Apr 11 2014

75 Years Later, Grapes of Wrath Remains Relevant As Ever

Seventy five years ago this week, the legendary American author John Steinbeck published the Grapes of Wrath, a magnum opus reflecting the hardships of depression-era migrants who travel from Oklahoma to California to escape the Dust Bowl. The book won Steinbeck a Pulitzer prize, and the National Book Award and was highly cited in the decision to award him the Nobel Prize in Literature years later.

Susan Shillinglaw, an English professor at San Jose State University and one of the foremost experts on Steinbeck, wrote in a book about Grapes of Wrath, that it is “a novel that won’t be contained by its setting, the 1930s. Certainly it’s about a particular time and place and people – the Oklahoma migrants who made their way ever so slowly to California, imagining a new start in the state of orange groves and verdant fields. And there is urgency in the particularity of that moment. Steinbeck is at his best in helping us see clearly the diaspora of Dust Bowlmigrants in the 1930s…. But everywhere in this book, starting with the biblical cadence of the opening chapter, Steinbeck nudges readers out of the 1930s into the timeless and the mythic.”

GUEST: Susan Shillinglaw, Professor of English at San Jose State University, author of On Reading the Grapes of Wrath

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