Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I enjoyed this story a lot more than I expected, though I wish the writing had been a little different.

3.5/5 stars


synopsis for reviews 2

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Add it on Goodreads.

my thoughts for reviews 1

Like 99% of the classics I read, I read this book because of school. I can’t say that I had low expectations for the book, because I had honestly no idea what to expect. I knew that Hollywood portrayed the Creature wrong…and that was it. I was pleasantly surprised by Frankenstein, though.

I’ll start with the positive. I genuinely enjoyed the plot of this book. Having known nothing about the plot beforehand except that the Creature comes to life and everything goes wrong, I found the actual plot original and complex. There is so much more going on in this book than “whoops, bringing the dead back to life is a mistake.”

There were surprising moments and the story built to a strong climax. I loved the approach the story took to discussing good and evil, as well as how it left some moral questions unanswered.

The Creature was a fascinating character, and his complicated relationship with Victor was unexpected and nuanced. I absolutely hated Victor, but I admire Shelley for how completely she got me to hate him. Both characters grow significantly throughout the novel and I never felt like I didn’t understand their motivations.

Looking just at the overall plot of the novel and the two main characters, Frankenstein was a really solid novel. Unfortunately, the details are where I start to like the book less.

First off, waaay to much time passes. Seriously, the book spans like six years, with most of that time just being Victor passed out from his bad decisions or loitering, trying to decide what to do next. If you cut out all the waiting around parts, the plot is paced pretty well, but I could never get fully invested in the story because so much of the story wasn’t the main plot. 

Also, the writing bothered me. I knew it was a “classic” going in, so I wasn’t expecting it to read the same way a novel written today would. I can forgive the novel for its wandering sentences and obsession with figurative language—in truth, I actually enjoyed those parts.

However, the story is told in a forcibly “tell” instead of “show” manner. For me, it felt like certain chapters were trying to suck all of the excitement out of the plot in the way they were told. For a book that is entirely in first person (though the narration changes), it feels like it’s written in third person—by which I mean that something is constantly separating me from experiencing the action up-close-and-personal. 

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. It is one of my favorite books I’ve read in for high school, both from a plot standpoint and a literary analysis standpoint. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy “classic” writing, or who are at least able to forgive a story for slower pacing.

Book Review: A Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Wow, I am conflicted about this book.

3.5/5 stars

cover a catcher in the rye

Goodreads Description

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.

My Review

I read this book for school, and I had no idea what to expect. From the first pages, I was in love with the vividness of Holden’s voice, but I was also frustrated with the lack of plot.

I love and hate this book, and I have a lot of thoughts, but most of them are half-sentence “yeah, but”-s that refuse to coalesce into a review. Because I read this book for school, I also have a lot of other people’s comments in my head, a lot of which I disagree with.

Let’s start with Holden. A lot of people in my class described him a whiny, selfish, and lazy, which is kind of fair, I guess. But Holden is also a poster child for depression, something that a ton of people (including, apparently, my teacher) missed, and for me, it explained a lot of his character flaws.

Seriously, I goggled symptoms of depression and Holden hits basically all of them at some point or another.

I’d love to hate his guts for all the times that he mentions something that he’d like to do, then says he “isn’t in the mood for it”—but when I looked at his apathy through the lens of depression, I couldn’t hate him for it. He’s damaged and lonely and cynical, and he has a ton of opportunities to make his life better that he doesn’t take, and of course that is frustrating as hell to read about. But he’s also living in a time before antidepressants existed and a world that says guys don’t need therapy.

It really frustrated me how often people in my class wrote off Holden as bitchy and stupid when he so obviously needs help. How are we supposed to deal with mental illness in a positive way when our class discussions reinforce the “depressed people are just people who are too lazy to smile more” narrative?

However, Holden also has a fairly crappy personality, even factoring his depression. He’s oblivious to his own self, out-of-touch with the struggles of people who aren’t rich and white, and incredibly judgmental. He’s hypocritical and immature. There were times when I wanted to bash Holden in the head with some common sense. When you get down to it, Holden is the kind of character people hate, and though I didn’t want to fall into that majority, I did at times.

I LOVED the way JD Salinger wrote Holden’s voice, though. It goes beyond your average first person, drawing the reader in and giving you an incredibly clear picture of who Holden is. (Which sometimes backfired, since who Holden is can be really annoying.) His cursing felt natural, and his voice was clear and alive.

My biggest problem with this book is the lack of plot. There is no clear arc, besides Holden slowly dissolving in a mess of self-hatred and sleep-deprivation (okay, that’s overly simplistic, but you get the idea). Lots of things happen, but they are disjointed and muddled, never gelling into a clear plot. It was hard to get into the book when I had no idea where the book was going. The book ended suddenly, almost as if JD Salinger just stopped writing and sent it into the publisher.

But I can’t write off this book entirely, because every few chapters, there would be an intensely emotional few sentences and I’d fall back in love with the story. Hidden in the jumbled mess of Holden’s New York explorations are some gorgeous tidbits about life and loss. A lot of them are sad, not exactly inspiring, but they make you feel something, and think.

I would recommend this book to people who are willing to read a book that will frustrate them, but that will offer a window into the mind of a person struggling with depression. JD Salinger did an amazing job crafting his character, so if you want an example of intense first person, you should also read this book. And if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t need a clear plot arc to enjoy the story, you should definitely pick up this book.

Book Review: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I started out bored by this book, grew to like it, and got annoyed by the ending. In terms of books I’ve read for English classes, it was actually pretty good, even if suffered from sloppy storytelling.

3/5 stars

cover the scarlet letter

Goodreads Description

Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne’s concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided.

My Review

I cannot make up my mind on this book. Parts of it I enjoyed, parts of it I hated. I guess it all averages out to three stars.

Hawthorne’s writing is beautiful but tiring. His use of metaphor and imagery is amazing; he understood how to make a point with rhetoric. (His habit of shoving any analysis that existed in his reade’s face was a tad bit annoying, but I’ll live.) His love of winding sentences and superfluous punctuation, on the other hand, can be exhausting to read. TSL is extremely quotable, but those quotes will end up being pretty long. (As I learned when I used two quotes for my Weekend Words meme.)

Looking back on the text, I come down in favor of his writing style–because, let’s be honest, it’s incredible to read, and as a long-winded comma-lover myself, I appreciated his dedication. (We won’t comment on how I would have answered this question while I was doing my reading homework at ten at night.) I’m glad that I’ve read this book…I’m just not sure that it couldn’t have been a novella.

The plot of The Scarlet Letter is…interesting. Hester Prynne was sent over to a Purtian colony in the 1600s ahead of her husband; her husband didn’t show up for two years, but Hester was pregnant. Accused of adultery, Hester was forced to wear a scarlet letter on her chest for the rest of her life–a punishment that ostracized her from the rest of the sin-fearing society. The plot focuses on discovering who she adultered with and how raising the child of her adultery (Pearl) affected Hester’s personality. Her husband also eventually shows up, hiding his identity from all but Hester, and becoming a symbol of revenge.

The plot had it’s dramatic and touching moments, but for the most part, is was slow-paced and on the cusp of being boring. Hawthorne has a habit of saying the same thing over and over again, which resulted in chapters being longer than they really needed to be for the amount of forward progress the plot underwent.

I was impressed by the characters in this book. Hester, our adulteress, is a fascinating mixture of characteristics: she is submissive and demure at times, but she has a bold, rebellious streak that she passes on to her daughter. Pearl, the aforementioned daughter, was hands-down my favorite character: she’s elfish and creepy, almost un-human, with both precocious and childlike mannerisms–she brought life to the story. I would not want her as my daughter, but I loved reading about her, and I would read a spin-off book about her life after TSL, no question. The two male characters–her husband and her adulterer–(unnamed purposefully) were realistic and strangely un-likable. The side characters were one-dimensional but added to the message and tone of the story in their own ways.

What frustrates me most about this book is its identity crisis. Since I read this book for English class, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to find a focus of the plot, but Hawthorne kept contradicting himself. He hates the Puritan society, but ends up endorsing their morality (at least partially). As a transcenentalist, he’s supposed to champion nature, but nature is shown as a corrupting force (in some scenes). While this makes the book more complex, as a student, it was frustrating.

I would recommend this book to fans of classics, people who can derive pleasure and not headaches from Old-Timey sentences. TSL would appeal to fans of subtle plots and vivid characters. People who long for dialogue or rapidly paced plots will probably be disappointed, but everyone can relate to or be affected by some part of the books’s numerous themes.

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Breaking news: I picked up a “classic” willingly–and I really enjoyed it! Though it was clearly written around the turn of the twentieth century, The Picture of Dorian Gray’s gothic and haunting plot has a timeless quality that ended up appealing to my very modern tastes.

4/5 stars

Arkham cover D final
I’m in love with this cover, by the way

Amazon Description

In this celebrated work, his only novel, Wilde forged a devastating portrait of the effects of evil and debauchery on a young aesthete in late-19th-century England. Combining elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction, the book centers on a striking premise: As Dorian Gray sinks into a life of crime and gross sensuality, his body retains perfect youth and vigor while his recently painted portrait grows day by day into a hideous record of evil, which he must keep hidden from the world. For over a century, this mesmerizing tale of horror and suspense has enjoyed wide popularity. It ranks as one of Wilde’s most important creations and among the classic achievements of its kind.

My Review

I was sucked in by the premise of this book: a guy gets a picture painted of him, and the portrait ages instead of him. Meanwhile, English society ignores his sinful nature because of his ridiculous good looks and ageless quality. I was ready to read it but hesitant of it being a “classic,” but my mom said she thought I would enjoy it anyway, so I picked it up.

I’m glad I decided to read it.

The characters in this book are fascinating. It is hard to say who exactly is the main character, because in the beginning, most of the narration is from the viewpoint of Lord Henry, the proverbial devil on young Dorian Gray’s shoulder. I loved and hated Lord Henry simultaneously. His dialogue was quick-paced and rhythmic, but I’m fairly certain that everything he ever said contradicted itself.

Had I read this book for school, I would have hated how little sense Henry’s grand declarations about art and human nature made, because I would have been forced to try to make sense of his views. Reading this book outside of the school setting, I was able to simply let the ridiculous senselessness of his speeches wash over me, and I ended up loving his presence in the book. Technically, Lord Henry is a horrible person, but his jovial character and amusing speech pattern made me unable to hate him.

About a third of the way into the novel, the narration refocuses on the title character, Dorian Gray. Passionate to the point of melodrama, half charming angel and half sinister devil, I was fascinated by Dorian. He definitely did not start out evil, though just as assuredly, he ended up evil. By the end of the book, you are trapped inside the head of a madman, but he never fully loses the whimsical and flighty innocence that drew Lord Henry to him.

There are too many side characters to count, let alone keep track of. I read this book slowly, over the course of a few weeks (for no good reason, really), so I’m sure that I missed times when characters came back, thinking them to be new people altogether. I can’t say that this really matters, because the side characters mostly serve as symbols of proper English society; their importance comes from their ignorant obsession with Dorian and their own shallow moralities, rather than who they are as individuals.

The important side characters–Basil Howard, Sibyl Vane, James Vane, Alan Campbell–were portrayed simply but well, so that I understood who they were and what they each wanted from Dorian. None of them lingered in the story long enough to develop complex characters, but their flatness never hindered the book.

I loved the plot surrounding the portrait of Dorian. It’s significance came less from showing Dorian’s age–though it did keep him from aging in reality–but from showing his sin’s effects on his character. This gave the book a chilling and creepy tone, and by the end of the book, I was exactly as enthralled and horrified by the picture as Dorian himself.

From the standpoint of literary analysis (because I couldn’t turn off the AP English student in my mind while I read this), the picture was an annotater’s dream. It was a mirror acting as a conscience, but it was doomed to fail, because none of the ruin actually affected Dorian. Guilt about his sins clawed at him and obsessed him at times, but he kept barreling down his road of corruption, in part because the painting enabled him to do so while staying in society’s graces. I loved the paradoxical nature of the portrait’s effect on Dorian, and the plot that resulted was intriguing and surprisingly gripping.

My only complaint about this book comes from the pacing. Any scene with dialogue was readable, pulling me along faster and faster into the plot. Then, a chapter break would happen, and suddenly I would be stalled in the land of page-long paragraphs musing about random settings or events, laden with allusions that went over my head and bored me until the sentences ran together. Then the action of the chapter would draw me in, and I would commit to the story again, until the next chapter break slammed me into a wall of heavy imagery and mind-numbingly long sentences.

Seriously, just because you can use semicolons to connect half a dozen somewhat related sentences into one, doesn’t mean you should, Oscar Wilde.

Still, the writing in this book is gorgeous. There are so many amazingly quotable lines–I tried to pick a few to put into this review, but there were too many to choose from. The dialogue (especially if Lord Henry was involved) was my favorite part of the book, and the banter between characters was entertaining enough to challenge some of my modern favorites.

From a modern perspective, this book is an intriguing insight into the struggle of being gay in proper English society. Honestly, I’d be willing to bet that the three main characters (Henry, Dorian, and Basil) as well as a few side characters (I’m looking at you Alan Campbell) were gay, though in the story nothing remotely homosexual actually occurs between them (that the reader is shown). There is something equal parts sad and captivating about being inside these characters’ minds–where they are drawn to and fascinated by the other male characters–while simultaneously seeing their actions–which are all focused on marrying, loving, and having affairs with women.

Also from a modern perspective, there is some pretty serious sexism in this book. I was able to laugh at it–Lord Henry’s sexist remarks about women are ridiculous–but if sweeping declarations about the female temperament being weak and nonintellectual make you want to throw things across the room, this book might not be for you.

“She is very clever, too clever for a woman. She lacks the indefinable charm of weakness.”

Despite the social situations of this book being outdated, the story itself is similar to its title character: there is something timeless about this book. The characters’ complex moral struggles, the bantering and amusing dialogue, and the undeniably creepy tone appealed to me as a modern reader, and though I knew that this book was over a century old, I feel that it would fit right in to my bookshelves.

Top Ten (Six) Reasons I Won’t Read a Book

top ten tuesday

 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. I take part in this meme when I have something to say for the topic and I remember what day it is.

This week’s topic was supposed to be “Top Ten Books I Will Probably Never Read”–but that’s really hard! How can I guarantee that I’ll never read a book? So I’m reinterpreting the topic by just taking about things that make me not want to read a book, rather than specific titles I’m currently avoiding. When I could think of examples, I listed them at the bottom.

1. Books With a lot of Hype

Probably my biggest “turn off” when it comes to books is when a book gets a lot of attention, especially from people who don’t usually read. While some people may champion these books as books that are so good that they overcome teens’ dislike of reading, I generally find that my peers choose fairly unimpressive books to get excited about (eg Hunger Games, Divergent). Also, maybe I’m just an unwitting hipster, but I find super popular books just don’t appeal to me; I like more obscure ones rather than the books that show up on Pinterest infographics and billboards.

  • Any of the new books by Rick Riordan

2. “Classics” (That aren’t on a school reading list)

Classics are often enjoyable reads, but not in any way that drives me to go out and read them in my own time. I trust the English classes I take to expose me to a few highlights, but on my own time, I want to read more current books. I find them more relatable and enjoyable, and while I’m still a bit defensive about this, I keep trying to tell myself that these are valid reasons. Anyone agree?

3. Overly dramatic continuations or conclusions of series

You know the type–the plot is headed toward some type of conclusion but then it swerves toward a cliff, leaving the reader dangling by their fingertips right at the end. I guess that this makes some people excited to read the next book in a series, and occasionally it does, but most of the time I get overwhelmed and annoyed. I like books with conflicts and suspense, but I have a limit of how much tension I can handle, especially when the beginning of the series (that I fell in love with) was more moderate and readable. Consistency people!

  • The One (Selection #3) by Kierra Cass
  • Never Fade (The Darkest Minds #2) by Alexandra Bracken
  • The Death Code (Murder Complex #2) by Lindsay Cummings

4. Books With Cliche or Overwrought Plots

You know the type: a dystopian world with a love triangle where the girl with mysterious powers she can’t control has to choose between the revolutionary or the royal and discovers a shocking truth about herself…

It’s too much. I want original plots that rely on strong characters and good writing. I feel like so many authors today focus only on drama, and it’s just not my thing. Even if its well written–I still can’t handle it a lot of the time.

The problem with this one is that I forget this about myself and I’ll go to a bookstore and buy a ton of books that when I get home I realize…This sounded good? I’m never going to read this.

5. Books that focus on really sad topics

This is not always true; I have read some books that I knew going in would be sad and that totally delivered on their promise. However, most of the time, I don’t want to pick up a book that promises sadness, especially if the story is set in contemporary times. I don’t want to read about people dying of cancer or recovering from car crashes or surviving intense trauma. I read to get a break from the world, and I really don’t want to be hit over the head with the horrors of modern life. Historical fiction from WWII is in the same vein, especially if it revolves around concentration camps or some other horrific thing people had to endure.

That’s not to say that I don’t like it when books make me cry. I actually really enjoy that. But I want there to be more to a book than making me cry. I want it to be a surprise when books make me cry, not a foregone conclusion.

  • The Fault in our Stars by John Green

6. Books that try too hard to be unique

I know, I know! I complained about cliche plots just a second ago. But at the same time, books with plots that are obviously trying to be unique, especially in contemporary books, just annoy me. It’s hard to explain, but it is kind of the same as books that go cliche to get readers. Elanor and Park did this for me; the “un-stereotypical” protagonists felt like a desperate attempt at diversity that fell flat (for me at least, I know others love this book).

Reading Update

These last few weeks haven’t been good for me in the reading department. I don’t think I’m in a reading slump, but something isn’t clicking for me right now. Which means I haven’t had a book review on this blog for a while. Instead of sucking it up and finishing the book I’m reading, I thought I would give you guys a snapshot of where I am in the reading world right now.

I read the last two books in Robin LaFever’s His Fair Assassin trilogy a few weeks ago but never reviewed them. They were great, but I waited too long after I finished the books to sit down and write a review, and I realized that I couldn’t really remember what I wanted to say about them. Writing book reviews is something that I love doing half the time, and can’t bring myself to do the other half of the time. Right now, I’m stuck in the unproductive half of the cycle.

I’m signed up for the Fairytale Retelling Reading Challenge, so I picked up Winterspell by Claire LeGrand. My sister read it a few months ago and recommended it highly. The first 100 pages were awful, but my sister promised that the book got better, and it did. The world building is done really well and I like the premise of a Nutcracker retelling a lot, but the main character annoys me–a lot. I don’t want to give up on this book–especially when I DNF-ed Splintered recently–but this means that I haven’t used my free time to read, so after close to two weeks of reading Winterspell, I’m still only halfway through.

cover winterspell

In school, we started reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’m enjoying it, though we haven’t gotten to the trial yet, which is reportedly when the plot gets really good. I love the characters and am excited to see what happens–this is one of the only books we read this year for school that I don’t have any idea what happens in the plot (as opposed to something like Oedipus or Romeo and Juliet, whose plots are well known).

cover to kill a mockingbird

For my Nonfiction Reading Challenge, I started reading The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen by Howard Carter and A.C. Mace. It is the volume that the two Egyptologists wrote right after they discovered in famous boy king’s tomb. When I was in elementary school, I was flat out obsessed with ancient Egypt, and I still have all the books I bought on the subject during that time. When I was younger, I basically just looked at the pictures–though I did read a lot of material about the subject and watched a lot of Discovery Channel programs (back when that channel was still reputable). Now, I’m trying to get back to the subject, and I thought that this book would be a good place to start. (When school started actually taking up time, my obsession was put on a back burner.)

cover king tut

I’m on spring break this week, so I’m really planning to get a lot of reading done. First off, I have to finish Winterspell. Tomorrow’s Top Ten Tuesday will lay out the books I’m going to choose from to read next. Hopefully I’m not actually in a reading slump, and the next book I read will be enjoyable and remind me why I love reading.

Book Review: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Guys! I read a classic! (for English class)

And I liked The Grapes of Wrath. It felt very classic-y. I definitely liked the social commentary dealing with capitalism, the paradox of the American Dream, the meaning of community, et cetera, et cetera–more than the actual story.

Warning: there will be spoilers. I’m assuming many people have read this book, and I’m feeling too lazy to specifically mark each spoiler I mention. If you haven’t read this book yet (and plan to)–don’t read this review!

cover grapes of wrath

Amazon description:

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.

Let me start off by saying this: Steinbeck is an incredible writer. This book really opened my eyes to the greatness and the let’s call it not-so-greatness that is America. The effortless way with which Steinbeck weaves powerful themes throughout both his intercalary chapters and his larger plot is breath-taking. The novel forces you to examine the world that you live in, and to understand that we as Americans today have not moved past the corruption and exploitation showcased in this story, but have changed the clothes it wears. In this regard, I have the utmost respect and awe for the literary work that Steinbeck crafted.

The Grapes of Wrath is a gift to annotating high school students everywhere. There is so much symbolism, juxtaposition, magnificent diction, and social commentary–and for that I desperately thank Steinbeck Homework went by quickly.

The intercalary chapters (AKA the “in between” or “not Joad” chapters) are definitely my favorite part of the book. In my opinion (at least from this book and the other one of his that I’ve read, The Pearl), Steinbeck’s strength lies in crafting beautiful short stories. The intercalary chapters had, for me, the deepest messages about America, capitalism, family, strife, morality, and life itself. Chapter 15 (the one that takes place in the diner) literally ripped out my heart. It was perfect. I think I might have preferred the book if the Joads’ story was removed and only the intercalary chapters remained, but then again, the Joads’ story is undeniably important to the novel.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really like the Joads. Their characters weren’t really relatable (and I’m not just saying that because I’m not a farmer in the Dust Bowl) and I honestly did not like a majority of them. Ruthie and Winfield, though they helped to exemplify the strife the Joads experienced, were annoying. Connie was a slimeball (though that did actually make him one of the more complex characters) and Rose of Sharon was a clueless bitch (until that last scene, which was creepy but helped to round out her character). The rest of the characters felt very flat. They were perfectly drawn in the beginning of the book in true Steinbeck-ian style, but two-hundred pages in, I felt like they hadn’t changed at all. Ma was the powerful, take-no-shit mother figure. Pa was the father figure who believed in hard work but sort of sucked at leading the family. Uncle John was the remorseful alcoholic. Al liked cars and sex. Noah had basically two sentences before he vanished down the stream.

I read books for characters. I want to watch them grow, develop, change to accommodate the strife in their lives. The Joads didn’t do this for me. Through their eternal struggle, they held onto their Okie pride and faith in the world’s rewarding of hard work (no matter how many times they were exploited and screwed over). Sure, their refusal to give up was annotatable as heck, but from the standpoint of a reader for enjoyment, it didn’t work.

I could never decide what Tom’s character was. He was definitely the most complex, and had the most significant character arc over the course of the story. He wasn’t necessarily an impressive character, however.

Casy was inarguably my favorite character. His religious philosophy was brilliant, and perfectly juxtaposed with the religious climate of the day (which is still seen often today). He drove the story forward and had some amazing speeches. I annotated the heck out of his allusion to Jesus, and it was great. His death scene was one of the most moving scenes in the book.

I know this review has a very negative tone, and I’d like to stress that I have an overall positive view of the book. However, I believe the eternal strength of the work is its social commentary, not the Joads’ plot.