How would you sum up The Grapes of Wrath in three words? Here's our list: long, sad, strange.
Steinbeck’s novel is an American epic, and, appropriate to its ambitions, it is a long book. This may pose practical problems of allocating enough time for students to finish the book and ample time for classroom discussion. The novel’s length may also pose problems of student attention – they may be hard-pressed to stick with the Joads on their journey, and may decide they prefer, like Noah, to stay by the river and swim, or, like Grandpa, need to be drugged and dragged along.
OK, so that’s a bit extreme. One option would be to assign Grapes over the summer or winter holidays, to allow students time to finish it. As well, students may be more inclined to stick with the book and stay interested if it’s couched as a road-trip narrative – it’s a long trip, but the going is fun, not just the getting there.