The fruits of abstraction

A Wondermark cartoon that’s been getting some attention recently:

This totally cracks me up, especially the last panel. Well, of course, The Bananas of Lust would be really hot stuff.

Malki isn’t the first to play on the formula provided by The Grapes of Wrath (from John Steinbeck, who got it from Julia Ward Howe, who took it from the book of Revelation). See my posting from 2010 on a New Yorker cartoon with an inventive fruiterer (selling not only the Grapes of Wrath, but also  the Oranges of  Indecision, the Figs of Fear (rather than, as Malki has it, of Envy), and the Kumquats of Longing. All playful variations on the original.

The Wikipedia story of that original:

While writing the novel at his home, 16250 Greenwood Lane, in what is now Monte Sereno, California, Steinbeck had unusual difficulty devising a title. “The Grapes of Wrath”, suggested by his wife, Carol Steinbeck, was deemed more suitable than anything the author could come up with. The title is a reference to lyrics from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, by Julia Ward Howe:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

These lyrics refer, in turn, to the biblical passage Revelation 14:19–20, an apocalyptic appeal to divine justice and deliverance from oppression in the final judgment.

And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

The phrase also appears at the end of chapter 25 in The Grapes of Wrath which describes the purposeful destruction of food to keep the price high:

…and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

As might be expected, the image invoked by the title serves as a crucial symbol in the development of both the plot and the novel’s greater thematic concerns: from the terrible winepress of Dust Bowl oppression will come terrible wrath but also the deliverance of workers through their cooperation, which is hinted at but does not materialize within the novel.

(“The great winepress of the wrath of God” is a fearsome image.)


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