Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reading the Classics: The Grapes of Wrath

Back when we were in college, I would come down from Oklahoma to A&M to visit Matt a couple of times a semester. Whenever I could swing it — it was usually during finals week — I would try to come to Matt's Percussion Studio performances. It was great because I knew I'd get to see him performing something he loved and was proud of; but it was also a terrible decision to ever make the six-hour drive for that weekend, because it meant I wouldn't actually get to see him in person for most of the weekend, as the group would be busy with last-minute preparations and rehearsals, and then celebrating once the show was over.

So I would usually make plans with friends for the times when I wouldn't be able to hang out with him. But on a few occasions, plans fell through, and I was left with nothing to do. For most of his life, Matt wasn't much of a reader. When I would visit him on campus, he had a total of four books that weren't textbooks: two of them were Sherlock Holmes anthologies, one was some sports book, and one was The Grapes of Wrath.

On a couple of occasions, I picked up TGoW and started reading it in the hours before the show was to start, but inevitably I would leave it behind when I headed back home, only to forget everything I'd read and do the whole thing again the following semester.

This time I just kept reading.

I always forget how much I like John Steinbeck's writing, but I do enjoy his work. (One of my only high-school reading regrets was not finishing East of Eden.) TGoW is about the Joad family and thousands of families like them who picked up and headed to California in search of work during the Dust Bowl right before the Great Depression. Except everyone else in the Midwest had basically the same idea, so there was very little work available and everyone was starving and the Californians were resentful that so many people were migrating in when they could barely afford their own farms anyway, much less good wages for workers.

In between the Joads' story, Steinbeck painted a vivid picture of life on the road and in tent camps called "Hoovervilles," and of all the families that were struggling the same way as the Joads. It was sad, but I found it interesting because I have never read much about the domestic problems leading up to the Great Depression.

What have you been reading lately? Anyone else a Steinbeck fan?


  1. I have recently been revisiting books from our high school reading list (what seems like WAAY back when), and it's been so fun! I recently finished reading Sherlock Holmes books, and really enjoyed {most of} them. The process of finding the killer was fun, but then the long soliloquy of the killer saying why he "done it" bored me to tears.
    Now, I'm reading Dexter, the book series after which the TV show was modeled. Hooked.

    1. LOL, I don't think I've read any Sherlock Holmes, but that's hilarious!

  2. I haven't gotten into "The Grapes of Wrath" every time I have tried, but I loved "East of Eden" in high school. It was one of the biggest classics I had gotten through at that point, and certainly solidified my love for reading.

    1. It did feel a little slow at times, but I think that was what Steinbeck intended — the whole travel-across-the-country-and-look-for-work thing wasn't exactly quick back then!
      I did love East of Eden and I have no idea why I didn't finish it.