The Grapes of Wrath
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The Grapes of Wrath is one of the longest—ahem, most important books in American literary history. But what's with the title?
|American Literature||All American Literature|
|Author||Steinbeck - John Steinbeck|
|Early 20th-Century Literature||Early 20th-Century American Literature|
Lies and Deceit
The Road to California?
Dust Bowl Farmers? But nothing thrills you.
So, how did you -- er, Steinbeck - come up with The Grapes of Wrath as a title?
Where did it come from and what the heck does it mean?
Some writers say they get their inspiration from dreams . . .
. . . movies . . .
... muses... . . . or songs.
Grapes of Wrath is part of a lyric from the Battle Hymn of the Republic . . .
. . . which may have inspired Steinbeck's wife when she suggested it.
Even though the hymn was written about the Civil War . . .
...its message of God taking vengeance on greedy oppressors . .
. . . seems every bit as much about America in the 1930s . . .
. . . as America in the 1860s.
And likely the 2060s. But Battle Hymn's author got her inspiration
from another source . . . . . . The Book of Revelations . . .
. . . and it used the words as an appeal for divine deliverance for the oppressed when
humanity is judged. Steinbeck himself used the phrase near the
end of the book when he wrote . . . . . . "In the souls of the people the grapes
of wrath are filling and growing heavy". <<DS Scholar voice>>
So... the wrath is building up inside of people and, sooner or later, the oppressed are going
Probably not literally, unless they've seriously eaten too many grapes.
Steinbeck said he wanted to put a tag of shame on the greedy people responsible for The Great
Depression . . . . . . and the title could be a symbol of what
he thought would happen when the oppressed had had enough.
So is Steinbeck suggesting the Noah approach...
That is ...we wait for God to take care of the bad guys?
Or is he encouraging the Nike approach...
... where the little guys have to take matters into their own hands?
Shmoop amongst yourselves.