The Grapes of Wrath: Text and Criticism; Revised Edition (Critical Library, Viking)

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9780140247756: The Grapes of Wrath: Text and Criticism; Revised Edition (Critical Library, Viking)

John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression follows the western moevement of wone family and a nation in search of work and human dignity. This completely updated Viking Critical Library Edition of The Grapes of Wrath includes the full text of the novel, corrected in 1996, as well as extensive and contextual material including:

  • Essays placing The Grapes of Wrath in social context, including a 1942 essay by Carey McWilliams about migrant workers and working conditions and a Martin Schockley piece on the reception of The Grapes of Wrath in Oklahoma
  • Eight new essays by John Ditsky, Nellie Y. McKay, MimiReisel Gladstein, Louis Owens, and others
  • An essay on the background to the composition of The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck's biographer, Jackson J. Benson
  • An introduction by the editor, a chronology, a list of topics for discussion and papers, and a bibliography

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From the Back Cover:

John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize--winning epic of the Great Depression follows the western movement of one family and a nation in search of work and human dignity.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

 

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Introduction

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

 

Notes

PENGUINCLASSICS

THE GRAPES OF WRATH

Born in Salinas, California, in 1902, JOHN STEINBECK grew up in a fertile agricultural valley about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast—and both valley and coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929). After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California fictions, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon Is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1947), The Pearl (1947), A Russian Journal (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceeded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history. The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989). He died in 1968, having won a Nobel Prize in 1962.

ROBERT DEMOTT is Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor at Ohio University, where he has received half a dozen undergraduate and graduate teaching awards, including the Jeanette G. Grasselli Faculty Teaching Award and the Honors College’s Outstanding Tutor Award. He is a former director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University, and served for more than three decades on the editorial boards of the Steinbeck Quarterly, Steinbeck Newsletter, and Steinbeck Studies. He is editor (with Elaine Steinbeck as Special Consultant) of the Library of America’s multivolume edition of John Steinbeck’s writings, of which Novels and Stories 1932-1937 (1994), The Grapes of Wrath and Other Writings 1936-1942

(1996), and Novels 1942-1952 (2001) have so far appeared. His annotated edition of John Steinbeck’s Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book in 1989, and his Steinbeck’s Typewriter: Essays on His Art (1996) received the Nancy Dasher Book Award from the College English Association of Ohio in 1998.

PENGUIN BOOKS
Published by the Penguin Group
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80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press 1939
Published in a Viking Compass edition 1958
Published in Penguin Books 1976
Edition with an introduction by Robert DeMott published 1992
This edition with notes by Robert DeMott published 2006

Copyright John Steinbeck, 1939

Copyright renewed John Steinbeck, 1967
Introduction copyright © Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 1992
Notes copyright © Robert DeMott, 2006
All rights reserved

Some of the endnotes are reprinted from The Grapes of Wrath and Other Writings, 1936-1941, edited by
Robert DeMott and Elaine Steinbeck, The Library of America, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by Literary Classics
of the United States. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968.
The Grapes of Wrath / John Steinbeck ; introduction and notes by Robert DeMott.
p. cm.—(Penguin classics)

ISBN: 9781440637124

1. Migrant agricultural laborers—Fiction. 2. Rural families—Fiction. 3. Depressions—Fiction.
4. Labor camps—Fiction. 5. California—Fiction. 6. Oklahoma—Fiction. 7. Domestic fiction.
8. Political fiction. I. Title. II. Series.
PS3537.T3234G8 2006
813’.52—dc22 2005058182

The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the
permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and
do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is
appreciated.

To CAROL who willed it.

To TOM who lived it.1

Introduction

“My whole work drive has been aimed at making people understand each other. . . .”

—Steinbeck in a 1938 letter

“Boileau said that Kings, Gods, and Heroes only were fit subjects for literature. The writer can only write about what he admires. Present day kings aren’t very inspiring, the gods are on a vacation, and about the only heroes left are the scientists and the poor. . . . And since our race admires gallantry, the writer will deal with it where he finds it. He finds it in the struggling poor now.”

—Steinbeck in a 1939 radio interview

I

The Grapes of Wrath is one of the most famous novels in America— perhaps even in the world. When John Steinbeck wrote this book he had no inkling that it would attain such widespread recognition, though he did have high hopes for its effectiveness. On June 18, 1938, a little more than three weeks after starting his unnamed new manuscript, Steinbeck confided in his daily journal (posthumously published in 1989 as Working Days):

If I could do this book properly it would be one of the really fine books and a truly American book. But I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability. I’ll just have to work from a background of these. Honesty. If I can keep an honesty it is all I can expect of my poor brain. . . . If I can do that it will be all my lack of genius can produce. For no one else knows my lack of ability the way I do. I am pushing against it all the time.

Despite Steinbeck’s doubts, which were grave and constant during its composition, The Grapes of Wrath turned out to be not only a fine book, but the most renowned and celebrated of his seventeen novels. Steinbeck’s liberal mixture of native philosophy, common-sense leftist politics, blue-collar radicalism, working-class characters, homespun folk wisdom, and digressive narrative form—all set to a bold, rhythmic style and nervy, raw dialogue—qualified the novel as the “American book” he had set out to write. The novel’s title—from Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic”—was clearly in the American grain—and Steinbeck, a loyal Rooseveltian New Deal Democrat, liked the song “because it is a march and this book is a kind of march—because it is in our own revolutionary tradition and because in reference to this book it has a large meaning,” he announced on September 10, 1938, to Elizabeth Otis, his New York literary agent.

After its arduous composition from late May through late October 1938 (“Never worked so hard in my life nor so long before,” Steinbeck told Carl Wilhelmson), The Grapes of Wrath passed from his wife’s typescript to published novel (Viking’s designers set the novel in Janson type-face) in a scant four months. In March 1939, when Steinbeck received copies from one of three advance printings, he told Pascal Covici, his editor at The Viking Press, that he was “immensely pleased with them.” The novel’s impressive physical and aesthetic appearance was the result of its imposing length (619 pages) and Elmer Hader’s striking dust jacket illustration (which pictured the exiled Joads looking down from Tehachapi Pass to lush San Joaquin Valley). Steinbeck’s insistence that The Grapes of Wrath be “keyed into the American scene from the beginning” by reproducing all the verses of “Battle Hymn,” was only partly met: Viking Press compromised by printing the first page of Howe’s sheet music on the book’s endpapers in an attempt (unsuccessfully, it turned out) to deflect accusations of communism against the novel and its author.

Given the drastic plight of the migrant labor situation in California during the Depression, Steinbeck refused intentionally to write a popular book or to court commercial success. It was ironic, then, that shortly after its official publication date on April 14, 1939 (the fourth anniversary of “Black Sunday,” the most devastating of all Dust Bowl storms), fueled by the nearly 150 reviews—mostly positive—that appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals during the remainder of the year, The Grapes of Wrath climbed to the top of the bestseller lists for most of the year, selling 428,900 copies in hardcover at $2.75 each. (In 1941, when Sun Dial Press issued a cloth reprint for a dollar, the publisher announced that more than 543,000 copies of Grapes had already been sold.) The Grapes of Wrath won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize (Steinbeck gave the $1,000 prize to friend Ritch Lovejoy to encourage his writing career), eventually became a cornerstone of his 1962 Nobel Prize, and proved itself to be among the most enduring—and controversial—works of fiction by any American author, past or present. In spite of flaws, gaffes, and infelicities its critics have enumerated—or perhaps because of them (general readers tend to embrace the book’s mythic soul and are less troubled by its imperfect body)—The Grapes of Wrath has resolutely entered both the American consciousness and its conscience. Few novels can make that claim.

If a literary classic can be defined as a book that speaks directly to readers’ concerns in successive historical and cultural eras, no matter what their critical approaches, methods, or preoccupations are, then surely The Grapes of Wrath is such a work. Each generation of readers has found something new and relevant about it that speaks to its times. You might love it, you might hate it, but you probably won’t be indifferent. Although Steinbeck could not have predicted its success (and was nearly ruined by its roller-coaster notoriety), the fact is that, in the past six-plus decades, The Grapes of Wrath has sold more than fifteen million copies and currently sells annually 150,000 copies. A graph in Book (July/August 2003) indicates that of the fifty bestselling “classic” British and American novels in 2002, Grapes ranks eleventh—five spots behind Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, but seven ahead of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (Steinbeck and Hemingway are the only writers with three titles each on the list). In that same issue of Book, Jerome Kramer includes Grapes as one of the twenty books that changed America. Moreover, a recent spate of turn-of-the-century polls, all employing differing, even opposed methodologies, agendas, and criteria, arrived at similar conclusions: surveys by Radcliffe Publishing Course, Modern Library Board, Hungry Mind Review (now Ruminator Review), San Francisco Chronicle, Heath Anthology of American Literature Newsletter, Library Journal, and British booksellers Waterston’s all place The Grapes of Wrath among the premier works in English of the twentieth century.

Moreover, an elaborate Writer’s Digest (November 1999) survey of readers, writers, editors, and academics ranked John Steinbeck as the number one writer among the century’s “100 Best” (a list whittled down from more than seven hundred nominees). The criteria—admittedly slippery—used to judge each author included “influence,” “quality,” and “originality.” Even with a healthy dose of critical skepticism thrown into the mix, and a strong awareness of our turn-of-the-century obsession with compiling “best” lists, there is still something more significant at work in these dovetailing independent assessments of Grapes’ achievement than the mere operation of special pleading, narrow partisanship, demographic distribution, or simpleminded puffery. Something more than the vagaries of cultural correctness and identity politics is at work in these polls that keeps Steinbeck’s novel relevant to the kind of large-scale public conversation that took place in California in 2002, the year of Steinbeck’s one hundredth birthday, when the state’s Humanities Council, in an unprecedented and ambitious project, invited everyone in the state to read and discuss the novel at 140 public library venues. California’s effort was itself part of a nationwide Steinbeck centennial honoring the “Bard of the People,” which, according to Anne Keisman, became the “largest single author tribute in American history.”

Grapes has also had a charmed life on screen and stage. Steinbeck sold the novel’s film rights for $75,000 to producer Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Then Nunnally Johnson scripted a truncated film version, which was nonetheless memorably paced, photographed (by ace cinematographer Greg Tolland), and acted (Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, Jane Darwell as Ma Joad, and John ...

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