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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Information Overload – Opinion, Hype or T.M.I.?

(This is Peaches, and I'm going to paint her portrait)
I have read and written about the book “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck at least four times. After the first reading, I was captured by that generation and the “Great Depression” era. Since that time, I’ve read both fiction and nonfiction books on that time period. 

After my first experience, a high school student at my church was bewailing the fact that “Grapes of Wrath” was required reading that year. She called it a filthy book, and said that the language was coarse and trashy. She didn’t understand why she had to read that kind of a book, anyway.

Her remarks prompted my second reading of Steinbeck’s novel. What on earth was she talking about? I didn’t remember any bad language. The book had inspired me and aroused my sympathy for the plight of the hungry and poor.

As I flipped through the pages, I was stunned. Sure enough, there were enough four-letter words on every page to make a sailor blush. Why had I not recalled such “filth” on my first reading? Perhaps because I was so caught up in the lives of the characters and their very real story.

By the time I finished the book, I loved it even more. So much so that I quickly forgot the student who disdained reading it and her remarks. The whole book is full of symbolism about life, about the roles of men and women in society, and the desperation that comes when everything you ever depended upon is gone.

When the husbands and fathers were jobless and down on their luck, they leaned heavily on their women who gave them strength and propped up their sagging egos. The mothers succored their children, managed to find things for them to eat, and gave their families hope. They were the backbone of society.

(Work in Progress "Peaches 'n Cream") The drawing and first layers of acrylic paint.
In the final chapter, the loose ends are connected in the cycle of life. A woman loses her baby because of poor nutrition. Broken and unresponsive, she wanders away from her family. Her breasts are engorged with milk, and she doesn’t know what to do or where to turn. At wits end, she comes across a man on the ground at her feet who is dying from hunger. Many men went without food so that their women and children could eat.

The forlorn woman lays down beside him and gives him her milk-swollen breast; the only sustenance she has to offer. By this we know that not only will he live, but that they both will survive to witness another day’s struggle.

"Bella Bellissimo" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas (SOLD), but prints available.
Steinbeck recreates the Garden of Eden showing the dependence of male and female on each other, and in society’s ongoing battle for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Great literature and great art cannot be picked apart by focusing on that which is taken out of context. Without the whole there is no meaning nor purpose. How and what you remember when the last chapter is read is the measure of a book. It will rise and fall not on a useless hunting and pecking exercise, but on how well it is judged through the eyes of history and truth.
"Winston" Portrait of a Westie (SOLD) prints available. (mixed media)