THE BLOG
09/07/2012 08:38 am ET Updated Nov 07, 2012

Why Mumford & Sons Should Have Written The Grapes Of Wrath

It takes a lot of talent to tell a story better than the author. All of the buzz surrounding Mumford & Sons' new album, Babel, has reminded me of one of my favorite songs by the musical group, "Dust Bowl Dance," which drew its inspiration from John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath. I like the story much more when it is in song format.

The summer before my sophomore year in high school, The Grapes of Wrath was required reading for my American Literature class. I already disliked Steinbeck's writing style, and I had absolutely no interest in reading the novel. But it was required, so I didn't have much choice in the matter. As expected, I didn't like the writing. The book was drawn out too long and the writing structure was incredibly confusing.

After multiple class discussions and writing essays on a book I had no interest in, I found myself one day listening to the song "Dust Bowl Dance" and noticing many similarities between the song and The Grapes of Wrath. I then discovered that the song was inspired by Steinbeck's novel. After listening to the song over and over again, I actually began to appreciate the story and what Steinbeck was trying to say.

Don't get me wrong -- I love classic literary works, and I have a huge amount of respect for John Steinbeck. I don't think he is a bad writer; anyone who can write three pages about dust deserves mad props. Even so, I really don't care about how high the dust cloud is when an automobile drives through it. The adventures of the Joad family seem more important to the story than the size of a dust cloud. But, when Mumford & Sons described the land, they said, "There was no one in the town and no one in the field; the dusty barren land had given all it could yield." Somehow the description in those lyrics make the dust more interesting than well, dust.

Another aspect I think Mumford and Sons did well on was the fact I can actually understand what they're saying. I understand the Joad family was not taught to speak well, and Steinbeck is trying to highlight that fact, but I also think most people would appreciate the writing more if the dialect was slightly easier to dissect. At least for me, the eloquent writing of Mumford & Sons is more simple.

Something about Mumford & Sons' music and lyrics make me actually figure out the point of the story. I think it's because by the end of The Grapes of Wrath, I was so exhausted and numb that I had a hard time feeling the Joad family's pain. But the inflections in the band's voices and the funereal music in "Dust Bowl Dance" make me empathize with the fictional Joad family and so many other real families during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Congratulations, Mumford and Sons, for making me understand a story better than the author.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.