Reyna-esque review: Grapes of Wrath

July 15, 2008 at 7:51 pm Leave a comment

As I remember, read, or re-read I will write about books/poems/whatever I’ve read on this blog. They’re not exactly reviews. Some might be a few words, some might only be quotes that I think were worth remembering. Keep in mind, these are very Reyna’d-Out… so don’t take my complete word. Go out and read these books or whatever on your own, and make your own opinions.

Oh, and just a heads-up… These reviews contain major spoilers.

The Grapes of Wrath (Novel)
by John Steinbeck

One of thousands of families traveling westward during the Great Depression. Trying to migrate from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, the Joads face a lot of rough shit. Crazy ass novel.

If there is one scene I will forever remember from this novel, it will be this one:
(from chapter eighteen)
Casy and Uncle John, Connie and Rose of Sharon climbed down. And
they stood silently. Rose of Sharon had started to brush her hair
back, when she caught sight of the valley and her hand dropped
slowly to her side.
Tom said, “Where’s Ma? I want Ma to see it. Look, Ma! Come here,
Ma.” Ma was climbing slowly, stiffly, down the back board. Tom
looked at her. “My God, Ma, you sick?” Her face was stiff and
putty-like, and her eyes seemed to have sunk deep into her head, and
the rims were red with weariness. Her feet touched the ground and
she braced herself by holding the truck-side.
Her voice was a croak. “Ya say we’re acrost?”
Tom pointed to the great valley. “Look!”
She turned her head, and her mouth opened a little. Her fingers went
to her throat and gathered a little pinch of skin and twisted
gently. “Thank God!” she said. “The fambly’s here.” Her knees
buckled and she sat down on the running board.
“You sick, Ma?”
“No, jus’ tar’d.”
“Didn’ you get no sleep?”
“Was Granma bad?”
Ma looked down at her hands, lying together like tired lovers in her
lap. “I wisht I could wait an’ not tell you. I wisht it could be
all- nice.”
Pa said, “Then Granma’s bad.”
Ma raised her eyes and looked over the valley. “Granma’s dead.”
They looked at her, all of them, and Pa asked, “When?”
“Before they stopped us las’ night.”
“So that’s why you didn’ want ’em to look.”
“I was afraid we wouldn’ get acrost,” she said. “I tol’ Granma we
couldn’ he’p her. The fambly had ta get acrost. I tol’ her, tol’ her
when she was a-dyin’. We couldn’ stop in the desert. There was the
young ones- an’ Rosasharn’s baby. I tol’ her.” She put up her hands
and covered her face for a moment. “She can get buried in a nice green
place,” Ma said softly. “Trees aroun’ an’ a nice place. She got to lay
her head down in California.”
The family looked at Ma with a little terror at her strength.
Tom said, “Jesus Christ! You layin’ there with her all night long!”
“The fambly hadda get acrost,” Ma said miserably.
Tom moved close to put his hand on her shoulder.
“Don’ touch me,” she said. “I’ll hol’ up if you don’ touch me.
That’d get me.”
Pa said, “We got to go on now. We got to go on down.”
Ma looked up at him. “Can- can I set up front? I don’ wanna go
back there no more- I’m tar’d. I’m awful tar’d.”
They climbed back on the load, and they avoided the long stiff
figure covered and tucked in a comforter, even the head covered and
tucked. They moved to their places and tried to keep their eyes from
it- from the hump on the comforter that would be the nose, and the
steep cliff that would be the jut of the chin. They tried to keep
their eyes away, and they could not. Ruthie and Winfield, crowded in a
forward corner as far away from the body as they could get, stared
at the tucked figure.
And Ruthie whispered, “Tha’s Granma, an’ she’s dead.”
Winfield nodded solemnly. “She ain’t breathin’ at all. She’s awful
And Rose of Sharon said softly to Connie, “She was a-dyin’ right
when we-”
“How’d we know?” he reassured her.
Al climbed on the load to make room for Ma in the seat. And Al
swaggered a little because he was sorry. He plumped down beside Casy
and Uncle John. “Well, she was ol’. Guess her time was up,” Al said.
“Ever’body got to die.” Casy and Uncle John turned eyes
expressionlessly on him and looked at him as though he were a
curious talking bush. “Well, ain’t they?” he demanded. And the eyes
looked away, leaving Al sullen and shaken.
Casy said in wonder, “All night long, an’ she was alone.” And he
said, “John, there’s a woman so great with love- she scares me.
Makes me afraid an’ mean.”
John asked, “Was it a sin? Is they any part of it you might call a
Casy turned on him in astonishment, “A sin? No, there ain’t no
part of it that’s a sin.”
“I ain’t never done nothin’ that wasn’t part sin,” said John, and he
looked at the long wrapped body.
Tom and Ma and Pa got into the front seat. Tom let the truck roll
and started on compression. And the heavy truck moved, snorting and
jerking and popping down the hill. The sun was behind them, and the
valley golden and green before them. Ma shook her head slowly from
side to side. “It’s purty,” she said. “I wisht they could of saw it.”
“I wisht so too,” said Pa.

Why this scene? I think it captured the whole essence of the novel, and maybe even the time period itself. Just the fact that Ma Joad was lying all night next to a body she knew was dead gives me the chills. To think of the choices one had to make in order to help their family progress in life. Sacrifices had to be made, facts had to be kept secret, fears had to be overcome, and everything was about making the right choice. I take it back… It’s not all about the time period. I guess these are all aspects that at one point have to be part of one’s life in general.
Oh, and also… I didn’t even know whether to find it funny, awkward, or what that Rose of Sharon and Connie were having sex (or so it was implied) as Granma’s death went on. But I guess that’s love. Love is also part of life. It just happens to come up when least expected sometimes.


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Pubic hairs on soap To sleep, perchance to dream…

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