Abstract

This article examines the appearance of The Grapes of Wrath in the Armed Services Editions, the book series that provided the American military with reading material during World War II. It argues that this unique and widely disseminated edition has been overlooked in the novel's reception history. Departing from the curiosity of including a politically controversial novel in an ostensibly patriotic context, I begin by highlighting the ways in which The Grapes of Wrath appears as an unexpected choice. As I turn to the literary artifact itself, I examine its framing textual materials, produced specifically for this edition, which would have shaped the soldiers' understanding of the novel. Drawing on a combination of paratextual and reader-response theory, supplemented by archival research, I go on to argue that The Grapes of Wrath was issued in the series to serve a social function, possibly to create continued support for New Deal initiatives and other reform programs after the war. As part of my conclusion, however, I suggest that the lasting influence of this edition of the novel may be found in the realm of literary reputation rather than sociopolitical impact.

You do not currently have access to this content.