“I don’t need to tell you that writers sometimes get ideas which practical-minded individuals regard as chimerical” – Henry Miller
I just finished reading “The Grapes of Wrath” for the first time (I know, I know, I’m way to old and love Steinbeck way too much not to have read this earlier, but bear with me), and while I was reading it people kept saying “Oh man, Steinbeck is SOOOOOO depressing!” Every-time this happened I would give a demure smile and a slight nod, because I half believed them. I love Steinbeck because of his readability, his tone, and his brief and wonderful, bright bursts of beautiful, insightful writing, but people don’t get this from him because of his content.
As my eyes scanned over the last few words of “The Grapes of Wrath” and I shut the book, my mind began to scan for potential meaning behind the final few pages. Were they depressing? Yes. Was the book dark and dreary? Probably. But there is an image which sticks in my mind, even now, hours after finishing it. It’s such a small thing that most people who read the book probably will focus on the death and uncertainty which is prevalent…and they wouldn’t be wrong. The Joads go through so much throughout this book, that I actually felt like each chapter was going to end in another heartbreak, another setback. Then there was that image right there at the end, which changed the tone of the entire book.
Ruthie found a flower.
That was it. Ruthie found a flower.
What stuck with me was the symbolism of it. Steinbeck writes this book alternating chapters between the story of the Joads and a social commentary, and the downer of this book comes to an end with that flower. The last couple of the lines of the last bit of the commentary are as follows: “And the women sighed with relief, for they knew it was all right-the break had not come;and the break would never come as long as fear could turn to wrath.
Tiny points of grass came through the earth, and in a few days the hills were pale green with the beginning year.”
Spring is a time of re-birth. The breaking of spirit would not come, because through the depths of despair comes the realization that you’re alive. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you realize what you have in front of you. The harder the winter, the darker and colder it gets, the brighter the spring. The ground needs the snow and the cold to be able to have a re-birth, to bring about spring and spring is hope.
Sometimes horrible things happen to you. Sometimes life is depressing. Sometimes life is almost too much to overcome. But as long as there is determination, as long as there is hope; one day while you’re walking on the broken pieces of what you thought your life should be, you’ll find a flower, and a new spring will bloom.