.
Begins with lengthy excerpts from The Grapes of Wrath to show that Steinbeck
defines the corporate system as a monster. Claims, however, that he loses sight of the
monster and makes Tom Joad unaware of the true cause of his poverty, which results in
a novel of melodramatic conflict between good and evil. Goes on to compare the 1994
novel, Merry Men, to Grapes, stating that Merry Men is a far superior book because it
“carries through to its ultimate tragic end the conflict that Steinbeck sentimentalizes.”
Asserts that the main difference between the two novels is that the Joads believed they
had a chance at attaining the American Dream, whereas Chute’s characters realize that
the American Dream is not for them.
DeMott, Robert. “A Truly American Book: Pressing The Grapes of Wrath.”
Biographies of Books: The Compositional Histories of Notable American Writings.
Ed. James Barbour and Tom Quirk. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1996. 187-225.
Builds upon three earlier versions of DeMott’s account of the making of The Grapes of Wrath.
Begins by noting the success of the novel. Then follows the steps by which it was made,
describing Steinbeck’s series of articles, “The Harvest Gypsies,” for San Francisco News,
his first two attempts at writing the novel, and finally the exhausting creation of the novel itself.
Gives credit to those who helped in the production of the book, notably Carol Steinbeck and
Tom Collins. Discusses the initial reception of the novel and its continuing importance to
the American consciousness.
Denning, Michael. “Grapes of Wrath: ‘The Art and Science of Migratin’.’” The Cultural
Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century. London: Verso,
States that The Grapes of Wrath (novel and film) is not a good representation of the
cultural politics and aesthetic ideologies of the Popular Front. Defines the Popular Front
as “the insurgent social movement forged from the labor militancy of the fledgling CIO,
the anti-fascist solidarity with Spain, Ethiopia, China, and the refugees from Hitler, and the
political struggles on the left wing of the New Deal.” Suggests that Steinbeck’s biological
metaphors reduced the political struggle element in his story. Examines why other books that
are good representatives of the Popular Front were not as popular as Steinbeck’s novel.
Dooley, Patrick K. “ ‘Creating Community’: John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and
Josiah Royce’s Philosophy of Loyalty.” Steinbeck Newsletter 11 (1998): 4-7.
Examines the writing of philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916) and Steinbeck who were
both intrigued with the phenomenon of community building. Demonstrates that Steinbeck
was better able to express Royce’s philosophy of community than Royce was.
Hinton, Rebecca. “Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.” Explicator 56.2 (1998): 101-103.
Examines The Grapes of Wrath as a novel of transition. Focuses on changes in the
concept of family, from membership to governmental structure.
Krim, Arthur. “Right Near Sallisaw.” Steinbeck Newsletter 12.1 (1999): 1-4.
Considers Steinbeck’s choice of Sallisaw, Oklahoma as the Joad’s hometown. Offers
four possible reasons: he learned of Sallisaw from an Oklahoman that he interviewed, it
was “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s birthplace, he was intrigued by Dorothea Lange’s photographs
of the town, and Sallisaw has the same etymology as Salinas, Steinbeck’s hometown.
Lackey, Kris. Roadframes: The American Highway Narrative. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P,
Examines the American road novel and nonfiction written between 1903 and 1994. The
chapter “Transcendental Motoring” situates The Grapes of Wrath among other books that
explore “what it means to hurtle in relative privacy across a recently settled country.”
Compares Grapes to Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways, and
Kerouac’s On the Road and finds it to present conflicting visions of the American road.
Surprisingly, does not mention Travels with Charley.