From beginning to end, “wrath” is the key word in John Steinbeck's monumental novel, The Grapes of Wrath—wrath not only over the dispossession of migrants, but wrath also over abuse of the earth, our home. For in this novel there is a strong sense that a sacred bond between people and the land—a living entity—has been broken. Fiercely, Steinbeck later proclaims in The Log from the Sea of Cortez that “the world is furrowed and cut, torn and blasted by man.” As Susan Shillinglaw has observed, The Grapes of Wrath “starts and ends with land misused by man: Oklahoma sharecroppers exhaust the soil and California owners waste the soil's bounty by dumping potatoes in a river and burning piles of oranges to keep the prices high”—both guilty of crimes in Steinbeck's view. And the human story is intricately tied to the land story. Without the land, there is only a nightmarish stasis for the Joads—although there is constant movement across a continent in search of work, they seem not to go anywhere, for they have left their hearts behind.

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