Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Grapes of Wrath

It's hard to say anything about  The Grapes of Wrath. It's grown far above criticism and has a life beyond itself in song, film and other books. It's so long since I read it that I half doubted whether I'd read it or just read about it. Once I started reading it passages stood out in my head like I'd only read them yesterday. Descriptions, paragraphs and events that couldn't have just come from watching the film or hearing a song.

Chapters change from a panoramic viewpoint to the particular experiences of the Joad family. Each serves to deepen our understanding of the other.
Preacher Casy, (prefiguring Hazel Motes'"church of truth without Jesus Christ Crucified,"in  Wiseblood) asks "Why do we got to hand it on to God or Jesus? Maybe....it's all man and women we love". A house is stolen and dragged across fields as soon as it is deserted. A stillborn child is sent down a flooded stream to rot in the streets to give it the tongue it never had. This is a book full of pain and suffering and the knowledge that people can be twisted and broken by hunger and prejudice but 'the break would never come as long as fear could turn to wrath"

The frightening thing is, that for all the power and anger and humanity in these pages, and for all the people who have been inspired by them, they still ring true today. The world is still full of migrants, and still full of people who betray their common humanity when their own wealth is threatened. And the banks still make and break livelihoods and lives.

"The bank - the monster has to have profits all the time. It can't wait. It'll die. No, taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can't stay one size."

"We're sorry. It's not us. It's the monster. The bank isn't like a man.
Yes, but the bank is only made of men.
No - You're wrong there - quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in the bank hates what the bank does, and yet it does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it but they can't control it."

I can't synopsize it as well as Woody Guthrie so I'll just let him do the work.

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