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The Grapes of Wrath Covers: A Short History

The Grapes of Wrath is one of those novels that has been published so many times, in so many varying versions, that the cover art is almost as fascinating as the story itself.

Like I did with Neuromancer and The Sound and the Fury, I thought we could take a look at some of the most notable covers in the history of The Grapes of Wrath.

I always find it interesting to look back at the cover designs of classic novels. So here goes, with my comments below each cover.

Despite the cartoonish look, I like this cover. That’s why I chose it as the featured cover for my “Currently Reading” box in the sidebar. It has a “dirty” feel that represents that Dust Bowl era.

Kind of abstract. I’m not really a fan of this cover. I’m assuming that’s Tom Joad, probably after he gets out of prison early in the novel because of the nicer clothes he appears to have on. Nonetheless, a bit of a boring cover.

Not bad. Just not much happening here, though. A drawing of the Joad’s car. This one’s just middle of the road, pun intended.

Again, another cover I don’t like. Too cartoonish, and I don’t think it speaks to the dire situation the Joads were in, like some of the other images. They could just as easily been moving down “the street.”

What is with the repeated cartoonish covers? That said, I like this one. It gives a better feel for the immensity of the Dust Bowl migration. Many families forced to move in the harsh summer heat.

I’m not sure who that dude is, but I really like this cover. This novel doesn’t appear to be a movie tie-in, so I don’t believe that’s an actor…or is it Henry Fonda from the movie? Help me out here. Anyway, that grizzled, weather worn look on his face gives a great sense of the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath.

You wonder if Steinbeck ever thought his novel could be interpreted in so many different ways? And these covers are really just the tip of the iceberg. So many more out there.

Any personal favorites? Should I have featured another one? Do you care? Do share.

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22 Comments Post a comment
  1. I actually like the second one. Clean + simple with warm colors. I think I’ll buy this one just to display on my coffee table.

    Like

    August 9, 2012
  2. bba #

    I read the version with Tommy Lee Jones’ doppelganger. So I pictured him as Joad the whole time. I think it intentionally alludes to the images most of us imagine in our heads when we hear the words “dust bowl.”

    Like

    August 9, 2012
    • Ha. It does look just like him. Good call.

      Like

      August 9, 2012
    • This is the copy I have. The note on the back cover simply says, “Cover photograph by Horace Bristol, 1938.” Guess that rules out Henry Fonda (to say nothing of Tommy Lee, of course). Maybe Google Images would have more info. Haven’t looked.

      Like

      August 9, 2012
      • “Late in 1937, Bristol proposed a story about migrant farm workers in Calfornia’s Central Valley—a project that would include accompanying text by novelist John Steinbeck. Though LIFE turned down the story, Bristol and Steinbeck agreed to collaborate on a book-length project, and the two men spent several weekends in labor camps during the winter of 1938. Bristol took hundreds of photographs of the suffering farm workers, only to have Steinbeck withdraw from the partnership to write the story as a novel, which became his masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath.”
        That explains a LOT

        Like

        August 9, 2012
  3. Didn’t realize there were so many covers. Should have realized it knowing how long this book has been around. I haven’t read it. I have read East of Eden. Now I’m dying to read The Grapes of Wrath. I have seen the movie. I figure the book will be better.

    Like

    August 9, 2012
  4. Nel #

    I think the last one kinda looks like a picture of Ian McKellen. I’m now imagining Gandalf in the Dust Bowl and it’s a strange image.

    Like

    August 9, 2012
    • Gandalf in Oklahoma. That would be awesome.

      Like

      August 9, 2012
  5. The one I read used a photograph. I believe it was a photo of people waiting in line (for work? For welfare? Can’t remember. Library book) and I spent some time looking at it. It worked because it reminded me that this was real, that people really made this journey and not all that long ago.

    Here’s a link, it’s the Penguin Modern Classics edition: http://www.dymocks.com.au/ImageHandler.ashx?w=200&q=9780141185064

    Like

    August 9, 2012
  6. I like the last cover! Rugged and gritty. Now you have inspired me Togo back for a reread!

    Like

    August 9, 2012
  7. Reblogged this on ΝΕΑ ΧΩΡΙΣ ΦΙΛΤΡΟ ΦΕΛΛΟΥ.

    Like

    August 9, 2012
  8. This is the cover of mine, which I love. Though the reason I love it is partially because my copy of Of Mice and Men has the same style of artwork, and I’m a sucker for matching! Too bad I can’t find East of Eden with this artwork anywhere.

    Like

    August 9, 2012
  9. Emily #

    I really like the 3rd one. it really summarizes most of the book in one simple picture. The car really summarizes the journey, the american dream. I really like it

    Like

    August 9, 2012
  10. That’s Henry Fonda from the movie. I like that one, and also the cartoonish ones best. They really convey the story of the book.

    Like

    August 10, 2012
  11. Melissa @ Swamp of Boredom #

    That is most definitely not Henry Fonda from the movie.

    I like the Penguin cover (second one) the best.

    Like

    August 10, 2012
  12. I am currently reading “Grapes of Wrath” in the 1984 Penguin paperback edition and it has a completely different cover again.

    Like

    August 20, 2012
  13. Verbal Tea #

    I have a hard back copy with a muted purple jacket that shows a bunch of grapes with metal spurs sticking out of them. It’s hilariously literal. I don’t think they read the book.

    Like

    March 12, 2014
  14. Keilee Mcwhirter #

    The last book cover with the dude is my great grandfather, definitely not Henry Fonda

    Like

    January 27, 2017

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Photos That Inspired The Grapes Of Wrath | 101 Books
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  3. The Lord Of The Rings Covers: A Brief History | 101 Books

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