May 6th 1940: Grapes of Wrath wins Pulitzer


John Steinbeck (1902 – 1968)


On this day in 1940 the novel The Grapes of Wrath by American author John Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Steinbeck is best known for this novel, and for his other works including Of Mice and Men (1937)and East of Eden (1952). Steinbeck was critically lauded both in his lifetime and beyond, winning a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 just six years before his death at 66. The Grapes of Wrath (1939) focuses on the Joad family and their troubles during the Great Depression, which meant that the novel resonated with its contemporary readers who had lived through the Depression.



First edition cover of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’


Despite its popularity and critical success, the book disgusted many groups who burned it in protest at how Steinbeck supposedly exaggerated the plight of the poor to make a political point about the greed of the rich, labelling it socialist propaganda. However, the novel is now widely loved and considered an exemplary piece of social commentary, fully deserving of its Pulitzer.


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