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Richard Masur, Director Susan Loewenberg, Executive Producer An L.A. Theatre Works Production 2002 L.A. Theatre Works

Based on the Novel by John Steinbeck, Adapted by Frank Galati AUDIO PLAY TEACHERS STUDY GUIDE
by Diane Cooke Sharon Davis, Joel Rafael, Contributors Nataki Garrett, National Outreach Coordinator Department of Graphic Sciences, Graphic Design

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by Joel Rafael


by John Steinbeck


John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, on February 27, 1902 to John Ernst Steinbeck and Olivia Hamilton Steinbeck. He learned a love and respect for the environment of his childhood, an appreciation that appears in much of his work. Working at various times as a farm laborer, ranch hand, and factory worker, he developed sympathy for working people, which he portrays to great effect in his best novels. Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University in 1919 and attended off and on until 1925, when he left before graduating. He was always passionate about writing and worked briefly as a journalist in New York City before returning to California. His first novel, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929, and during the 1930s he wrote most of his best California fiction: The Pastures of Heaven (1932), To a God Unknown (1933), The Long Valley (1938), Tortilla Flat (1935) which brought him his first commercial success, In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and The Grapes of Wrath (1939) for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. The Grapes of Wrath was inspired by a series of articles he wrote for the San Francisco News about the plight of the migrant farmers in Californias Central Valley. His series, which he called Their Blood Is Strong, reveals the dire poverty, oppression of the migrants by callous landowners, and the labor unrest he witnessed. He even visited the camp built by the federal government called Weedpatch, where he met Tom Collins, the director, on whom he modeled the camp director in the novel. The articles brought him death threats, an FBI investigation, and charges of Communist sympathy, never proven. In 1940 the book was adapted into a film directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad. The Grapes of Wrath sold out an advance edition of 19,804 by mid-April, 1939 and was selling 10,000 a week by early May. It was praised by many critics as a masterpiece but criticized by others for its sentimentality and lack of complexity. An Oklahoma Congressman called the story a dirty, lying, filthy manuscript because of the depiction of the Joads and the books language and its characters earthy behavior. In addition, Californians were indignant over their portrayal as oppressors, and Kern County banned the book well into the 1940s. Nevertheless, the novel continues to sell well (about 200,000 copies a year by some estimates), and it has been estimated to have been translated into between 40 and 60 languages. Steinbeck wrote other well-known works of fiction, including Cannery Row, The Pearl, East of Eden, and The Winter of Our Discontent. In addition, he produced travel narratives; Travels with Charley, a book celebrating American individuals; short stories, plays and film scripts. He was honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, and in his acceptance speech, Steinbeck said, The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968 at the age of 66. In 2002, the centennial of Steinbecks birth, the California Council for the Humanities embarked on a campaign of celebration of his life and works and encouraged every Californian to read The Grapes of Wrath. Other states joined in the tributes, including New York, where Steinbeck lived for the last 18 years of his life. In all, more than 175 tributes were held in 39 states. Together they are thought to be the largest-scale homage ever paid to an American author.


1902 On February 27, John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California. He was the third of four

children and the only son of John Ernst II and Olive Hamilton Steinbeck. He spent his childhood and adolescence in the Salinas Valley, later called the salad bowl of the nation.
1915-19 Attended Salinas High School. 1919-25 Attended classes at Stanford University, leaving without a degree. During these years Steinbeck

dropped out for several months, and was employed intermittently as a sales clerk, farm laborer, ranch hand, and factory worker.
1925 November, traveled by freighter from Los Angeles to New York City; worked as a construction

laborer and, briefly, for the New York American.

1926-28 Lived in Lake Tahoe, California and worked as a caretaker for a summer home. 1929 August, publication of first novel, Cup of Gold, by McBride (New York). 1930 January 14, marries Carol Henning. October, meets Edward F. Ricketts, marine biologist,

philosopher, longtime friend.

1932 October, The Pastures of Heaven, published by Brewer, Warren, and Putnam (New York). 1933 September, novel To A God Unknown published by Ballou (New York). 1934 Winter, gathers information on farm labor unions. Interviews labor organizer in Seaside. 1935 May 28, first popular success, novel Tortilla Flat about Montereys paisanos. Published by

Covici-Friede (New York); beginning of lifelong friendship with editor Pascal Covici.
1936 October, novel In Dubious Battle, about striking workers. Published by Covici-Friede. 1937 February 6, novella Of Mice and Men published by Covici-Friede; Summer, first trip to Europe

and Russia; September, The Red Pony, three connected stories, published by Covici-Friede; November 23, New York opening of the play Of Mice and Men (207 performances).
1938 April, Their Blood Is Strong, a nonfiction account of the migrant labor problem in California,

published by the Simon J. Lubin Society (San Francisco); May, receives the New York Drama Critics Award for the play Of Mice and Men; September, short story collection, The Long Valley, incorporating The Red Pony (1937), published by Viking (New York), where Pascal Covici became an editor after the bankruptcy of his own firm.
1939 April, The Grapes of Wrath, his greatest critical success, published by Viking, provoking both

great popular acclaim and violent political condemnation for its depiction of Oklahoma migrants and California growers, as well as for its alleged vulgar language and socialist bias.
1940 January, films of Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath released; March 11April 20, marine

expedition in the Gulf of California with Ricketts; Spring, receives the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath; Summer, documentary film about living conditions in rural Mexico, The Forgotten Village.

1941 Spring, separated from Carol; fall, moves to New York City with singer Gwyndolyn Conger;

December 5, Sea of Cortez, written with Edward Ricketts, published by Viking.

1942 March, sued for divorce by Carol; March 6, novel The Moon Is Down published by Viking; April

8, New York opening of the play The Moon Is Down; May, film of Tortilla Flat released; November 27, Bombs Away published by Viking.
1943 March, film of The Moon Is Down released; March 29, marries Gwyn Conger in

New Orleans; JuneOctober, in Europe and North Africa as war correspondent for New York Herald Tribune.
1944 August 2, birth of first son, Thom. 1945 January 2, publication of novel Cannery Row by Viking. 1946 June 12, birth of second son, John IV. 1947 February, novel The Wayward Bus published by Viking; August-September, tour of Russia with

photographer Robert Capa, for the New York Herald Tribune; November, novella The Pearl published by Viking.
1948 April, A Russian Journal, an account of his 1947 tour of Russia, published by Viking; May, Ed

Ricketts killed in automobile accident; August, divorced by Gwyn; December, elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters.
1950 October, novella Burning Bright published by Viking; October 18, New York City opening of

the play Burning Bright; December 28, marries third wife, Elaine Anderson Scott.
1951 September, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, the narrative part of the Sea of Cortez (1941) including

an original essay About Ed Ricketts, published by Viking.

1952 March, film Viva Zapata! released (screenplay published in Rome by Edizoni Filmcritica in

1953; first published in America, edited by Robert Morsberger, by Viking in 1975); September, novel East of Eden published by Viking.
1954 June, novel Sweet Thursday published by Viking (a sequel to Cannery Row). 1955 March, purchases a summer home in Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York; November 3, New

York City opening of Pipe Dream, a Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein III musical based on Sweet Thursday.
1957 April, novel The Short Reign of Pippin IV published by Viking; film of

The Wayward Bus released.

1958 September, Once There Was a War, a collection of his 1943 wartime dispatches, published by Viking. 1959 February-October, travels in England and Wales, researching background for a modern English

version of Malorys Morte dArthur (1485).

1960 September-November, tours United States with poodle, Charley.


1961 April, twelfth novel, The Winter of Our Discontent, published by Viking. 1962 July, Travels with Charley, the journal of his 1960 tour, published by Viking;

October 25, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

1963 October-December, travels to Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia on United

States Information Agency cultural tour, with dramatist Edward Albee.

1964 September 14, presented with United States Medal of Freedom by President

Lyndon B. Johnson.
1966 October 12, America and Americans, reflections on contemporary America, published

by Viking.
1968 December 20, dies of arteriosclerosis in New York. 1969 Publication of Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, journal kept during

composition of East of Eden, by Viking.

1975 Steinbeck: A Life in Letters (selected correspondence) edited by Elaine Steinbeck and

Robert Wallsten published by Viking.

1976 Publication of The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (edited by Chase

Horton), an unfinished translation of Morte dArthur.

1979 U.S. commemorative stamp issued on what would have been his seventy-seventh

1984 The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer (biography), by Jackson J. Benson is

published by Viking; Steinbeck is pictured on half-ounce gold medal issued by the U.S. Government.
1989 Working Days: The Journal of The Grapes of Wrath, edited by Robert DeMott (journal

kept during writing of the novel in 1938, published on the novels fiftieth anniversary).
1991 Frank Gallatis Steppenwolf Theater dramatization of The Grapes of Wrath wins New

York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play of the season.
1992 Gary Sinise directs and stars in (with John Malkovich), in another film version of

Of Mice and Men; Nantucket conference on Steinbeck and the Environment, co-sponsored by the Steinbeck Research Center and University of Massachusetts.
1994 Biography by Jay Parini, John Steinbeck: A Biography is published in England by

1995 A revised version of Parinis biography is published in the United States by Henry

Holt and Company in New York

Tom Joad Ma Joad Pa Joad Al Joad Noah Joad/Boy Grampa/Mayor of Hooverville/Camp Guard Gramma/3rd Narrator Rose of Sharon Connie 20-25/Officer/2nd Man Jim Casy Uncle John Car Salesman #1/Deputy Sheriff/Man in the Barn Mrs. Wainwright/Elizabeth Sandry 2nd Narrator/Als Girl Willy/Car Salesman 4/Young Man Gas Station Attendant/ Hooper Ranch Guard Car Salesman #2/Man with Guitar 1st Narrator/Muley Graves/Man Going Back/ 2nd Man w/Club/2nd Man 3rd Man/Man/Agricultural Officer #1 Contractor/4th Narrator1st Man/3rd Man Car Salesman #5/Gas Station Owner Floyd Knowles/Weedpatch Camp Director Car Salesman 3/Camp Proprietor/1st Man w/Club Hooper Ranch Bookkeeper/Agricultural Officer 2
Jeffrey Donovan Shirley Knight Bob Pescovitz Daniel Chacon Michael Weston Fredd Wayne Kate Williamson Emily Bergl Mike Buie Francis Guinan Rod McLachlan Maurice Chasse Shannon Cochran Trista Delamere Charlie Mathes

Joel Rafael Steve Ramsey

Nick Sadler

Andy Taylor

Todd Waring


TOM JOAD Tom is the oldest child of Ma and Pa Joad and arrives home after being released

from MacAlester Prison to find that his family has been pushed off their farm. He accompanies them to California, learning from Jim Casey and maturing during their journey.
JIM CASEY Jim is a former itinerant preacher who befriends the Joad family and goes with

them to California. He listens to the people and thinks deeply and philosophically about what is happening to them. He becomes a role model for Tom.
PA JOAD Pa is the head of the family and the father of Tom, Noah, Al, Rose of Sharon,

Ruthie and Winfield. He becomes less and less able to make decisions as life gets more difficult on the journey.
MA JOAD Ma is the wife of Pa Joad and the matriarch of the family. Ma is truly the strength

and backbone for all of them and is especially close to Tom. She guides Rose of Sharon in the ways of becoming a woman.
GRANPA AND They are the elders and have a hard time leaving the land that has been home for GRANMA JOAD so long. They represent a generation who cannot make it to the Promised Land

of California.
ROSE OF SHARON Rose is married to Connie Rivers and is pregnant with their first child.

Her name, a Biblical reference, means flower of the desert. Her final act may be symbolic of her name.
NOAH JOAD Noah is one of the brothers and is quiet and a little strange. He decides to stay by

the river and not go on with the family into California.

AL JOAD Al is young and a bit full of himself but is a loving brother and hard worker. He

loves cars and girls and really knows how to fix cars, a valuable skill on the journey.
RUTHIE AND WINFIELD Ruthie and Winfield are the youngest Joads and, as Tom says when they cross into

California for the first time, Whos really seein it is Rughie an Winfiel. They represent the future.
CONNIE RIVERS Connie is married to Rose of Sharon and is a dreamer but not a doer. He deserts

Rose of Sharon and the family because he cannot deal with the reality of the familys difficulties.
UNCLE JOHN Uncle John is Pa Joads brother and is a sad man who feels guilty about the death

of his young wife years earlier. He drinks too much on occasion to release his sorrow, but he is kind to the younger children. His act at the end of the story with Rose of Sharons baby reveals Steinbecks anger at what is happening to all these migrant workers.


There was a feller that knew us Okies, and he knew what it was like in Oklahoma, and he knew about the dust and the debts that covered us up, and he knew why we blowed out to California, because early in the deal, he throwed a pack on his back and traipsed around amongst us, and lived with us, and talked to us, and et with us, and slept with us, and he felt in his heart and knew in his head that us Oakies was a Woody Guthrie lookin for A Living with Laborthat man was John Steinbeck.

Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not know he has any other name. He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I suspect he is, in a way, that people. Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen. There is the will of the people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit.
John Steinbeck

When I was asked to play the part of man with a guitar, and write original music for the Frank Galati adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath for the L A Theatre Works celebration of Steinbecks 100th birthday, I knew the part was probably modeled after Woody Guthrie. John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie were mutual fans of each others work. I had seen pictures of Woody in the Shafter Farm Community Camp near Bakersfield, and I knew that John Steinbeck had used that camp as the background for some of the Joad family struggles in his great American novel. Similarly, I felt the music should be based on Woody Guthries musical style. I had just finished recording Woodeye, an album of all Woody Guthrie songs that included an opportunity to write music to one of Woodys unpublished lyrics. I had been immersed in Woody Guthrie materials for over a year, and the album was probably the reason I had been asked to participate in the Steinbeck centennial performance. Now I would have the opportunity to write Guthriestyled songs and instrumental themes as well as original music to some of Steinbecks words for the production. Woody was from rural Oklahoma. When he saw the movie version of The Grapes of Wrath he was so inspired that he wrote several songs about the struggles of his own people during the Dustbowl migration. The collection included the 17 verse Ballad of Tom Joad which is practically the whole story of Grapes in one song. Woodys Dust Bowl Ballads were eventually recognized as a landmark, and some of the most influential American recordings of the twentieth century. But when they were first released, in the summer of 1940, Victor Records only pressed about a thousand copies. With the exception of a few good reviews, the project was considered a commercial failure. Some even saw Dust Bowl Ballads as nothing more than a spin off of The Grapes of Wrath.



Even if The Grapes of Wrath had never been written, Woody would have written a couple of novels, countless essays, letters, poems, and over a thousand songs. It was his nature and his course was set. He must have somehow known that the Huntingtons Disease that tragically took his life at age 55 would finish him before his work was finished. Im told that if he came to your house he would write on anything that could be written on, nailed down or otherwise. Anything that could be fit into a typewriter would be typed on, and most of it would be in the trash bucket when you woke up the next morning. Thankfully, many of these treasures were saved by the family and friends Woody wrote to and stayed with over the years, and have been sent in to, and collected by the Woody Guthrie Archives, now, under the direction of Woodys daughter, Nora. But the Grapes of Wrath was written, and on March 3, 1940, an actor named Will Geer (one of the stars of Tobacco Road, but better known later in his career as Grandpa on The Waltons) organized a Grapes of Wrath Evening to benefit the John Steinbeck Committee for Agricultural Workers. It was held at the Forrest Theater in New York and featured a long list of folk artists including one of Will Geers friends, Woody Guthrie. The show had a major impact on Woodys career, and some say the event actually signaled the beginning of the modern folk-music movement. It was that night at the Forrest Theater that the assistant director of the Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress, a young man named Alan Lomax, first saw and heard Woody Guthrie perform. Lomax documented Woody Guthries life and work when he decided to record Woodys stories and songs for the Library of Congress, and the rest is, as they say, history. There are strong historical and musical connections between Oklahoma and California, as the lives of the common people and the constant struggles of the homeless and working poor are woven throughout the works of Californian, John Steinbeck and Oklahoman, Woody Guthrie. Thanks to them and those like them, for their courage to write and talk about the things they see.

Joel Rafael

A man with a guitar



Originally published by the Simon J. Lubin society (San Francisco) in April, 1938. Also Printed as The Harvest Gypsies originally published in seven parts in The San Francisco News, between October 512 1938.


The spring is rich and green in California this year. In the fields the wild grass is ten inches high, and in the orchards and vineyards the grass is deep and nearly ready to be plowed under to enrich the soil. Already the flowers are starting to bloom. Very shortly one of the oil companies will be broadcasting the locations of the wild-flower masses. It is a beautiful spring. There has been no war in California, no plague, no bombing of open towns and roads, no shelling of cities. It is a beautiful year. And thousands of families are starving in California. In the county seats the coroners are filling in malnutrition in the spaces left for causes of death. For some reason, a coroner shrinks from writing starvation when a thin child is dead in a tent. For its in the tents you see along the roads and in the shacks built from dump heap materials that the hunger is, and it isnt malnutrition. It is starvation. Malnutrition means you go without certain food essentials and take a long time to die, but starvation means no food at all. The green grass spreading right into the tent doorways and the orange trees are loaded. In the cotton fields, a few wisps of old crop cling to the black stems. But the people who picked the cotton, and cut the peaches and apricots, who crawled all day in the rows of lettuce and beans are hungry. The men who harvested the crops of California, the women and girls who stood all day and half the night in the canneries, are starving. It was so two years ago in Nipomo, it is so now, it will continue to be so until the rich produce of California can be grown and harvested on some other basis than that of stupidity and greed. What is to be done about it? The Federal Government is trying to feed and give direct relief, but it is difficult to do quickly for there are forms to fill out, questions to ask, for fear someone who isnt actually starving may get something. The state relief organizations are trying to send those who havent been in the state for a year back to the states they came from. The Associated Farmers, which presumes to speak for the farms of California and which is made up of such earth stained toilers as chain banks, public utilities, railroad companies and those huge corporations called land companies, this financial organization in the face of the crisis is conducting Americanism meetings and bawling about reds and foreign agitators. It has been invariably true in the past that when such a close knit financial group as the Associated Farmers becomes excited about our ancient liberties and foreign agitators, someone is about to lose something. A wage cut has invariably followed such a campaign of pure Americanism. And of course any resentment of such a wage cut is set down as the work of foreign agitators. Anyway that is the Associated Farmers contribution to the hunger of the men and women who harvest their crops. The small farmers, who do not belong to the Associated Farmers and cannot make use of the slop chest, are helpless to do anything about it. The little storekeepers at cross roads and in small towns have carried the accounts of the working people until they are near to bankruptcy.




And there are one thousand families in Tulare county, and two thousand families in Kings county, fifteen hundred families in Kern county and so on. The families average three persons, by the way. With the exception of a little pea picking, there isnt going to be any work for nearly three months. There is sickness in the tents, pneumonia and measles, tuberculosis. Measles in a tent, with no way to protect the eyes means a child with weakened eyes for life. And there are the various diseases attributable to hunger, rickets and the beginning of pellagra. The nurses in the counties, and there arent one tenth enough of them, are working their heads off, doing a magnificent job and they can only begin to do the work. The corps includes nurses assigned by the Federal and State Public Health services, school nurses and county health nurses and a few nurses furnished by the Council of Women for Home Missions, a national church organization. Ive seen them, red eyed, weary from far too many hours, and seeming to make no impression in the illness about them. It may be of interest to reiterate the reasons why these people are in the state and the reason they must go hungry. They are here because we need them. Before the white American migrants were here, it was the custom in California to import great numbers of Mexicans, Filipinos, Japanese to keep them segregated, to herd them about like animals, and, if there were any complaints, to deport or imprison the leaders. This system of labor was a dream of heaven to such employers as those who no fear foreign agitators so much. But then the dust and the tractors began displacing the sharecroppers of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas. Families who had lived for many years on the little croppers lands were dispossessed because the land was in the hands of the banks and the finance companies and because these owners found that one man with a tractor could do the work of ten sharecroppers families. Faced with the question of starving or moving, these dispossessed families came west. To a certain extent they were actuated by advertisements and handbills distributed by labor contractors from California. It is to the advantage of the corporate farmer to have too much labor, for then wages can be cut. Then people who are hungry will fight each other for a job rather than the employer for a living wage. It is possible to make money for food and gasoline for at least nine months of the year if you are quick on the get away, if your wife and your children work in the fields. But then the dead three months strikes, and what can you do then? The migrant cannot save anything. It takes everything he can make to feed his family and buy some gasoline to go to the next job. If you dont believe this, go out in the cotton fields next year. Work all day and see if you have made thirty-five cents. A good picker makes more, of course, but you cant.


The method for concentrating labor for one of the great crops, is this. Handbills are distributed, advertisements are printed. Youve seen them. Cotton pickers wanted in Bakersfield or Fresno or Imperial Valley. The all the available migrants rush to the scene. They arrive with no money and little food. The reserve has been spent getting there. If wages happen to drop a little, they must take them anyway. The moment the crop is picked, the locals begin to try to get rid of the people who have harvested their crops. They want to run them out, move them on. The county hospitals are closed to them. They are not eligible to relief. You must be eligible to eat. That particular locality is through with them until another crop comes in. It will be remembered that two years ago some so-called agitators were tarred and feathered. The population of migrants left the locality just as the hops were ripe. Then the howling of the locals was terrible to hear. They even tried to get the army and the C.C.C ordered to pick their crops. About the fifteenth of January the dead time sets in. There is no work. First the gasoline gives out. And without gasoline a man cannot go to a job even if he could get one. Then the food goes. And then in the rains, with insufficient food, the children develop colds because the ground in the tents is wet. I talked to a man last week who lost two children in ten days with pneumonia. His face was hard and fierce and he didnt talk much. I talked to a girl with a baby and offered her a cigarette. She took two puffs and vomited in the street. She was ashamed. She shouldnt have tried to smoke, she said, for she hadnt eaten for two days. I heard a man whimpering that the baby was sucking but nothing came out of the breast. I heard a man explain very shyly that his little girl couldnt go to school because she was too weak to walk to school and besides the school lunches of the other children made her unhappy. I heard a man tell in a monotone how he couldnt get a doctor while his oldest boy died of pneumonia but that a doctor came right away after it was dead. It is easy to get a doctor to look at a corpse, not so easy to get one for a live person. It is easy to get a body buried. A truck comes right out and takes it away. The state is much more interested in how you die than in how you live. The man who was telling about it had just found that out. He didnt want to believe it. Next year the hunger will come again and the year after that and so on until we come out of this coma and realize that our agriculture for all its great produce is a failure. If you buy a farm horse and only feed him when you work him, the horse will die. No one complains at the necessity of feeding the horse when he is not working. But we complain about feeding the men and women who work our lands. Is it possible that this state is so stupid, so vicious and so greedy that it cannot feed and clothe the men and women who help make it the richest area in the world? Must the hunger become anger and the anger fury before anything will be done?





Photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) is best known for her work documenting poor conditions of the migrant workers who traveled in large numbers to California during the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s. Lange used photography to document the difficult period of the Depression and to motivate agencies and individuals to take action to improve the situation. With her photographs Lange was able to capture the emotional and physical toll that the Depression and other events took on human beings across the country.

Bio: Americas Library, Photos: Farm Security Administration Office of War Information Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC.

Top: Arkansas Family in California, February 1936. Above left: Motherless migrant children. They work in the cotton. June 1935. Above right: Dispossessed Arkansas farmers. Bakersfield, California. 1935.


Above: Destitute Pea Pickers in California. Mother of 7 children. Age 32. Nipomo, CA. February 1936.




Top: Tractored out. Power farming displaces tenants from the land in the

western dry cotton area. Childress County, Texas panhandle. June 1938.
Above left: We got blowed out in Oklahoma. Sharecropper family near Bakersfield. April 1935. Above right: More Oklahomans reach California via the cotton fields of Arizona. April 1935.


Top: Arkansas family. Seven months in California. Washing dishes. February 1936. Above left: Eighteen-year-old mother from Oklahoma, now a California migrant. March 1937. Above right: Dust Bowl refugees living in camps. February 1936.



Top: Migrant agricultural workers family.

7 hungry children. Father is native Californian. Nipomo, CA. March 1936. Right: Freight car converted into house in Little Oklahoma, California. February 1936.


Baptized Irrigation Virtue Trespassing Parole Tenants Handbills Roust Tarp Refugee Pauper Transgression Vagrants Sharecropping Okie Jalopy Migrant Agitating Commotion Picket Vintage Wrath Strikebreaking Fallow




Sometimes an author has his/her characters speak in a dialect that is particular to the region of the country they live in. Here is a list of words and phrases used by the Joads and other Okies. Why do you think Steinbeck has his characters use these words? Does it help them seem true to life? Why or why not?
Meetin (as in a meetin held by a preacher) Burning Busher Sperit Talkin in tongues Mosey Tractorin Touched (as in the head) Jack (as in some jack in my pocket) Sidemeat Grace Whole shebang Get shut of this Figger Booted off Somepin Shifless Pitchers (as in go to the pitchers) Bull simple Shoat Yourn Git sholt on yaself Hug-dance Crick


Ask the students to come up with several descriptive words based on the themes in The Grapes of Wrath and have them create a series of vignettes based on these words. Write the words down on separate sheets of paper and place them in a hat or bowl.

Divide the class into groups of three to five each. Have each group draw five words from the hat or bowl. Explain that the small groups must act out the vignette using up to five of the descriptive words. Give the students 10 minutes to collaborate on their words to create the vignettes based on the words they choose. There should be no talking during vignettes only movement, and each movement should have a beginning and an ending, culminating in a final movement in which the group freezes in a tableau. Encourage the children to be creative in thinking of a final movement for their vignette. After all the groups have presented their vignettes, reassign groups.

Ask students to choose their favorite character and develop a personal history of the character that starts at birth and ends right before the character is introduced in the play. Be sure to encourage students to use historical, literary as well as imaginative insights as to the conditions of the characters life prior to the beginning of the play. Descriptions should be 1 page in length.


Pass out Photocopies of the Dorthea Lange images included in this guide. Choose two or three students to start. Using the Dorthea Lange photographs have students improv a scene based on their interpretation of the images. Allow for the students to establish their ideas and then call freeze. Students should freeze where they are. Choose another student and have them choose which actor they would like to replace in the scene by tapping them. Allow the new student to resume a new scene based on a new image with the remaining actors. Continue until every student has had his or her turn.




In literature, a theme is a recurring, unifying idea that appears throughout a story and often reveals the authors attitude about life in the action or words of the characters. A number of themes occur in The Grapes of Wrath.

1 The importance of the land to the people

a b c d e f g h

Why are the Joads and thousands like them thrown off the land? What chain of events creates this? What does this action do to the people? Why do the people have such a strong feeling for the land? Who does Steinbeck think really owns the land? What do Ma and Rose of Sharon hope for when they reach California? How does the description of the lands current condition help set the mood for the story? What characters have a hard time leaving? Why?

2 The strength of the women

a How does the reaction of the men to their misfortune differ from that of the women? b Why do the women watch the men so carefully and feel safe when the men do not break? c As the story progresses, Ma emerges more and more as the strength of the family. Find

examples (there are many) of her taking charge, getting the family to California, protecting the family, helping others, counseling Tom, and guiding Rose of Sharon. d Find examples of some of the mens lessening ability to cope (Pa, Connie, Noah, Uncle John).

3 Symbols
A symbol is a literary device that uses a concrete imagea person or thingto represent a more abstract idea. Sometimes in literature an author will create religious symbols, not to try to promote a religious belief, but rather to relate a theme that many people can understand. In The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck seems to employ some religious symbolism.
a Jim Casey is sometimes called a Christ Figure. Think about the initials of his name, his

time in the wilderness, his feelings for the people, and his maturity as a philosopher while in jail (Maybe all men got one big soul ever bodys a part of), and his acts of sacrifice and martyrdom. Explain how these help create such a symbol of Casey. Why do you think Steinbeck may have portrayed him this way? b Tom Joad learns from Casey and becomes like a disciple to him. What is a disciple? How do we see him become more like Casey along the journey? How do his last words to Ma show the full achievement of his carrying on where Casey left off? c How is Rose of Sharons final act in the story reflective of her name? Describe how throughout the story she has learned from Ma. Does her feeding of the starving man provide a hopeful ending? Why or why not?



4 The importance of the family
a b c d e

Why does Ma feel so strongly that the family must stay together? Give examples. Who leaves and why? What does this break-up do to the family unit? Give examples of how Ma manages to carry on despite this break-up. Who represents hope for the future? Why?

5 UnityWe vs. I
The Grapes of Wrath is concerned throughout with the idea of the peoples necessity to become a part of a group larger then themselves, of a group made up of many folks working as a whole.
a What do the following characters say about this theme at various times in the story?

(There may be several examples for each character.) Ma Joad Tom Joad Jim Casey b How is this theme developed at the Weed patch camp? c Why do the authorities at Hooper Ranch try to break up those who believe we is stronger than I?

6 The anger of the people

a Why do the women feel safe as long as their men are angry? What does that anger represent? b What happens when the men are no longer angry? c How do Uncle Johns angry words as he deals with Rose of Sharons dead baby perhaps reflect

Steinbecks own anger? What do you think the baby symbolizes? d Steinbeck says, . . . in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage. What does he think is going to happen because people are being allowed to starve? What makes the image of full grapes of anger being harvested so effective here? How is this image of grapes different from Granpas vision of grapes earlier in the story? e Steinbeck took the expression grapes of wrath from the famous Civil War anthem The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Find the words to the anthem and explain why you think he used this strong image as the title for his work.




RESEARCH 1 The Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s affected the entire country, indeed parts of
the world beyond the United States. It was particularly felt in the Southern Great Plains (parts of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas). How did the Depression impact this area and add to the misery of those living there?

2 In 1935 an Associated Press writer names the region of the Southern Great Plains the Dust
Bowl. What happened during the 30s in this area to create the Dust Bowl? Who or what was to blameor was it a combination of factors? Have you or your family or someone you know had similar experiences with natural disasters? What effect did it have on your family or community?

3 Agriculture began to change, both in Oklahoma and California, from small farmers to mechanized agriculture. Explain how this change affected thousands of people like the Joads. What role did the banks play in this tragedy?

4 Route 66 is a highway that has had a colorful, yet sad, history during this era of the migration
of people from places like Oklahoma to California. Find out what you can about the highways history, including its use in song, television, movies, etc.

5 Migrant workers still toil in the fields of California and other states today. How similar are their
experiences to those of the Joads? Who do you think are the Joads of today? Explain.

6 Why do the residents of California call the migrants Okies? What do the users of the term
mean by it? Were these attitudes fair? Why or why not? What is the reaction of the Joads when they are called Okies for the first time? Are other names used today in a similar way? What do you think about the use of such names?

7 Why were some of the roadside camps called Hoovervilles? Describe the conditions of the
camps and how these conditions made the Joads and other families feel. How were they treated by the authorities in the camps? How did other people in the camp help each other?



8 The federal government during this terrible time had some programs like the
Weedpatch Camp to try to help these poor farmers. Describe the conditions of Weedpatch and its organizational structure. How was it different from the Hoovervilles and the Hooper Ranch and how do the people respond to the way they are treated in Weedpatch? What do these differences suggest to you about the effect of democracy and self-government on people?

9 Handbills play a big role in luring the migrant workers to California. What do they
promise? What does Floyd Knowles tell the Joads and others about the reality of the handbills? How does this add to their misery?

10 Why do the deputy sheriffs and other authorities call someone who questions them
about the handbills or tries to organize the workers a red or a red agitator? What does the term mean? Has it been used at other times in American History? Explain.

11 When Tom sees Jim Casey near the end of the story, Casey has become a strike
organizer. What does it mean to strike? Why does Casey believe that striking is the only way for the migrants to survive? What happens to him as a result of his efforts?




historical information on the migrant experience during the Dust Bowl jonz/grapes/char.htm

descriptions of the main characters in The Grapes of Wrath jonz/grapes/emersoni.htm

Emersonian philosophy in The Grapes of Wrath jonz/grapes/irony.htm

discussion of the poor helping the poor in The Grapes of Wrath jonz/steinbeck/steinbec.html

brief biographical information on John Steinbeck jonz/dust/dustbowl.html

brief description of the Dust Bowl

chapter summaries of The Grapes of Wrath with very brief descriptions of characters, places, Biblical links, etc.

words of Battle Hymn of the Republic, from which the title came

notes on how to read The Grapes of Wrath, biography of John Steinbeck, time line of major events in Steinbecks life, discussion questions of wrath.html

biography of John Steinbeck, brief outline of some of Steinbecks major works, discussion questions for those books

discussion of problems created in California counties from influx of thousands of migrants during Dust Bowl years discussion of why and how to read Steinbeck today


So Influential, So California: The Grapes of Wrath, by Tim Rutten; The Los Angeles Times; March 22, 2002. Statewide Reading of The Grapes of Wrath Planned, by Charles Matthews; The San Jose Mercury News; February 25, 2002. Steinbeck, the Pride of Salinas, at 100, by Stephen Kinzer; The New York Times; March 19, 2002. The Dawn Came, but No Day, by Brian McGinty; American History Illustrated; The National Historical Society Publishers; November, 1976. Their Blood Is Strong, by John Steinbeck; The San Francisco News; 1936. Welcome to California, by Jim Quay, Executive Director California Council for the Humanities; The New Yorker; April 8, 2002. Why Read Steinbeck? by Susan Shillinglaw; The Californian. Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck; Robert DeMott, Editor; Penguin Books, 1989.