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A Wreath of Grapes March 14, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in The Grapes of Wrath.
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I get it now, at the end. The title I mean. It is a very fitting title.

Rose of Sharon – did a horticulturalist name the flowering bush after this character or was this character named after the flower? And why does this character have to be so… young throughout the bulk of the book? She seems truly naive even though she is a married woman expecting their first child.

I loved how Steinbeck used religion to illustrate points in this book, such as being generous of thought. That means keeping your judgements to yourself and working on your own spirituality instead of forcing it upon others. When Uncle John is going on about his sins and how much they weigh upon him, the family reminds him to carry them and not burden others with them. He can tell them to God, or dunk his head in the river and speak them there. I love the image this brings to my mind.

The ending was a surprise. I watched the black and white movie a few years ago; so when I came to the end of the movie and still had 2 discs to go to finish the book, I knew I was in for an interesting ending. SPOILER ALERT I was so glad that Rose of Sharon blossomed at the end and she willingly gave her breast milk to save a starving man END SPOILER.

All in all, this was an enlightening read, one that will have me thinking for some time to come.

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Sassy, Fruit-Inspecting Gila Monsters March 12, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in The Grapes of Wrath.
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At the half-way mark for The Grapes of Wrath, I have found a few other points that click or make me go, huh?

Ma Joad is such a powerful character in this story. She keeps everyone going forward, but more than that, she keeps them decent. I don’t me clothed and tucked in, but acting charitable even when they have so little to give. At one point the family was considering breaking into two groups and she would have none of it. They don’t really have a final destination in mind, cell phones were non-existent, message services were really for the big cities; all that means they could very easily loose touch with one another if they were to part ways. Now Pa Tom Joad doesn’t like a woman saying what the family will and won’t do. It ain’t natural. Hmm…..So Ma Joad gets out a nice piece of metal, something I think of as an equalizer. Pa Joad gives up, calling her ‘sassy’. Through that entire exchange, I am eagerly waiting to finally hear what Ma Joad’s first name is. Do we ever learn it? Did I miss it? Why doesn’t she have a first name in the story?

Next up, the Gila Monster. I’m a desert rat and have a secret yearning to see one of these beauties just once in the wild. The preacher goes on about the Gila Monster, using it in a comparison of gripping and not letting go and eventually having to pry the jaws apart. I think it is a cool thing to include this reptile in the story, but I had to scratch my head a little. Gila Monsters are deep desert beasties. The Joads are from Oklahoma, outside the stomping ground of the Gila. I believe the preacher had not been west, so I have to chalk this Gila story up to author’s privilege.

As the family crosses into California from the desert of Arizona, they stop in Needles. I was born a short drive from Needles in Bullhead, AZ. My maternal grandfather lived in Needles, CA for years. His job was a vehicle inspector at one of the fruit and plant inspection points, just like the one described in the book (which was situated in Daggett, CA). Shortly after I was born, my grandfather found a stray dog in a parking lot and gave him to my mom, and he was named Daggett. Too funny. I have to wonder if my paternal migrant worker grandparents happened to pass through my maternal grandfather’s checkpoint on their way to California.

Why the Title? February 23, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in The Grapes of Wrath.
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I have wondered for many years why it was titled The Grapes of Wrath. Wrath denotes anger, futility, despair, and perhaps revenge. All that, in a purple or green, oval-shaped package. Yeah, right.

So besides that mystery, I had more personal reasons to delve into this story. My dad once said growing up for him was like The Grapes of Wrath. I asked what that meant. He said it meant I needed to read it. His family were migrant farmers that ended up, at least for a few years, in California, traveling out from the East – Tennessee, Mississippi. He was number 9 out of 10 kids. He didn’t have shoes until he was 13. I am the first in my family to have a degree. I am sure you have a picture of it now. And that is pretty much all I have.

That, and an great big hint to read The Grapes of Wrath.

I started this book this week, an audio version from the library. It starts a bit slow and then we get a dirty joke, involving the word ‘proboscis’, which takes us right into a vocabulary lesson. Well, hell, wasn’t expecting that. So far I have met a dude who just got out of prison for man-slaughter, a former-preacher who often laid with a lady after a particularly rousing sermon, and a very stubborn grey-ghost of a man.

This might be a better book than I had feared. And my family history might be more colorful than I had thought.