First on the chopping block:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
This book is about a dysfunctional family from Oklahoma who moves to California in the wake of the Dust Bowl. During this time, Oklahoma farmers could not grow crops, because the land was arid and dusty. The story follows the family’s journey to California and their gradual settling into their new home.
Things the Book Gets Right:
- The historical time period
- Realistically portrays the hardships experienced by farmers during the dust bowl
- Characters are flawed and feel like real people
- The tone of hopelessness is probably very realistic
Things the Book Gets Wrong:
- Most of the action is in real time, which creates a feeling of drudgery and takes readers out of the story
- The dialogue is very uneven: it’s good in places and also very bad in places
- The tone of hopelessness is very depressing, but not in a way that increases thoughtfulness about issues or beliefs
- Way too long of a book
Why I Hate The Grapes of Wrath:
This review might make you think I dislike John Steinbeck as an author. This is not true. I really enjoyed Of Mice and Men; in fact, I highly suggest reading it. It is a fantastic example of Steinbeck’s abilities as a storyteller. It gets right what The Grapes of Wrath gets wrong in tone and length. The main beef I have with The Grapes of Wrath is its length. In short story form, some of its faults (uneven dialogue, pacing, etc.) might not be so noticeable. However, because it is a mid-length novel, these flaws glare at me when I read it.
The Grapes of Wrath has some value as an insight into the plight of poor farmers in the Great Depression era who escape the Dust Bowl only to remain in poverty in California, the supposed land of plenty. However, it drags out its events in almost totally real time, which is off-putting to me and potentially to many other modern readers. Another fault I find in it is that the underlying theme of hopelessness, while fitting, has little redeeming value to readers. The book doesn’t try to get you to think about the tragedies experienced by the family, it just drags you through them. Perhaps some readers don’t mind this; I do. Anyway, these are my thoughts on the story.
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