Lyle Boren's Speech

Lyle Boren, US Representative from Oklahoma

Congressman Lyle Boren

Congressman Lyle Boren was a well-known figure in Oklahoma politics. He was deeply dissatisfied with The Grapes of Wrath because he felt the novel misconstrued the lives and personalities of tenant farmers. Steinbeck’s portrayal of the Joad family offended Boren, who came from a family of farmers. Boren also took issue with the term “Okie,” which referred not only to Oklahomans but also to other migrants from the Dust Bowl. He criticized the vulgarity of Steinbeck’s language, too. In January of 1940, Boren gave a speech on The Grapes of Wrath, condemning the novel for many reasons:

Today I stand before you as the son of a tenant farmer, labeled by John Steinbeck as an “Okie.” For myself, my dad, and my mother, whose hair is silvery in the service of building the State of Oklahoma, and whose hands are calloused with the toil known by every tenant farmer of Oklahoma, and for every good man and good woman…which this putrid-minded writer labeled as “Okies,” I arise to say to you, my colleagues, and to every honest, square-minded reader in America, that the painting Steinbeck made in this book is a lie, a damnable lie, a black, infernal creation of a twisted distorted mind…Some have said this book exposes a condition and a character of people, but the truth is this book exposes nothing but the total depravity, vulgarity, and degraded mentality of the author... Take the vulgarity out of this book and it would be blank from cover to cover. It is painful to me to further charge that if you take the obscene language out, its author could not sell a copy.

Works Cited

Barker, Bob. “Letter to Lyle Boren.” 23 January 1940. Lyle Boren Papers. Carl Albert Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Boren, Lyle. “The Grapes of Wrath.” 10 January 1940. Lyle Boren Papers. Carl Albert Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Carpenter, Gwendolyn. “Letter to Lyle Boren.” 24 January 1940. Lyle Boren Papers. Carl Albert Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Manar, C.W. “Letter to Lyle Boren.” 12 March 1940. Lyle Boren Papers. Carl Albert Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Lyle Boren's Speech