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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Primary Source Set

Set during the Great Depression of the 1930s, John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joads, a family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by the Dust Bowl and related financial hardship. Along with thousands of other "Okies," they migrate along Route 66 to California in search of jobs and opportunities. The novel explores themes of poverty, discrimination, social justice, and sacrifice. Published in 1939, it provided social commentary on the experience of real migrants struggling to survive in the historical moment in which it was written. As part of his research, Steinbeck relied heavily on records from Tom Collins, director of Arvin Camp in California, photographs taken by Dorothea Lange, and interviews conducted by Sanora Babb, as well as his own journalistic writings on the migration. The Grapes of Wrath won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and is considered an American classic. This primary source set include photographs, oral history, and documents that provide context for and different perspectives on the events described in the novel.

Additional resources for research

  1. Sources about the Farm Security Administration, Digital Public Library of America.

  2. Sources about Hoovervilles, Digital Public Library of America.

  3. John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath: reader's guide, the National Endowment for the Arts via Digital Public Library of America.

  4. The Great Depression and the New Deal, the National Archives and Records Administration.

  5. The Dust Bowl, The Library of Congress.

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