Wednesday 10 October 2012

The Grapes of Wrath Part 1 - It's Not Tuesday...

I got a really good start on this as I was panicked the baby was going to arrive on his due date over the weekend (all the mothers everywhere are laughing at me now) with the result that I finished the first part like last Friday and felt like I had to stop reading so that I wouldn't forget what had happened in the first bit and get confused. I'm very easily confused nowadays. I tried to write this yesterday, but I got distracted by making a teacosy which looks like a cupcake. So there was that. Also I think I was a bit overwhelmed by how much there is to say.

I started reading The Grapes of Wrath and at first I was like 'oh god, the description. Why is there so much description?', but after a while I sort of got immersed in it and I realised that Steinbeck is an actual genius with words. And then I started doing this thing I do where I turn up the bottom corners of pages to mark bits that are interesting or awesome and I just looked at my copy now and there are like... nine? 

The basic story so far is that people are being kicked off their land in Oklahoma (because of the big, evil banks), and told to go to California, where there will be eternal oranges and jobs forever. Focusing on the Joad family, of whom there are many, so far all that's happened is that they have packed up their life in California and at the end of Chapter 11 they started out for California. I say *all* that's happened, but for taking 11 chapters to happen I really don't mind. The set up is that it's pretty much one chapter about the Joads, followed by a chapter about the general situation - one I particularly liked was chapter 7, told from the perspective of a car salesman, about how many cars they were selling to families heading out to California, which is funny because that seems to be the chapter everybody else hated. I just thought it was interesting as a mark of the changing times - people are getting rid of their horses and buying cars. I don't know, maybe I'm just too easily interested in uninteresting things...

I'm putting quotes I liked up on my Tumblr because if I put them here you'd all get bored and leave, but there was a lot of stuff that was really thought-provoking for me in the first part. I think that in my current state of mind this book was always going to make me a little bit ranty anyway. I'm not very political really, but the current UK government make me want to hit things so regularly that it's difficult not to have an opinion, and there was quite a lot in the book that bore quite a bit of similarity to our situation in some ways. There's a whole chapter where the guy who's been sent to kick people off the land and demolish their houses turns out to be one of their own and they keep asking him how he can stand to do it and he keeps going on about his three dollars a day and how he has to feed his family. Which I get, I really do, but at the same time I have some major issues with people only thinking about themselves and having no respect for what happens to other people. And this is totally relevant to today as well. Yes, Mr. Cameron, I'm talking to you. 

Anyway, the thing I like probably the most is the atmosphere. I love that while I'm reading I really feel like I'm there. I know that this is kind of what you're usually going for with literature, but Steinbeck just does it so well! I am definitely in the 'I love Steinbeck' camp, and to be honest the book hasn't even depressed me that much. I have some serious love for the Joads as well, especially Grampa. I just love how they're all kind of angry but how they still pull together as a family (despite the sexism - Ma is awesome and obviously runs the show but I kind of hate how she's always waiting for the men to speak first). Also I really like the image of the truck all piled up with people and stuff. 

This post is only managing to go up at all because I haven't talked about loads of things I was going to talk about. I'm so ranty at the moment I feel like if I don't restrain myself, we could all be here for days! :-/


  1. I love the phrase "eternal oranges"

    That car salesman chapter. I think it could have been done in like 1/2 the pages and still gotten the point across. But while I didn't like it I'm still sorta glad someone did cos those macrochapters are so far some of my favorite parts.

  2. Your priorities are awesome, cause that teacosy sounds AMAZING! I would make one, but no one I know uses a teapot. Hmph.

    I'm glad someone liked the car salesman chapter! I don't like LOVE it, but I think it adds an interesting perspective and also plays to the 'car salesmen are CROOKS' stereotype and ALSO shows how many poor people are moving west which could almost definitely be a problem...

    Totally relevant politics to today, agreeeed. Capitalism gone MAD! It's interesting to me how much the politics of GoW match up with my own, and it kind of makes me wonder how much of them I've actually GOTTEN from GoW... I mean, obviously they've developed and whatnot since I first read it, but I have a feeling that at least some of them must have been formed when I read this... Interesting! (to me, anyway!)

    I get the sexism, but also not the sexism cause Ma is super important and they literally wouldn't be able to function without her. Which, you know, makes her kind of the leader, and THAT is kind of non-sexist. Maybe.

  3. I started reading The Grapes of Wrath and at first I was like 'oh god, the description. Why is there so much description?', but after a while I sort of got immersed in it and I realised that Steinbeck is an actual genius with words.

    Ma's deference to the men and letting them speak first actually reminds me of those super-smart silent types in movies, who lets all the idiots talk and then wows them all with his/her genius insight. Hehehe.

    BTW cupcake teacozy? So cool.

  4. It's ADORABLE that you thought the baby would arrive in time for your due date. ADORABLE.

    I didn't mind the car dealership chapter as much as some others did. It seemed important, and it kind of had a rhythm. Like an auction a little bit? "More jalopies can-I-get-some moooore jalopies. Over here, some jalopies. If I only had 100 more jalopies."

  5. I love this book, just finished it last week. I put up a quote on Tumblr about the banks and it is BY FAR the most reblogged post I have ever put up! It is, as you say, entirely relevant and by GOD the Tories need to read it.

    (Couldn't help but feel a bit sad at Boris's latest speech, saying we're moving from an age of excess, to an age of austerity, then to an age of enterprise. Money money money.)

  6. How does one make a cupcake teacozy? And also, I ALSO flag the bottoms of my pages for quotes/passages I want to remember (the top flags are for review purposes and/or things I want to look-up/research). It's a system. I like it!

    So, yeah, saddest book of all time? Maybe. Too many things to think about what to say in each post? Totally. I wrote mine today too, and now that I'm going back through and reading others' posts I am seeing ALL THE THINGS I thought about while reading but didn't write about (because that's what happens when I don't take notes and/or write my post at work).

    Anyway, all the feelings. Scared of what's a-coming.