I've been trying to find a quote I'd read somewhere which was purported to have been taken from an old interview with Steinbeck. Although without actually being able to find it again, I'm unable to verify its authenticity.
One section was regarding a question about his biblical metaphors. I can't recall the wording now, but Steinbeck would neither confirm nor deny intentionally using biblical themes, and replied to the effect that if people read things into his book that way, then that was their choice. Sitting on the fence like that just seemed a bit of a cop out to me, and I felt rather disappointed that it had the impression of demeaning his work somewhat. Personally, I thought that the biblical imagery played a highly effective role in the storyline and without it the book wouldn't have been nearly so powerful.
This was certainly an historically significant book, as SillyLily said earlier in the thread, it is still used widely in schools and colleges as background material for that period of American history. The Great Depression and dust bowl era affected so many people to a greater or lesser degree, and Steinbeck shows us that although the wealthy had more to lose, the poor were far more vulnerable.
It would be difficult to close the book without wondering what might have become of the Joads and, of course, the real migrant families. I've read quite a few personal accounts by people who lived through those times and the stories of their courageous struggle had quite an affect on me. I've unearthed some fascinating material whilst researching archives.
If anyone is interested, this webpage, The Migrant Experience
, is packed with information and has many other links within the body of the text.
An excerpt from the above mentioned link:
>>>As World War II wore on, the state of the economy, both in California and across the nation, improved dramatically as the defense industry geared up to meet the needs of the war effort. Many of the migrants went off to fight in the war. Those who were left behind took full advantage of the job opportunities that had become available in West Coast shipyards and defense plants. As a result of this more stable lifestyle, numerous Dust Bowl refugees put down new roots in California soil, where their descendants reside to this day.<<<
I had assumed that the Weedpatch Camp was purely fictitious, but it was an actual camp, (The Arvin Federal Camp), run just as described by Steinbeck, and is still used by migrant workers today. Read more about its history at www.weedpatchcamp.com