Religious Leaders Respond

Buildings in Ardmore, OK

Several religious leaders reacted negatively to The Grapes of Wrath. Roy Autry, a pastor for the First Baptist Church of Konowa, Oklahoma, wrote that he believed Representative Boren, a critic of Steinbeck, expressed “the convictions of every clean minded man and woman… throughout the entire state of Oklahoma” (Autry). Like Boren, Autry criticized the “vulgarity and sensuality” of Steinbeck’s novel (Autry). Reverend W. Lee Rector of Ardmore echoed Autry. He noted that the book was communist propaganda, and that any Ardmore preacher that went to see the movie version should be fired from his pastoral job and made to ask God to forgive him. Rector considered the book to be an evil thing, saying that it is “a Heaven-shaming and Christ-insulting book” (Shockley 358-359). He goes on to complain about the depiction of Jim Casey, the preacher, in the book. “The sexual roles that the author makes the preacher and young women play is so vile and misrepresentative of them as a whole that all readers should revolt at the debasement the author makes of them” (Shockley 258-359). The minister of the Church of Christ in Wewoka, Robert M. Alexander, had a similar opinion. He wrote to Lyle Boren, saying the book was “the most vile, degrading, anti-social, and vicious piece of literature that [he had] ever seen” (Alexander). He had been waging his own personal war against The Grapes of Wrath with the Wewoka Public Library Board (Alexander). 

Works Cited

Alexander, Robert M. “Letter to Lyle Boren.” 25 January 1940. Lyle Boren Papers. Carl Albert Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Autry, Roy. “Letter to Lyle Boren.” 13 January 1940. Lyle Boren Papers. Carl Albert Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Shockley, Martin Staples. “The Reception of the Grapes of Wrath in Oklahoma.” American Literature, vol. 15, no. 4, 1944, pp. 351-361.

Religious Leaders Respond