Grapes of Wrath – favourite lines

Dust Bowl photograph from the manuscript collection of Margaret Bourke-White.

First Edition of John Steinbeck's Classic 1939 Novel, "The Grapes of Wrath". Cover art by Elmer Hader

"The Grapes of Wrath" is quite rightly regarded as one of the finest books of the 20th century. I have just finished it for the second time, and enjoyed it even more on this reading. The writing is wonderful from start to finish in this timeless story of human strength and weakness, greed and love.

The following are some of the lines and phrases that I really loved, from what is one of my all time favourite books.

If you haven't experienced  "The Grapes of Wrath" yet, I can't recommend it enough.




"The Grapes of Wrath" - Favourite Lines
  1. "And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself."

  2. "He had never been angry in his life. He looked in wonder at angry people, wonder and uneasiness, as normal people look at the insane."

  3. "We got to figger close. It's a sad thing to figger close."

  4. "The people in flight from the terror behind—strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever."

  5. "Every night a world created, complete with furniture—friends made and enemies established; a world complete with braggarts and with cowards, with quiet men, with humble men, with kindly men. Every night relationships that make a world, established; and every morning the world torn down like a circus."

  6. "The night passed, and with the first streak of dawn the women came out of the tents, built up the fires, and put the coffee to boil. And the men came out and talked softly in the dawn."

  7. "When you're young, Rosasharn, ever'thing that happens is a thing all by itself. It's a lonely thing. I know, I 'member, Rosasharn." Her mouth loved the name of her daughter. "You're gonna have a baby, Rosasharn, and that's somepin to you lonely and away. That's gonna hurt you, an' the hurt'll be lonely hurt, an' this here tent is alone in the worl', Rosasharn." She whipped the air for a moment to drive a buzzing blow fly on, and the big shining fly circled the tent twice and zoomed out into the blinding sunlight. And Ma went on, "They's a time of change, an' when that comes, dyin' is a piece of all dyin', and bearin' is a piece of all bearin', an bearin' an' dyin' is two pieces of the same thing. An' then things ain't lonely any more."

  8. "A fella builds his own sins right up from the groun'."

  9. "looked down at her hands, lying together like tired lovers in her lap."

  10. "The family looked at Ma with a little terror at her strength."

  11. "They had these things so completely that they did not know about them any more."

  12. "And all their love was thinned with money"

  13. "No matter how clever, how loving a man might be with earth and growing things, he could not survive if he were not also a good shopkeeper"

  14. "Use' ta rip off a prayer an' all the troubles'd stick to that prayer like flies on flypaper, an' the prayer'd go a-sailin' off, a-takin' them troubles along. But don' work no more."

  15. "An' when they're young they wanta dance an' sing an' lay together. They wanta eat an' get drunk and work. An' that's it—they wanta jus' fling their goddamn muscles aroun' an' get tired. Christ! What'm I talkin' about?"

  16. "I'm gettin' tired, that's all. I'm gettin' tired way past where sleep rests me. An' I jus' don' know what to do."

  17. "Somewhere in the camp a guitar sounded, slow chords, struck without any sequence, practice chords"

  18. "Men who had never been hungry saw the eyes of the hungry."

  19. "Wisht I knowed what all the sins was, so I could do 'em"

  20. "Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul, an' he foun' he didn' have no soul that was his'n. Says he foun' he jus' got a little piece of a great big soul"

  21. Uncle John looked up. "I can't think nothin' out," he said. "Don' seem like I'm hardly awake no more."

  22. "Woman can change better'n a man," Ma said soothingly. "Woman got all her life in her arms. Man got it all in his head. Don' you mind"

  23. "Man, he lives in jerks—baby born an' a man dies, an' that's a jerk—gets a farm an' loses his farm, an' that's a jerk. Woman, it's all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it like that. We ain't gonna die out. People is goin' on—changin' a little, maybe, but goin' right on."

  24. In the wet hay of leaking barns babies were born to women who panted with pneumonia. And old people curled up in corners and died that way, so that the coroners could not straighten them.

  25. Ma's eyes passed Rose of Sharon's eyes, and then came back to them. And the two women looked deep into each other.