First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
First published in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath is a landmark of American literature. This Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads – driven from their homestead by the “land companies” and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. A portrait of conflict between the powerful and the powerless, the novel captures the horrors of the Depression and probes the very nature of equality in America.
So I guess I stuck with American Literature for this month’s reading journey. Not that I am complaining as it has some of the most enduring works of literature. One such work is Nobel Laureate in Literature John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, a book that I kept on encountering in several must read lists. After a brief reprieve with Sherman Alexie’s light and comic work, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I am returning to heavy reading.
The Grapes of Wrath is already my fourth Steinbeck, after The Pearl, Cannery Row and Of Mice and Men. The first three Steinbecks I’ve read are short and quick reads, the antithesis of The Grapes of Wrath, which, at over 300 pages, is very uncharacteristic of the first few Steinbecks I’ve already read. One thing is constant, however, the book is set in Great Depression America. American authors do tend to stick to certain eras or periods of time. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz era books comes to mind as well. Moreover, although the story was initially set in Oklahoma, the story, I surmised from the synopsis, will eventually shift to California, Steinbeck’s home state and the setting of many of his works.
I just started reading the novel today and I am but a couple of chapters in. Despite this, I did find the opening chapter very promising and astonishing. Steinbeck (and this seems interestingly out-of-character based on my previous experiences) opened the narrative with a barrage of adjectives, establishing the atmosphere early on. “The sun flared down on the growing corn day after day until a line of brown spread along the edge of each green bayonet. The clouds appeared, and went away, and in a while they did not try any more. The weeds grew darker green to protect themselves, and they did not spread any more. The surface of the earth crusted, a thin hard crust, and as the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red country and white in the gray country.”
The Grapes of Wrath was a well-received novel, snatching the 1939 National Book Award Favorite Fiction and the 1940 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. It was well-responded to but I already foresee a complex narrative (I do hope not). I am still in the process of getting to know the Joads so there is not much that I can say for now. The conversational language was leaning towards the colloquial, e.g. idear for idea, so it might be a challenge; it will inevitably slow me down but it won’t pin me down.
The next couple of days maybe challenging but I am up to the challenge. I am daunted, to be honest, even though this is already my fourth Steinbeck work. He has that uncanny ability of making me feel displaced, as though with each new work of his I read I am starting anew. Only one thin thread ties them together – the Great Depression. I predict that there will be some shades of violence and several struggles for the main characters. All is not bleak, however, for in the pandemonium, hope springs eternal. Steinbeck will find a way of reconciling the darker and brighter parts. I am holding on to that.
I hope I can finish reading it this weekend but I am pretty sure I won’t be able to manage that. I am crossing my fingers nonetheless. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to. Moreover, I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe! And happy weekend!