The Grapes of Wrath

Steinbeck, John

Penguin, 2002

pp. 116-117

Suppose the preacher’s text du jour is one from Isaiah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel about how God’s judgment can leave the land desolate, or a house desolate, or the people desolate.   Wind has swept the land of its crops, the farm animals have been sold or wandered off, the cities have turned into ghost towns, and the houses have been forsaken.  What is this like?   Preachers in search of illustrations could wander through Detroit Michigan or some of the emptied out towns on the American prairie. Preachers could report on desolation from their own experience.  Or the preacher could read The Grapes of Wrath, which tells what happened when the banks pushed the sharecroppers off the land and the wind blew away the crops and auctioneers sold the animals and the houses were left behind. What is it like for a house to be left behind?  In one of his virtuoso inter-chapters, Steinbeck tells us: The weeds sprang up in front of the doorstep, where they had not been allowed and grass grew up through the porch boards.  .  . Splits started up the sheathing from the rusted nails. . . On a night the wind loosened a shingle and flipped it to the ground.  The next wind pried into the hole where the shingle had been, lifted off three, and the next, a dozen.  The wild cats crept in from the fields at night, but they did not mew at the doorstep any more.   They moved like shadows of a cloud across the moon, into the rooms to hunt the mice.  And on windy nights the doors banged, and the ragged curtains fluttered in the broken windows.