Category Archives: The Grapes of Wrath

Quarter-Life Crisis: What’s Next?

quarter
“The Grapes of Wrath” and “The Graduate” both had main characters struggling with identity issues. Tom Joad had to acclimate to society after leaving prison, which was especially hard because he traveled with his family in search of work. In his travels, he encountered thousands of homeless, migrant workers in search of over advertised jobs that ensure surplus labor with minimal costs. There were many instances where Tom and his family were exploited, yet when they worked at the Wheatpatch Camp it represented their utopia. All members would live in peace, where they pooled their resources to focus on the good of the community rather than their individual needs. This was an impactful experience for Tom Joad. In the alternate ending that better represented the novel, Tom Joad gave a captivating monologue describing what he learned throughout their travels and their time at the Wheatpatch Camp. He decides to risk his life for societal injustices instead of caring only for issues with his family.

In “The Graduate”, Benjamin Braddock is overwhelmed with the plethora of opportunities after graduating college. His problems stem from his lack of direction and the overwhelming expectation from others to have a clear plan as a recent college graduate. The most telling shot is showing Benjamin standing underneath the pool in full scuba gear. The only sounds are Benjamin’s deep breaths in the scuba equipment. He is surrounding by his happy family and their cheers, although in his perspective he is completely isolated at the bottom of the pool. The metaphor of the water may be him drowning in a sense, totally overwhelmed in the world. It seems that while others have plans and expectations for Benjamin, his primary concern is not losing touch with himself, as he is flooded with information.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 5.33.31 PM            In either scenario, the distance between their envisioned lives and their reality is growing. This reminded me of an NPR article titled, “A Quarter-Life Crisis: When You Let Go Of ‘I Will,’ What’s Next?” The article is explaining how many young adults get caught in the “I will” phrase and as they enter their mid twenties. This article was relevant to these movies because the filmmakers gave two different responses to the article’s question, ‘What next?’ In Tom Joad’s case, he chooses to confront his problems directly by seeking societal justice for himself and the community around him. Benjamin Braddock in comparison chooses to deal with it indirectly. He thinks that chasing after another women with similar thoughts will solve his problem, however it doesn’t seem like he ever dealt with his internal issues. In the final scene of the movie, he is sitting on a bus with the runaway bride. After their adrenaline settles, they are now both sitting just as confused and unsure about their future as before. I appreciate how the films demonstrate the pros and cons for dealing with large internal struggles, in my opinion Tom Joad’s approach seems more constructive.

John Steinbeck, Naturalist

On this day, the sun glowing on the morning beach made us feel good. It reminded us of Charles Darwin, who arrived late at night on the Beagle in the Bay of Valparaiso. In the morning he awakened and looked ashore and he felt so well that he wrote “When morning came everything appeared delightful. After Tierra del Fuego, the climate felt quite delicious, the atmosphere so dry and the heavens so clear and blue with the sun shining brightly, that all nature seemed sparkling with life.” Darwin was not saying how it was with Valparaiso but how it was with him … we can feel how he stretched his muscles in the morning air and perhaps took off his hat – we hope a bowler – and tossed it and caught it.                           – John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez

Perhaps one of the most striking qualities of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is its realism: the novel, and later the film, depicted migrant workers and the trials they endured with empirical honesty.

“If you were making money, you didn’t like [Steinbeck]. If you were coming up through the classes you were a fan of him. But even those that disliked him respected his writing. He just wrote things as they really were. I remember everything exactly as the way he wrote it.” – Dorothy Wallace, neighbor to the Steinbeck family

Underlying the complex human emotions of The Grapes of Wrath are a clear set of facts about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.  We know the macroeconomic principles (failed laissez faire economics, a choked cycle of supply and demand) and the environmental failures  of agriculture in the midwest (a combination of drought and topsoil erosion) that shaped the reality of the Joads and the many migrant workers they represented.  What follows is a clear and untampered-with narrative– in some respects, a scientific appraisal of the situation, a simple elucidation of effects.  And much like science does, The Grapes of Wrath in both film and book form illuminated a universe previously unknown, calling for a new empathy for “Okies” and “Arkies” and the tumult they brought to California.

Steinbeck is of course no scientist in the traditional sense, as he deals more with feeling than fact.  But therein lies the realest truth.  As he writes in The Log from the Sea of Cortez, a record of a collecting expedition taken with a marine biologist, the number of dorsal spines on the Mexican sierra is “the least important reality concerning either the fish or yourself”.  On the other hand…

“if the sierra strikes hard on the line so that our hands are burned, if the fish sounds and nearly escapes and finally comes in over the rail, his colour pulsing and his tail beating the air, a whole new relational external reality has come into being.”

 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/apr/11/science-writing-john-steinbeck-log-sea-cortez

http://education.nationalgeographic.org/news/grapes-wrath/

Listen Up Joad Family

The setting of the film The Grapes of Wrath is in the Great Depression, an extremely difficult time in the history of the United States. People were struggling, the economy was struggling, it was just a terrible period of our history. John Steinbeck wrote a novel entitled “The Grapes of Wrath” to tell the story of what the Joad family went through and overcame.

Musicians everywhere also took the liberty of commemorating both John Steinbeck’s novel and the Great Depression by writing songs that had amazing lyrics that told the story of the Joad family, quoted Steinbeck’s novel, and even allow us to relive some of the most memorable scenes from the film.

Bruce Springsteen is one of the great musicians who told the story of Tom Joad through the song “Ghost of Tom Joad”. From what I understand from this song, I think that Springsteen wrote this in reference to Tom’s speech at the “first ending” of The Grapes of Wrath, the ending in which Tom gives us the idea that we are all a little piece of a big soul. The first ending that gives us the idea that when times get tough, he will be there fighting for the good of the community, and the good of the people. Springsteen does an incredible job of incorporating quotes almost directly from Joad’s speech into his own song.

Now Tom said “Mom, wherever there’s a cop beatin’ a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there’s a fight ‘gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I’ll be there
Wherever there’s somebody fightin’ for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin’ hand
Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you’ll see me.”

Mumford and Sons also did their own interpretation on the days of the Dust Bowl, much like the Tom Joad days. The song is titled “The Dustbowl Dance”. Some of the lyrics can be seen as direct correspondents with the film. “I’ve been kicked of my land at the age of 16” is one lyric that really stands out in this song as it is a reminder of the image of big Caterpillar tractors plowing over the farms in the film. The gist of this song is that the man, possibly Tom Joad, is questioning how someone who has taken so much from the poor, working class be so happy with their success and wealth if they know that people are suffering. This song emphasizes Tom’s point at the end of the film that he will be the one to do something for the greater good of the people. “There will come a time I will look in your eye you will pray to the God that you’ve always denied..”

“Well you are my accuser, now look in my face
Your oppression reeks of your greed and disgrace
So one man has and another has not
How can you love what it is you have got
When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor?
Liars and thieves you know not what is in store
There will come a time I will look in your eye
You will pray to the God that you’ve always denied”

So, “The Grapes of Wrath” is not only an incredible novel by Steinbeck that has been interpreted into a fantastic film. It is so much more than that. “The Grapes of Wrath” is the story of the Joad family, the story of a family in the Great Depression trying to get us, as an audience, to be able to imagine what it was like. It is something very hard for us to even imagine going through; however, through reading, watching, and just simply listening deeper into the lyrics of songs, we are able to at least try to understand.

More songs with references:

8 Great Pop-Culture References to The Grapes of Wrath

Grapes of Wrath Legacy on Book Censorship

Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was released in 1939 to immediate success across the nation.  However, there were some who thought the ideas presented in the novel warranted it to get banned in several places across the nation.  One such place that sought to ban the novel was Kern County, California which was the exact location that was the endpoint of the Joad’s migration.  People from this county thought that the novel portrayed them unfairly and made it seem like the people there were doing nothing to help the migrants.  In August 1939, the board of Kern County, California banned Grapes of Wrath from libraries and schools in a 4-1 vote.

The banning of the book was supported on one side by the local Associated Farmers who opposed organized labor.  Bill Camp, the leader of the Associated Farmers recruited Clell Pruett (pictured below) to burn the book.  Interestingly enough, Pruett had never read the novel but only heard a radio broadcast about the book.  After reading the novel years later, Pruett said he had no regrets about burning the book.

grapes of wrath 1

On the other side in Kern County was a local librarian named Gretchen Knief who was working to keep the book from being banned.  While risking her job, Knief petitioned to the board to overturn the ban, but was ultimately unsuccessful and the ban stood for a year and a half.

grapes of wrath 2

Following this ban, The American Library Association passed the Library Bill of Rights to ensure that American citizens have the right to such information.  The Library Bill of Rights is:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

It’s interesting that a book (and film) that many consider to accurately portray a period in American history caused such a stir in the place that the novel took place.  It shows the impact that the novel had, in helping to establish the Library Bill of Rights, in allowing information to all people regardless of local or national attitudes.

 

Bonus: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band singing The Ghost of Tom Joad

 

Sources: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95190615

http://www.ala.org/tools/first-library-bill-rights

http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill

The Grapes of Washington (Mr. Smith Goes to California)

Many interesting comparisons can be drawn from a side-by-side viewing of John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath and Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Although both are populist films extolling the virtues of the “everyman” in place of the cruel sensibilities of the corrupt powers-at-be, there are stark contrasts immediately identifiable within the two works.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is populated almost exclusively with moral archetypes: its namesake, Jefferson Smith, is an honorable boy scout in Abe Lincoln’s body, whereas his nemesis, Jim Taylor, stands fattened by greed and willing to do anything in pursuit of self-interest (including sending minions to slap children). In comparison, the characters of The Grapes of Wrath seem much more nuanced.  As the hero, Tom Joad, enters the film, the audience immediately learns he has killed a man without apparent remorse; later, he will kill another.

Yet the situations of Jefferson Smith and the Joads are not entirely unlike each other, and I was reminded of a few key moments within Mr. Smith while watching The Grapes of Wrath.  Here, two examples from the beginning and end of both films:

Resistance, then Realization

Early in both films,  a strikingly similar scene unfolds.  Met by the callous reality of “business as usual,” the protagonists revolt– only to be educated in the futility of their actions by those opposing them.  This happens as Jefferson Smith realizes he has been duped by the press and launches into a vengeful rampage.  Barreling into a bar filled with reporters, he sits down to an unpleasant exchange:

                                      FLOOD
                         What do *you* know about laws--and 
                         making laws--and what the people 
                         need?

                                     JEFFERSON
                              (tormentedly blurting)
                         I--I don't *pretend* to know!

                                     DIZ
                         Then what are you doing in the Senate?

A similar situation happens to Muley, who introduces the narrative in The Grapes of Wrath. As his home is about to be destroyed by the “cat”, he brandishes a gun and shouts heated threats, only to be silenced.

                                    MULEY
                              (grimly)
                         Have it your own way, son, but just 
                         as sure as you touch my house with 
                         that cat I'm gonna blow you plumb to 
                         kingdom come.

                                     DAVIS
                              (contemptuously)
                         You ain't gonna blow nobody nowhere. 
                         First place, you'd get hung and you 
                         know it. For another, it wouldn't be 
                         two days before they'd have another 
                         guy here to take my place.

Both men– Jefferson Smith and Muley– emerge defeated and downtrodden.  But as Jefferson regains his unique energy to write a bill and take on the senate, Muley stays down: a haunting reminder of the brutal, unfeeling  and faceless oppression that colors the film.

Trust the System 

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But another – perhaps more cheerful – similarity emerges toward the end of both films.  Both the Joads and Jefferson Smith are physically and emotionally exhausted, plodding towards a goal becoming steadily more unrecognizable in a barrage of adversity.  But in the midst of the chaos, Ford and Capra give the audience a symbol to latch onto: the federal government.  Within Mr. Smith, this is seen in the Vice President, whose knowing looks and nods provide tacit support to Jefferson Smith. His chair represents the order of the senate, and the fundamental laws ordering senate conduct are what propel Smith’s cause to its eventual victory – despite the attempts of other senators to derail them in their own favor.  

For the Joads, salvation comes in the form of a Department of Agriculture camp: a representation of the government in its best form, championed by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Indeed, the camp is government by the people, for the people.  It offers a lasting light of optimism for both the Joads and for the audience.

Grapes of Wrath and the Modern Farmer

SummerHill Farm (my family farm)

“That man who is more than his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis. But the machine man, driving the dead tractor on land he does not know and love, understands only chemistry.” pg 148 Grapes of Wrath 

In both the novel and the movie, the importance of land is a huge theme in Grapes of Wrath. Though the novel was published in 1939 and the film a year later, Grapes of Wrath still holds many parallels to the struggles of farmers today.

In 1935, there was 6.8 million farms in America while today, there are 2 million farms, still farming the same amount of acres (or even more). This substantial decrease in the amount of individuals choosing to farm and the slight increase in the amount of land being farmed is true across America, with many individuals expanding to keep up with both the high costs of farming and the global demand of increased food production. Personally, my family’s dairy farm still remains small in operation, milking around 50 cows and having a total herd count of 100. However, our farm is unique because we plant and harvest crops to feed our dairy herd, not the general public. In truth, the vast majority (98%) of dairy farms are family owned and operated, though it is hard to convince people you are still the small-time friendly farmer trying to scrape by when popular media is $500,000 machines plowing across thousands of acres and “truth” videos of animal cruelty being shared across social media (thanks, PETA).

Though the average American probably does not hold these extreme views, many do not know where their food comes from and who is responsible for feeding their families- they just care that it is cheap and accessible. This disconnect between farmer and consumer has widened over the years, allowing plenty of room for the media to mediate.

Steinbeck firmly believed that land grounds a farmer’s sense of self, with this belief being shown mainly through interactions with Muley and Grampa, with the former refusing to leave and the latter having to be dragged off, kicking and screaming. The scene of Grampa refusing to leave the only home he’s ever known, grasping at the dirt, is actually a true worldview of many farmers, who are strongly connected to their land and will do anything to protect it. This view can even be seen in my own Father, who seldoms leave the farm, always having an excuse or a new project to work on. The antithesis of this relationship is the invention of the tractor, which signals the destruction of the romanticism in farm life and introduces industrialization into nature. This view is clearly exemplified in the film scene when the CAT tractors plow over the individual houses and create one massive land, introducing a new relationship between tractor and land, with the removal of the farmer as the steward.

In truth, the majority of today’s farms rely heavily on machinery to make the farming process more efficient and expand the amount of land they can farm. This expansion allows the farmers to both increase their likelihood of profits and meet the demand of global food production. The profit function is most important, with the great instability in the farm economy causing many crop prices to fluctuate drastically throughout the year. Though wheat, corn and soybean prices have slightly risen in 2016, farmers are still wary due to the prices falling between 10-20% throughout 2015. The price of milk also fluctuates greatly (currently, farmers are getting $14/100 pounds (8 gallons) while the average gallon of milk is $3.50) which is why the majority of dairy farms are also larger in size. By having a large amount of acres or livestock, the farmer increases their chance of making a living, even if the prices are terrible (which they usually are).

Though once seen as a destruction of the relationship between the farmer and his land, modern equipment has been the only way for the farmer to keep up in this modern world. With everything being instantaneous, farmers have to find a way to make their product accessible and inexpensive, while still maintaining the wholesomeness of their product that Americans idealize. A dairy specific example of this is the utilization of milk machines. Though the utilization of machinery has been deemed as inhuman by animal rights activists, it has actually allowed for farmers to make the chore of milking cows more efficient to meet the global demand, while also keeping a consistency throughout milking for the cows to expect. While every industry has its flaws, at the end of the day, farmers are still trying to perfect the use of modern machinery to maintain a balance between respecting the land their family has lived on for years and honoring their public service of feeding our nation with the best food possible. Though it is not an easy job, these farmers are more than willing to rise to the challenge.

SummerHill Farm’s Cows

Sources:

http://www.barrons.com/articles/corn-wheat-and-soybean-prices-to-fall-in-2016-1452927138

http://sits.sjsu.edu/curriculum-resources/the-grapes-of-wrath/major-themes/

http://www.hoards.com/class1

 

Grapes of Wrath: Acting and Cinematography

Was I the only person who felt that Henry Fonda was a bit out of place in this movie? The only other movie I’ve seen with him is 12 Angry Men, and I certainly liked him there, but in this movie he somehow stuck out like a sore thumb. Every other character seemed to meld perfectly into the environment, but I could only see Fonda as a Hollywood actor. I think part of it could have been his makeup. We saw in class how he was made not to look too dirty so that his Hollywood charm could shine through. I think this factor, in part, made him stick out from his surroundings. But I also just felt that his delivery was not on point. He did not sound conversational, but instead like he was rehearsing speeches, and his voice did not sound like that of a farmer’s at all. You could tell he was a city slicker from the way he spoke.

I found some pretty interesting tidbits about the acting. Apparently Darryl Zanuck prefered Tyrone Power for the role of Tom Joad, but John Ford convinced him Henry Fonda was right for the part. As a compromise, Zanuck had Fonda sign a seven-year contract with Fox even though Fonda tried to stay an independent actor. In the future, he came to resent this contract.

John Ford’s process for directing actors is very interesting as well. Apparently John Ford preferred to do everything in one take because he thought rehearsing scenes would make them too artificial and that scenes have the most emotion in the first take. I was surprised to read about this process because I’ve read lots of stories before with talented directors (especially Kubrick) being very specific and requiring tons of takes. Henry Fonda talks about Ford’s directing in his autobiography Fonda, My Life:

We both had enough sense not to tell Ford how we felt, though, because we’d worked for him before and you didn’t make suggestions to Pappy Ford. He’d say ‘You want to direct this film, Huh?’ And you were on the shit list right away. He didn’t like to have anybody ever recommend anything…

Well, the scene I’m talking about started in the tent where Tom Joad goes in and wakes up Ma. He’s going away, and he wakes her up. Without waking the other people in the tent, Pa and the kids.

I had to light a match, and the cameraman, Gregg Toland, Rigged a light in the palm of my hand with wires going up my arm. The light, which was supposed to be a glow from the match, had to light Ma’s face just right. It took half an hour to set up that piece of business.

Then I tapped her and she opened her eyes and she went outside with me. We walked around the tent and up to the bench that was the foot of the dance floor. Ford wouldn’t let me get into the dialogue. By the time he was ready Jane Darwell and I were like racehorses that wanted to go. ‘Hey, boy have we got a scene. We want to show you.’

Then with Ford’s intuitive instinct, he knew when we were built up. We’ve never done it out loud, but Ford called for action, the cameras rolled, and he had it in a single take. After we finished the scene, Pappy didn’t say a word. He just stood up and walked away. He got what he wanted. We all did. On the screen it was brilliant.

I also wanted to briefly discuss the cinematography because this was the first film we’ve seen in this course where I felt the cinematography was impressive. We got many nice, wide artistic shots like this:

Shots like this were rare in anything we’ve seen before, but they populated the mise-en-scene of Grapes of Wrath. Also, the point-of-view shot of the car driving into the Hooverville was just pure eye candy for me. When there’s so much detail put into a set like that, anything on film can be beautiful, even things that are dirty. (If you want to see how things that are excessively filthy can be beautiful on camera, check out Hard to Be a God (2013). The entire film is like that Hooverville scene to the max.)

Interestingly enough, the cinematographer of this film, Gregg Toland, went on to be the director of photography for Citizen Kane the next year, and if any of you have seen that, you know it is a great achievement in cinematography.

The Ambiguous Role of Women in “The Grapes of Wrath” Film

In class, we had briefly touched upon Rose of Sharon’s role (or lack there of) in the film. We all seemed to agree that she was primarily portrayed as a background character starved of any form of character development. I almost felt comfortable concluding that the overarching theme and message of the film would have been unscathed had she simply been left out of the picture. Although one of the most iconic moments of the novel — Rose of Sharon offering her breastmilk to a dying stranger — was left out of the movie, I was determined to identify the significance of her character as well as women in general within the context of the film.

family-joad-in-the-grapes-of-wrath

In a sharp contrast to Capra’s portrayal of women as strong, intelligent characters, Ford depicted Rose of Sharon as weak and naive. When her husband mysteriously disappears, she suggests that maybe he was “off to buy textbooks” with the intention of returning, representing either a state of denial or extreme naïveté. At the end of the film, her pregnancy had her reduced to no more than a lifeless rag doll, as she had to be carried up on to the car after leaving the government camp. Rose of Sharon was not the only woman portrayed as innocent and vulnerable. During the dance at the government camp, a series of young women were asked to dance, but their mothers refused to let them speak for themselves and essentially shooed the young men away to protect their precious daughters.

After examining these events carefully, I have come to two conclusions:

  1. There is a massive contradiction in the film concerning the depiction of women and Ma Joad’s monologue at the conclusion of the film.

As the Joad’s drive away from the government camp at the end of the movie, Ma emphasizes that the power of the people, especially the strength of women, allow the poor to prevail against the corrupt capitalist system. Her statement is very perplexing given the overall portrayal of women throughout the movie. Her lecture already seemed somewhat out of place, and when considering her words in correlation with the weak, naive Rose of Sharon and other voiceless women, her argument is very unsubstantiated. the-grapes-of-wrath-18

2. Rose of Sharon’s pregnancy may have been the most symbolic aspect of her character.

Rose of Sharon’s pregnancy and fatigue can be considered a metaphor given the time period of the film. Pregnancy symbolizes reproduction and life, which were both suppressed by corrupt capitalism. Due to the arid climate and the forced evacuation of people off of their land, it was next to impossible for crops to sustain life and for families to support themselves through the reproduction of fruits/vegetables. Starvation and death were common, as families hopelessly traveled miles to find work only to be subject to unfair wages, poor living conditions, and inhumane treatment. Rose of Sharon’s suffering through her pregnancy can represent the inability to maintain and produce healthy, fruitful life because of the constraints imposed by corrupt capitalism.

Still, the role of women in the film is ambiguous and contradictory. I would be interested in others’ thoughts and interpretation of this subject.

Sources:

https://rippleeffects.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/family-joad-in-the-grapes-of-wrath.jpg

http://meditation.jonlybrook.com/wp-content/uploads/the-grapes-of-wrath-18.png

Poverty in the Media

In class on Wednesday, Professor Jordan challenged us to think of any popular, contemporary TV show or movie that showed poor people as the protagonists. My first thought was Slumdog Millionaire but I realized that the protagonist does become a millionaire, so does that really count? I didn’t think so. In fact, no one could really think of anything, and that took me by surprise. I have always had the idea that Americans love rooting for the underdog and that a show about people who are down on their luck financially should be able to get an audience. And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized this wasn’t exactly true. Even shows which are about lower income people like Two Broke Girls feature characters who are well-off enough to have jobs and a home, at least. A similar example (in which I am a little more invested as an American born Chinese) is Fresh off the Boat, which shows a family trying to get their restaurant off the ground. The family often talks about money being a problem, but they have a nice house in the suburbs, cars, access to schools, etc. In both these shows, the situation is certainly nothing comparable to The Grapes of Wrath.

So what does this mean? Slumdog Millionaire, Two Broke Girls, Fresh off the Boat, they all have that underdog-cheering aspect I was thinking of, but they end up being generally comical and happy and we get the feeling that the protagonists will be triumphant in the end. There’s nothing sad or uncertain or downright depressing like in The Grapes of Wrath. I suppose we as people like to see someone work hard and struggle, but in the end it should pay off. Otherwise what’s the point?

Obviously this view can be very problematic for people who actually suffer from poverty, since no one likes to notice that they exist (myself included). It reminds me of the novel The Jungle, which I read a few years ago. Most people know it for revealing the disgusting conditions in the meatpacking industry but in fact, only a very small portion of the book is devoted to that. Most of it is devoted to describing the miserable life of an immigrant family who I dare say have an even more depressing story than that of the Joads. On this topic, the author said “I Aimed For The Public’s Heart, And. . .hit It In The Stomach.” It’s funny how that happens.

The Grapes of Wrath’s Foreshadowing of the Cold War

As we briefly touched upon in the discussion of this film, “The Grapes of Wrath” can be symbolically used as a criticism of the capitalist system during the 1930s, specifically the proletariat being exploited by the system. Critics labeled the film “socialist” or “Marxist”, and farming unions and government agencies alike condemned it.

Clell Pruett burns a copy of The Grapes Of Wrath as Bill Camp and another leader of the Associated Farmers stand by. “One member of the county board of supervisors denounced the book as a 'libel and lie.'

Clell Pruett burns a copy of The Grapes Of Wrath as Bill Camp and another leader of the Associated Farmers stand by. “One member of the county board of supervisors denounced the book as a ‘libel and lie.’

Despite critics in the United States giving the film a Red label, it received a different criticism from a country that no one could question fit all of those same labels: the Soviet Union. In 1948, Joseph Stalin allowed theaters in the Soviet Union to show “The Grapes of Wrath” for reasons that we can assume to be anti-capitalism propaganda, showing destitution that the Okies endured in the face of an oppressive capitalist system (Whitfield). Just a few short years after these two countries were allied in the Second World War, now propaganda attacks against each other were the norm and tensions were rising.

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This screening of “The Grapes of Wrath” in the Soviet Union, however, did not land the way that Stalin anticipated. Rather than stir up anti-capitalist emotions, the Soviets that viewed “The Road to Wrath”, as it was titled in the U.S.S.R, were in complete awe that even the poorest of the poor in the United States were able to save their money and afford an automobile. As the wrong message continued to spread, Stalin decided to pull the film from theaters after a few short weeks (Whitfield). In this sense, “The Grapes of Wrath” aptly foreshadowed not only the Cold War itself but the outcome and the reasons behind it. The definition of the term “poor” in the two countries was vastly different, and the enormous economic gap between the capitalist system of the United States and the centrally planned economy of the Soviet Union was clear. There is a particularly funny quote from the text that I discovered, regarding the poor central planning of the Soviet economy: “Ineptitude and inefficiency permeated the command economy he (Stalin) established—so much so that, had the Kremlin ever gained control of the Sahara, Western analysts liked to quip, there would soon have been a shortage of sand.”

I thought that this anecdote about the “The Grapes of Wrath” was a very interesting insight into the future of our country, much more than Ford ever planned or anticipated, and added an extra layer to an already complex tale.

Sources:
http://lisa.revues.org/802?lang=en#ftn2
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/culture/slideshow-steinbecks-salinas-valley/16441/#3

Examples of american cold-war propaganda