On This Day - April 14th

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The Grapes of Wrath is an American realist novel written by John Steinbeck first published on 14th April 1939.The book won the National Book Award3 and Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.

Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes, and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they are trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other "Okies", they seek jobs, land, dignity, and a future.

Influence and outrage

Steinbeck scholar John Timmerman sums up the book's influence: "The Grapes of Wrath may well be the most thoroughly discussed novel — in criticism, reviews, and college classrooms — of 20th century American literature." The Grapes of Wrath is referred to as a Great American Novel.

At the time of publication, Steinbeck's novel "was a phenomenon on the scale of a national event. It was publicly banned and burned by citizens, it was debated on national radio; but above all, it was read." According to The New York Times, it was the best-selling book of 1939 and 430,000 copies had been printed by February 1940. In that month it won the National Book Award, favorite fiction book of 1939, voted by members of the American Booksellers Association. Soon it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Communist propaganda

The book was noted for Steinbeck's passionate depiction of the plight of the poor, and many of his contemporaries attacked his social and political views. Bryan Cordyack writes, "Steinbeck was attacked as a propagandist and a socialist from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The most fervent of these attacks came from the Associated Farmers of California; they were displeased with the book's depiction of California farmers' attitudes and conduct toward the migrants. They denounced the book as a 'pack of lies' and labelled it 'communist propaganda'". Some accused Steinbeck of exaggerating camp conditions to make a political point. Steinbeck had visited the camps well before publication of the novel and argued their inhumane nature destroyed the settlers' spirit.

In 1962, the Nobel Prize committee cited Grapes of Wrath as a "great work" and as one of the committee's main reasons for granting Steinbeck the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In 2009, The Daily Telegraph included the novel in its "100 novels everyone should read"; it was listed at number 29 among the "nation's best loved novels" on the BBC's 2003 survey The Big Read.

Today's question is this: how many copies of the book have been sold?

Answer here...

Over the nearly eighty years since its publication, more than 15 million copies have been sold!