Friday, July 28, 2006

Grapes of Wrath post V

This is the final stretch. Normal spoiler alert here: if you haven't read as far then please do not read on it will take away the enjoyment of the book for you.

We left things with the family finding work in a pear picking farm but Tom got involved in a fight with Casy and his trikebreakers and some farm guards and breaks his nose and hits a man. There is a sense that no matter where the family goes to it will not find comfort.

Bullet points between pages 340 – 400

* Tom it appears did kill a man and the family leave the fruit picking and drive until they come to cotton picking fields.

* Tom hides out in the undergrowth to avoid detection

* Al gets engaged to a girl, Aggie, that he has been seeing at the cotton picking camp

* Ruthie spills the beans about her brother and so Ma goes to see Tom, gives him seven dollars, and asks him to go far away

* The rains come and the work stops Steinbeck uses a chapter to describe the death and despair it brings to the migrant community

* Rose of Sharon goes into labour supported by Ma with Pa out trying to get a flood barrier built to stop the box cars in the cotton pickers camp flooding

* The baby is stillborn and the flood barrier is broken by a falling tree and the cars and trucks are flooded out

* They end up running for cover in a barn where they come across a man and his son. The man is starving and Rose of Sharon breastfeeds him to stave off death.

A couple of times in the book there is a suggestion that as long as the people can get angry then they will have the energy to survive. Ma mentions it about Pa but it is one of Steinbeck’s many inter-chapters (as the commentary by Michael Millgate at the start of this version describes them) that it is spelt out:
“…the break would never come as long as fear could turn to wrath”. (at the end of chap 29)


What Grapes of Wrath contains is a power and a tragedy that you take away with you and mull over. Hopefully after some of that mulling over my review will be able to articulate how the book makes me feel.

A full review will appear tomorrow and next week to move away from just seeing what US writers had to write about in the interwar years I’m going to start reading Journey to the end of the night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine.

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