Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Days When School Might Come in Handy

Not often have I experienced such total longing for the book-club style of our Junior AP English class, as when I was confronted with the closing of the classic Steinbeck novel, Grapes of Wrath. Anyone who has journeyed from Oklahoma to California with the Joad family before, has also been faced with the symbolism-packed, Bible-allusion-laced pathway from poor to tragically destitute, while noting many a critique of the government, and society in general, along the way. Unfortunately, it turns out that I am either too lazy to go through and pick apart every important detail and dissect it for meaning, or not creative enough to get past basic understanding. (I sure hope it's not either of them, actually). So, in the end - and especially at the end, for those of you who have read it and know what I'm talking about - I was left simply confused, and more than a little frustrated that I had spent that much time following these heart-felt and carefully molded characters, and yet had no idea what had happened to them along the way. Well, I did know one thing: every single one of the characters I had taken a special liking to, like the Grandparents, and another one who I'm not going to ruin for those who haven't read it yet, ended up dead, which was pretty depressing, and probably was one of the biggest reasons why I didn't really like the book.

I should probably address that: I really didn't enjoy Grapes of Wrath. It's hard for me to say that I didn't enjoy a book, and especially one that has been branded a classic since the early 20th Century. I understand that it was an important breakthrough in terms of getting people to register the impact of the Dust Bowl and Depression on a personal level, and it was a rallying cry against the big pig bankers and farmowners who were grabbing and clawing at people's livelihoods at that time, and if school has taught me anything thus far, it's that if a book makes you feel bad, that makes it a great book, but really, I really, really did not enjoy this book.

But I can still understand why people - as history has demonstrated, a LOT of people - really care about this book. And like I said, I wish I had the benefit of experiencing it along with a larger group of people, like my lovely Junior AP English class from this past year, who might help me understand, and therefore, enjoy it, a little bit more. And therein lies one message I clearly absorbed from the Grapes of Wrath: It's a terribly hard thing, to have to do it alone. When the people come together, that's when important things happen. Tom Joad knew that the people needed to come together, and devoted himself to the cause.

However, I'm not going to be the first to announce a need for our English class to regroup over the summer, for the summary and review of a book that we were never officially told to finish. :)
P.S. You know you've paid way too much attention to your English teacher when you finish tie-dying, you look down at your hands, and the first thing that pops into your head is Lady Macbeth. "Out, damned spot!" :)

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