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WRT 150 - The Grapes of Wrath

Recommended Reading

Dust Bowl Odyssey pdf [from Davidson, J.W. & Lytle, M.H. (2005). After the fact:  The art of historical detection (5th ed.). New York:  McGraw-Hill.]

Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize Speech – 1962

"The Grapes of Wrath: Historical Backround," by Susan Shillinglaw

Steinbeck: Biographical Information
John Steinbeck, c. 1939 (Bettmann/Corbis)Born in Salinas, California on February 27, 1902, John Steinbeck remains the quintessential California writer. Beginning in the 1930s, he forged a significant place in the culture and letters of the United States as a writer deeply engaged with place, with marginalized workers and ordinary people, and with the political and social human dramas that confronted him. More than any other writer of the United States in the 1900s, he remained engaged in the struggles of his country. He wrote social histories in the 1930s; deeply ecological works in the 1940s; early accounts of the Cold War when covering the Soviet Union in 1947; cultural studies of Mexico and Mexicans from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s; and in the 1960s increasingly concerned essays about the people of the United States, including accounts of the U.S. war in Vietnam. John Steinbeck, winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize, wrote as the conscience of his country for nearly 40 years. He died 20 December 1968 in his New York City apartment. 
Steinbeck's Major Awards
  • The Pulitzer Prize Fiction Award for The Grapes of Wrath, 1940
  • Made a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1948
  • The Nobel Prize for Literature, 1962
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1964
--from American Novelists, 1910-1945. Ed. James J. Martine. Dictionary
of Literary Biography
Vol. 9. Detroit: Gale Research, 1981. p43-68.
The Impact of The Grapes of Wrath
"...it belongs very high in the category of the great angry books like Uncle Tom's Cabin that have roused a people to fight against intolerable wrongs." --from a book review by Malcolm Cowley in New Republic, 1939.

Present at the Creation: Exploring Icons of American Culture--"The Grapes of Wrath"

Migrant Farm Workers and The Dust Bowl
Voices from the Dust Bowl-- an online presentation of a multi-format ethnographic field collection documenting the everyday life of residents of Farm Security Administration (FSA) migrant work camps in central California in 1940 and 1941. This collection consists of audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, and ephemera.

Mapping the Grapes of Wrath-- This Google Maps presentation displays locations and events from the book, including the widespread erosion from the Dust Bowl.

Library Contact
Picture: Beth Kraemer

Beth Kraemer
Associate Professor

To get research assistance, email Beth or book an appointment below!

Public Reaction to The Grapes of Wrath
The book was met with bitter disapproval in some communities, some of which went so far as to ban the book or stage burnings. Here are some examples of communities' reactions: 
  • Barred from the Buffalo, NY Public Library (1939) on the grounds that "vulgar words" were used.
  • Banned by the San Jose Public Library (1939) as “unfit for patrons”
  • Banned in Kansas City, MO (1939) by the Board of Education.
  • Banned in Kern County, CA (1939), the scene of Steinbeck's novel, for being “filled with profanity, lewd, foul and obscene language unfit for use in American homes."
  • Burned in Kern County by the Associated Farmers organization
  • Burned by the East St. Louis, IL Public Library
  • Burned on the curb by the Salinas, CA Public Library
  • Burned on the sidewalk in Bakersfield, CA
The Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University


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