The Grapes of Wrath (First Edition) by John Steinbeck



2015-06-26 10:52:09

The Grapes of Wrath is a novel by John Steinbeck (1902-1968). The first edition of this work was published in 1939 by James Lloyd at The Viking Press, New York. Background

Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath during the Great Depression. He wanted to make those responsible feel guilty and ashamed by portraying those it was affecting the most, the tenant farmers forced to turn migrant workers in Dust Bowl America. The novel developed from a series of seven articles written for the San Francisco news in 1936, titled ‘The Harvest Gypsies’.

When published, its controversial depicting of the plight of the poorest in America was attacked, and Steinbeck branded a socialist propagandist. The book was banned, burned, but also read, especially among the working class.

This novel was instrumental in the decision to grant John Steinbeck the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, is considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and along with Of Mice and Men (1937) among the defining works of American realist and dustbowl fiction.

Plot, Characters, Themes

Set during the Great Depression in Dust Bowl America, the plot features a poor family of tenant farmers who have been driven from their home due to drought, economic hardship, and agricultural changes. Along with thousands of other Oklahoman migrants, they head to California in the hope of finding jobs, land, and regaining their dignity. On this trip, the stories of these migrants are heard, and their hardships shared.

Steinbeck presented in this realist work a true and harrowing depiction of what was happening in America at this time.


John Steinbeck was an American writer renowned for his realist and Dust Bowl fiction. He wrote 27 books, and won many awards.

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

First edition copies of The Grapes of Wrath are worth much more when they retain their original bindings and dust jackets. It is not recommended to restore or rebind them.

The Grapes of Wrath first editions (1939, The Viking Press, New York) inscribed, were sold by Heritage Auctions for $14,500 in June 2008, by Sothebys for $28,800 in November 2004, by Bonhams for $47,800 in February 2007 and by Christie’s for $41,825 in October 2002.

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