Steinbeck’s novel begins in drought and ends in flood, prompting us perhaps to read Grapes of Wrath as a founding narrative of “cli-fi” (climate fiction), a literary epic that anticipates current narratives of the Anthropocene/Capitalocene. On the other hand, as the novel proceeds it seems to become increasingly obsessed with figures and scenes of displacement and disappearance; a spectre haunts America (to paraphrase Herr Marx), whether that spectre is named Muley Graves or Tom Joad. Should we read The Grapes of Wrath as a long-winded ghost story? A story of the haunting of America that delivers a political and economic jeremiad? Or, is Grapes of Wrath really just a family saga writ large – – as one version of the nuclear family gives way to another, more startling image of Steinbeck’s fundamental social “unit” ?
In other words, let’s talk about endings when we get together on Wed.