John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath: Voice and Vision
After the Civil War, a legion of farmers and their families settled in the prairie states of the American Great Plains. These fiercely independent, hard-working, determined “pioneers” suffered various setbacks in the first two decades of their settlement but a large majority had ridden out discouragement and continued to work the land, holding tightly to the dream that had brought them there.
Fast-forward to the years 1931 – 1939. Images from chapter one of John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, encapsulates the story of that dream turned nightmare.
The suggested lessons and activities that follow aim at helping students build a framework, from various perspectives of the 1930s, in which to embed a close study of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. They offer suggested approaches for explicating the text of the novel, shaped by several goals: strengthening and expanding students’ skills of analysis; fostering student awareness of specific ways the novel reflects the environmental, economic, political and social climate of the Dust Bowl/ Great Depression decade; and promoting recognition of the strong parallels of 1930s environmental, economic, political and social issues defined in the novel with current issues in America. The lessons and activities also examine derivatives built from The Grapes of Wrath and encourages students to build their own derivatives.