'My nerves are going fast': The Grapes of Wrath’s hard road to publication


Famously written in 100 days, John Steinbeck’s novel drew on years of other work and an agonised sense of duty to migrant farm workers

In March 1938, shortly before he began working on The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck wrote to his agent Elizabeth Otis to turn down a commission to write about migrant workers.

“The suffering is too great for me to cash in on it … it is the most heartbreaking thing in the world,” he wrote. “I break myself every time I go out because the argument that one person’s effort can’t really do anything doesn’t seem to apply when you come on a bunch of starving children and you have a little money. I can’t rationalise it for myself anyway. So don’t get me a job for a slick.”

Related: The 100 best novels: No 65 – The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

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