Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Author
ConnieAnnKirk
Posts: 5,472
Registered: ‎06-14-2007
0 Kudos

GRAPES OF WRATH: The Novel (spoilers, ok)

Let's start off our month-long discussion of Grapes of Wrath with this thread where we can talk about anything in the novel.

 

Please let me know if you'd like me to section off the book in 1/4 threads week-by-week.  I can do that as well.

 

What do you think of this classic American novel?

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
Distinguished Correspondent
Taylor-Marie
Posts: 117
Registered: ‎12-17-2008
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: The Novel (spoilers, ok)


ConnieK wrote:

Let's start off our month-long discussion of Grapes of Wrath with this thread where we can talk about anything in the novel.

 

Please let me know if you'd like me to section off the book in 1/4 threads week-by-week.  I can do that as well.

 

What do you think of this classic American novel?


 

Sectioning off chapters would be helpful =)

 

I liked it for Dracula, made it easier to talk about the book without always going all over the place. 

-------------------
My teachers tell me I daydream too much....I tell them they work too much.
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: The Novel (spoilers, ok)

The alternating chapter structure of the novel is intriguing... story chapters of the Joads and the farmers alternate with Steinbeck's omniscient narration of hawking used-car dealers, avaricious bankers, descriptive panoramas of abandoned farms, dust-riddled roads...

 

I find the story chapters  very moving... the character is sharply drawn with a few bold strokes. Tom, the truck driver and the preacher jumped off the pages and were fully fleshed within seconds.

 

The alternate chapters border on heavy-handed sermons... I'm not sure how to react to them. They're powerful as background material, but I feel somewhat preached to.

 

What do others think? 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Author
ConnieAnnKirk
Posts: 5,472
Registered: ‎06-14-2007
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: The Novel (spoilers, ok)


Taylor-Marie wrote:

ConnieK wrote:

Let's start off our month-long discussion of Grapes of Wrath with this thread where we can talk about anything in the novel.

 

Please let me know if you'd like me to section off the book in 1/4 threads week-by-week.  I can do that as well.

 

What do you think of this classic American novel?


 

Sectioning off chapters would be helpful =)

 

I liked it for Dracula, made it easier to talk about the book without always going all over the place. 


 

You got it, Taylor-Marie!  :smileywink:
~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: The Novel (spoilers, ok)


IBIS wrote:

The alternating chapter structure of the novel is intriguing... story chapters of the Joads and the farmers alternate with Steinbeck's omniscient narration of hawking used-car dealers, avaricious bankers, descriptive panoramas of abandoned farms, dust-riddled roads...

 

I find the story chapters  very moving... the character is sharply drawn with a few bold strokes. Tom, the truck driver and the preacher jumped off the pages and were fully fleshed within seconds.

 

The alternate chapters border on heavy-handed sermons... I'm not sure how to react to them. They're powerful as background material, but I feel somewhat preached to.

 

What do others think? 


 

IBIS, I am also struck by the alternating chapters format.  I don't remember the structure at all from high school, probably because I was flying through the book at breakneck speed to keep to a schedule for assignments.  Plus, I don't think I had enough education or life experience to appreciate the chapters not directly about the Joads.

 

I am going to comment in each discussion section about the "alternate chapters," so look for more there.  But it may be a couple of days as I am expecting guests for the long weeknd at any moment...

 

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: The Novel (spoilers, ok)

Hi Laura, 

 

As I continue reading the book, the alternating chapter format is making more sense to me.

 

I'm a violinist, and I can explain it better in musical terms.

 

Steinbeck writes in different voices... when he writes about the plight of the Joad family, they're a specific family who stand in for the displaced Dust Bowl sharecroppers, he writes differently... more naturalistic, more detailed ... longer chapters.

 

These chapters alternate with shorter, almost documentary-like ones... his writing is poetic, highly stylized... his focus is wider...  he captures a general westward movement of thousands of faceless migrant workers leaving behind the drought and dust of Oklahoma.

 

This range of writing reminds me of what musicians call a "symphony" of tone and movement. Different voices, different tones, different movements and different scope.

 


Fozzie wrote: 
IBIS, I am also struck by the alternating chapters format.  I don't remember the structure at all from high school, probably because I was flying through the book at breakneck speed to keep to a schedule for assignments.  Plus, I don't think I had enough education or life experience to appreciate the chapters not directly about the Joads.

 

I am going to comment in each discussion section about the "alternate chapters," so look for more there.  But it may be a couple of days as I am expecting guests for the long weeknd at any moment...

 


 

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: Steinbeck's contrapuntal structure.

The Introduction to the US Penguin edition of GoW says this about the structure of the chapters:-

 

'In early July 1938, Steinbeck told literary critic Harry T Moore that he was improvising what was for him a 'new method' of fictional technique: one which combined a suitably elastic form and elevated style to express the far reaching tragedy of the migrant drama. In the Grapes of Wrath he devised a contrapuntal structure, which alternates short lyrical chapters of exposition and background pertinent to the migrants as a group (chapters 1,3,5,7,9,11,12,14,15,17,19,21,23,27,29) with the long narrative chapters of the Joan family's dramatic exodus to California (Chapters 2,4,6,8,10,13,16,18,20,22,24,26,28,30).  His 'particular' chapters are the slow-ppaced and lengthy narrative chapters that embody traditional characterization and advance the dramatic plot, while his jazzy, rapid-fire 'interchapters' work at another level of recognition by expressing an atemporal, universal, synoptic view of the migrant condition.' 

 

Steinbeck wrote 'I want the reader to be able to keep [the general and particular] chapters separate in his mind.'  The general chapters were expressly designed to 'hit the reader below the belt. With the rhythms and symbols of poetry one can get into a reader- open him up and while he is open introduce things an intellectual level which he would not or could not receive unless he were opened up'. 

 

Do readers here find this structure is working as Steinbeck intended? 

Author
ConnieAnnKirk
Posts: 5,472
Registered: ‎06-14-2007
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: The Novel (spoilers, ok)


IBIS wrote:

Hi Laura, 

 

As I continue reading the book, the alternating chapter format is making more sense to me.

 

I'm a violinist, and I can explain it better in musical terms.

 

Steinbeck writes in different voices... when he writes about the plight of the Joad family, they're a specific family who stand in for the displaced Dust Bowl sharecroppers, he writes differently... more naturalistic, more detailed ... longer chapters.

 

These chapters alternate with shorter, almost documentary-like ones... his writing is poetic, highly stylized... his focus is wider...  he captures a general westward movement of thousands of faceless migrant workers leaving behind the drought and dust of Oklahoma.

 

This range of writing reminds me of what musicians call a "symphony" of tone and movement. Different voices, different tones, different movements and different scope.

 


Love this, IBIS!

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
Author
ConnieAnnKirk
Posts: 5,472
Registered: ‎06-14-2007
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: Steinbeck's contrapuntal structure.


Choisya wrote:

 

Steinbeck wrote 'I want the reader to be able to keep [the general and particular] chapters separate in his mind.'  The general chapters were expressly designed to 'hit the reader below the belt. With the rhythms and symbols of poetry one can get into a reader- open him up and while he is open introduce things an intellectual level which he would not or could not receive unless he were opened up'. 

 

Do readers here find this structure is working as Steinbeck intended? 


Thanks, Choisya!  What do readers think of Choisya's question?  You seem to be noticing the structure right away, so is it working?

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: Steinbeck's contrapuntal structure.

[ Edited ]

I'd like to offer a brief explanation of what the contrapuntal structure is.

 

Steinbeck's quote (Choisya's post below) explains it from a writer/poet's perspective.

 

If I were a poet, I would probably do it in those terms. As a musician, I can best explain it in musical terms. Of course, I do it at the risk of oversimplifying a very complex musical structure. But here goes...

 

Contrapuntal music uses the voices of 2 or more people simultaneously... speaking or singing; in an orchestral work, 2 or more instruments play a different melody, or musical theme, simultaneously.

 

Each section plays one fragment of a melody; heard alone, this fragment makes one impression; but when the fragments are heard simultaneously with other melodies, or is combined in unexpected ways, the listener hears greater depths of meaning.

 

A popular example is Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” or the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”…when each singer sings different fragments of the melody… and these fragments weave in and out, the total sum is  musically greater than the sum of the parts… the sound becomes something more profound than a single pleasing melody.

 

It's a bit like a "round" when different people sing different parts of a song. 

 

This is how Steinbeck uses the alternating chapters... they make a distinctive separation in the reader's mind... and they appeal to distinctive aspects of our understanding. 

 

In my reading of the longer chapters, I am emotionally, sympathetically bound to the Joads; on another level, the shorter chapters give me a removed, almost analytical, view of the historical implications of the story.  

 

Separately they would tell me one story. Together they tell me a more layered story. Together, my reading experience has more depth of meaning.

 

 


Choisya wrote:

The Introduction to the US Penguin edition of GoW says this about the structure of the chapters:-

 

'In early July 1938, Steinbeck told literary critic Harry T Moore that he was improvising what was for him a 'new method' of fictional technique: one which combined a suitably elastic form and elevated style to express the far reaching tragedy of the migrant drama. In the Grapes of Wrath he devised a contrapuntal structure, which alternates short lyrical chapters of exposition and background pertinent to the migrants as a group (chapters 1,3,5,7,9,11,12,14,15,17,19,21,23,27,29) with the long narrative chapters of the Joan family's dramatic exodus to California (Chapters 2,4,6,8,10,13,16,18,20,22,24,26,28,30).  His 'particular' chapters are the slow-ppaced and lengthy narrative chapters that embody traditional characterization and advance the dramatic plot, while his jazzy, rapid-fire 'interchapters' work at another level of recognition by expressing an atemporal, universal, synoptic view of the migrant condition.' 

 

Steinbeck wrote 'I want the reader to be able to keep [the general and particular] chapters separate in his mind.'  The general chapters were expressly designed to 'hit the reader below the belt. With the rhythms and symbols of poetry one can get into a reader- open him up and while he is open introduce things an intellectual level which he would not or could not receive unless he were opened up'. 

 

Do readers here find this structure is working as Steinbeck intended? 


 

 

 

Message Edited by IBIS on 07-06-2009 02:32 PM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Author
ConnieAnnKirk
Posts: 5,472
Registered: ‎06-14-2007
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: Steinbeck's contrapuntal structure.


IBIS wrote:

 

I'd like to offer a brief explanation of what the contrapuntal structure is.

 


Thanks for elaborating, IBIS.  Your explanation is clear to me!

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
Scribe
Laurel
Posts: 5,747
Registered: ‎10-29-2006
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: Steinbeck's contrapuntal structure.

I wonder whether Steinbeck had been reading Dickens? Bleak House is told alternately by an unnamed narrator and by Esther Summerson, the novel's heroine.

Choisya wrote:

The Introduction to the US Penguin edition of GoW says this about the structure of the chapters:-

 

'In early July 1938, Steinbeck told literary critic Harry T Moore that he was improvising what was for him a 'new method' of fictional technique: one which combined a suitably elastic form and elevated style to express the far reaching tragedy of the migrant drama. In the Grapes of Wrath he devised a contrapuntal structure, which alternates short lyrical chapters of exposition and background pertinent to the migrants as a group (chapters 1,3,5,7,9,11,12,14,15,17,19,21,23,27,29) with the long narrative chapters of the Joan family's dramatic exodus to California (Chapters 2,4,6,8,10,13,16,18,20,22,24,26,28,30).  His 'particular' chapters are the slow-ppaced and lengthy narrative chapters that embody traditional characterization and advance the dramatic plot, while his jazzy, rapid-fire 'interchapters' work at another level of recognition by expressing an atemporal, universal, synoptic view of the migrant condition.' 

 

Steinbeck wrote 'I want the reader to be able to keep [the general and particular] chapters separate in his mind.'  The general chapters were expressly designed to 'hit the reader below the belt. With the rhythms and symbols of poetry one can get into a reader- open him up and while he is open introduce things an intellectual level which he would not or could not receive unless he were opened up'. 

 

Do readers here find this structure is working as Steinbeck intended? 


 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: The Novel (spoilers, ok)

Beautifully put, IBIS.  I agree.

 

I did find some of the later alternate chapters to be more opinionated than factual, but I found the first several to be as you said.


IBIS wrote:

Hi Laura, 

 

As I continue reading the book, the alternating chapter format is making more sense to me.

 

I'm a violinist, and I can explain it better in musical terms.

 

Steinbeck writes in different voices... when he writes about the plight of the Joad family, they're a specific family who stand in for the displaced Dust Bowl sharecroppers, he writes differently... more naturalistic, more detailed ... longer chapters.

 

These chapters alternate with shorter, almost documentary-like ones... his writing is poetic, highly stylized... his focus is wider...  he captures a general westward movement of thousands of faceless migrant workers leaving behind the drought and dust of Oklahoma.

 

This range of writing reminds me of what musicians call a "symphony" of tone and movement. Different voices, different tones, different movements and different scope.

 


 

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: Steinbeck's contrapuntal structure.


Choisya wrote:

Steinbeck wrote 'I want the reader to be able to keep [the general and particular] chapters separate in his mind.'  The general chapters were expressly designed to 'hit the reader below the belt. With the rhythms and symbols of poetry one can get into a reader- open him up and while he is open introduce things an intellectual level which he would not or could not receive unless he were opened up'. 

 

Do readers here find this structure is working as Steinbeck intended? 


Fascinating!  I was able to keep the two kinds of chapters separate in my mind.  Of course, I did relate the documentary chapters directly to the Joads experiences.  I hadn't realized that I might be more sympathetic to the topics written about in the documentary chapters because I "knew people" experiencing these things, the Joads.  However, I think I was more sympathetic reading the documentary chapters because I could relate the experiences to someone I knew.  It makes sense.  We can become desensitized to news stories, but if there is a news story "that hits close to home," so to speak, we are more interested in it and experience more emotions about the news story.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: Steinbeck's contrapuntal structure.

Since I have finished the book, I must start with the very end, so only read this if you have finished the entire book.

 

I found the ending to be completely unexpected, yet outstanding.  When Rose of Sharon lost her baby, I witnessed first hand, again, the death and destruction experienced by the Joads.  I wondered how they would survive if they lost their car and their belongings in the flood.  Could they survive? 

 

While we are not told specifically what will become of the Joad family, I think we are given the answer symbolically.  The milk that was to sustain a newborn will be used to sustain a father, who can then work to sustain his family.  The idea of family, as Steinbeck tells us, has been extended to include all Okies, and we see this as Rose of Sharon helps an extended family member with the breast milk originally meant for the youngest member of her immediate family.

 

I took the ending to be a sign of hope.  I took it to be a relatively happy ending in that the Joads, and their extended family of the Okies, would survive.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Reader 2
scout88
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎03-13-2009

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: Steinbeck's contrapuntal structure.

Something that my grandpa (who was born and raised in Oklahoma, and was actually a small child during the dust bowl) told me the other day that I thought was interesting, was that many Okies hated Steinbeck after he wrote the novel. They believed that Steinbeck's portrayal of the migrants was inaccurate and insulting.  I suppose they thought Steinbeck wrote them as ignorant. I was shocked to hear that, as Steinbeck seems to be completely siding with the Okies, and simply wanting to tell of their plight. What does everyone else think? Was there any reason for them to be upset?
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH: Steinbeck's contrapuntal structure.

[ Edited ]

Not a surprising reaction, given the down-and-out portrayal of the "Okies."

 

An article on the censorship of Grapes of Wrath.

 

 

It was also objected to in Kern County, CA.

 

 

More on public and critical contemporary reception of the Grapes of Wrath, although still not a lot on the viewpoint of the migrants themselves.

 


scout88 wrote:
Something that my grandpa (who was born and raised in Oklahoma, and was actually a small child during the dust bowl) told me the other day that I thought was interesting, was that many Okies hated Steinbeck after he wrote the novel. They believed that Steinbeck's portrayal of the migrants was inaccurate and insulting.  I suppose they thought Steinbeck wrote them as ignorant. I was shocked to hear that, as Steinbeck seems to be completely siding with the Okies, and simply wanting to tell of their plight. What does everyone else think? Was there any reason for them to be upset?
Message Edited by Peppermill on 07-14-2009 01:23 AM
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH (Book Cover)

[ Edited ]

An article on the book cover for Grapes of Wrath.  (Perhaps someone will find us a picture.)

 

 

Update:  The cover.

Message Edited by Peppermill on 07-14-2009 01:10 AM
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH (Book Cover)

Peppermill, thank you for this link. The cover is striking.

 

Here's another link for various other covers for "Grapes of Wrath".  I especially like the Thomas Hart Benton's version, since Benton is well known for his social justice themed artwork.

 

http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/exhibits/text/steinb.htm

 


Peppermill wrote:

An article on the book cover for Grapes of Wrath.  (Perhaps someone will find us a picture.)

 

 

Update:  The cover.

Message Edited by Peppermill on 07-14-2009 01:10 AM

 

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
0 Kudos

Re: GRAPES OF WRATH (Book Cover)

Ibis -- a neat site at the University of Delaware.  I enjoyed the links to the other authors as well!


IBIS wrote:

Peppermill, thank you for this link. The cover is striking.

 

Here's another link for various other covers for "Grapes of Wrath".  I especially like the Thomas Hart Benton's version, since Benton is well known for his social justice themed artwork.

 

http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/exhibits/text/steinb.htm


Peppermill wrote (excerpts):

An article on the book cover for Grapes of Wrath

 

 The cover.



 

 

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy