'The Grapes of Wrath' won a Pulitzer price and John Steinbeck won the Nobel's price for literature. And that is SO well-deserved.
The book was banned soon after its release because Steinbeck criticizes society in it. The story is set in the 30s and describes the time we now know as the Great Depression. After several years of drought and resulting dust storms, the farmers of Oklahoma suffered of great damage. Combined with the fast mechanization of farm equipment and the rise of capitalism, many farmers were forced to leave their farm and home. Tens of thousands people went on the road, heading to California, a state that was like a promised land for them. It is described how the situation was misused by, for example, car sellers: people were in desperate need of a vehicle, and thus seller could ask any price. The same thing for buyers of used goods: migrating people needed to sell their household, and thus buyers bid low prices. It is empathized very sharply that 'no one can be blamed. It is the bank, the society that forces us to do what we do.' It's confronting to see how people created their own hell - a situation that can't be made undone.
The book follows the Joad family on the road to California. Each character is unique and incredibly well worked out. They all have their background they carry with them - uncle John, for example, is haunted by his bad conscience and constantly believes he is sinning. Their development throughout the journey is beautiful, interesting, very credible and sad to witness. I especially was amazed by Ma Joad, who transforms into a strong, independent woman who takes the lead when the men aren't able to do so.
When they approach California, they hear negative stories already. And though the Joads keep hoping they will be lucky, the stories prove to be true. There are so many people on the road in search for jobs, the farmers can pay any price. They perfectly know people are starving and ready to work for any price, only to earn some bread for the night. Migrants, who are disrespectfully called 'Okies', are put into camps, and the police tortures them. The Californian authorities are afraid the immigrants will gather and start a revolt, and therefore they do everything to prevent that. Every now and then, they burn the camps down to force the people to move forward again.
Steinbeck proposes socialist thoughts, and was accused of communism propaganda. It isn't communism he is proposing, though, since he does not only suggest that people work for the whole, but also keep their individuality and personal freedom. He mainly criticizes the institution of very rich companies that own much property, making it impossible for mid-sized or small farmers or businesses to exist.
The writing is genius - the dialogues are realistic (I love the Oklahoma accent), descriptions are vivid, the pace of the story is perfect. I very much enjoyed the intersecting chapters not focusing on the Joads, but describing the overall situation in the US at that time. Somehow they even were more tragic although or because it was told from a greater distance.
I was already crying even before I knew what the ending would be, just because it was clear it couldn't turn all good in the remaining three pages. In fact the ending is open, but I think I can guess where it will lead to - the Joad family will further fall apart, some will die of hunger, some will leave. But Ma Joad will never stop fighting.
This is a tragically beautiful graphic novel. I’ve read a couple of novels about the Jewish suppression and Jew-baiting during WWII, but this novel hits the point like no other. The story is tragic, though or maybe because it’s written rather objectively.
The frame story is set in the late 70s in the USA. Art Spiegelman plans to write a graphic novel about his fathers’ history during WWII. He and his father do not get along well. Also, Art seems to blame himself for the suicide of his mother, because he never showed her the love she had longed for. Vladek Spiegelman has survived the concentration camps, but has grown to be a rancorous, greedy old man, who is racist to black Americans, who is complaining about his health and his second wife, even to his son – who clearly doesn’t want to hear about the marital problems of his father. I loved how Vladek still speaks English with a Polish accent. Art and Vladeks relationship is rather detached. Nevertheless, Art urges his father to tell him about his life in 1939-1945. Those events are shown in flashbacks told by Vladek and drawn by Art.
The characters are drawn as animals instead of humans – Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Poles are pigs. By making animals out of the characters, Spiegelman uses the only way to tell such a horrible story in the format of a comic book. Also, he reduces the differences between people of each ethnicity: they all look alike. And is this not exactly what happened during the war? Jews were all the same vermin in the eyes of the Nazis. Spiegelman depicted that by making mice out of them, which are hunt by the cats, naturally.
This book is so beautiful and powerful that it will touch one deep in the soul and leave an impression there for all times.
I absolutely loved this book. Not because it's the diary of a jewish girl that, after two years of hiding, had to go through horrible circumstances and died just before liberation. Not because I'm supposed to love or at least be positive about it. No, I loved this because of what Anne wrote and how she wrote it. This little girl was extremely wise, especially if you realize she was 14 when she was writing her diary. There is so much life lessons to learn from this book. This isn't a book about t I absolutely loved this book. Not because it's the diary of a jewish girl that, after two years of hiding, had to go through horrible circumstances and died just before liberation. Not because I'm supposed to love or at least be positive about it. No, I loved this because of what Anne wrote and how she wrote it. This little girl was extremely wise, especially if you realize she was 14 when she was writing her diary. There is so much life lessons to learn from this book.
This isn't a book about the Holocaust, as I've read in many other reviews, in fact Anne doesn't even write so much about the war. Rather, these are the thoughts of a teenaged girl who is finding her place in the world. She struggles with herself and with her parents, just like every girl in her puberty - with the only big difference that she was captive in a house in a time of war.
She writes about being accepted by her parents, about becoming a woman, about love, sexuality, and about what she wants to become. Anne had big dreams. She wanted to be more than a housewife, like her mother was. She wanted to study and learn, be a journalist and a writer - she would have become a great one, based on her diary writings - and she wanted to mean something to the world. She probably wanted to do more as she had the chance to do in her short life span, but she has made a big impression on millions of people, and I am so happy her father made that possible by publishing her diary.
After having read her diary letters, I bought a complete collection of her writings. During her time in the back house, she not only kept a diary, but also wrote several short stories and gathered 'beautiful sentences' from books that she loved.
To me, the best books are those that leave you with a tear in the eye when you turn the last page (with a sigh): this book did that to me.
The story is set during the great depression of the 1930s in a 'tired old town' in the southern State of Alabama, where the black Americans are not yet seen as full people. The book is told through the eyes of a young girl named Scout and stretches over two years, starting when she's six. She has a brother, Jem, that is four year older than she is. Throughout the book, Jem becomes a grown-up, struggling with himself as much as with the world around him. They live with their father Atticus, a lawyer, who has taught them moral above all other things. When Atticus defends the black Tom Robinson in a trial and - of course, the accused one is a black - loses the case, Scout and Jem cannot understand the unfairness of the way blacks are treated. Though the story is not even as much about black versus white people, more about good versus bad people. And even though it's clear there are people that do bad things, Atticus teaches his children one may not hate another, and one can only understand another persons actions ‘if you slip into his skin and walk around in it’. These are greatly important moralistic lessons – which made me think: ‘Am I doing it that way? Or should I change something in the way I approach others?’
Harper Lee did a great job in how she conveys these morals; she managed not to sound pedantic. Probably this is because the readers sees and hears things through the mind of the young Scout, who is in the middle of learning to understand everything she sees happening.
But apart from all the moral, the book also just is a great story. Scout is a little Miss Know-it-all, more a lad then a girl, and she adores her big brother. They and their friend Dill (who reminded me of Tom Sawyer, actually: the best-hearted boy in the world, and always ready for adventures) are intrigued by their mysterious neighbor Arthur ('Boo') Radley, who has been hiding in his house forever. It takes a long time and lots of attempts of seeing a glimpse of him before they realize there's nothing so creepy about him, and that he is probably just hiding inside because he does not want to be a part of the people. Tom Robinsons trial is really interesting - I had hoped so much he would win - and chapter 28 is so exciting that I had to hold my breath.
The main quote in this book (and it's full of very insightful quotes) is, I think, when Scout says: 'I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks'. This is the reason why I agree to all the people saying that everyone should read this book before they die. Though it may be quite naive to think that a book, this or another, has the power change people - at least it gives one something to think about.