Literature: The Grapes of Wrath
"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"
—Julia Ward Howe, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"
1939 novel by John Steinbeck
, winner of the 1940 Pulitzer Prize
. The book makes a strong political statement (of the social liberal kind), and is pretty much the antithesis of anything by Ayn Rand
. The story follows a poor family from Oklahoma hit by the dust bowl
that travel all the way to California (losing the grandparents along the way) to find jobs on farms. Sadly, they discover that work conditions are horrid and farms are overpopulated and people are paid poorly. The themes of the book made it very controversial in its day, and it is still divisive today. What isn't denied is that the book was extremely influential.Adapted into a film a year
after it was published. It was directed by John Ford
and starred Henry Fonda
, in what is considered to be among the finest works from both legends. The movie was considered to be the Great American Film before Citizen Kane
was rediscovered in the last 50s.
- Aerith and Bob: The Joad family: Tom, Sr. (Pa), Uncle John, Tom, Al, Noah, Ruthie, Winfield... and Rose of Sharon.
- The Alleged Car: The Joad's car, and pretty much every one that the Okies use to go to California.
- Animal Motifs: The book version has in its third chapter a tortoise trying to cross a road and getting run over by a truck. In the fourth chapter, we meet Jim Casy, who's described as having a "long head" and a "beaked" nose.
- Also, Connie is described as resembling a coyote.
- As the Good Book Says: Steinbeck uses Bible quotes when they agree with what he's trying to say, but states that Christianity, as Casy used to practice it, has a lot wrong with it.
- Author Tract: and plenty of Author Filibusters, too. A few do fit into why the Joads are going through such trouble, but most of them pop right out of left field.
- Badass Preacher: Jim Casy.
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Well, definitely the former half of it. The book attempts a justification: in California at this time, they were paid per arrest, with no deduction for arresting the wrong person.
- Barefoot Poverty: The tractor driver said that his youngest kid never had any shoes.
- Capitalism Is Bad: And it destroys the lives of the poor people of Oklahoma.
- Childhood Brain Damage: Pa Joad blames himself for his son Noah's slowness as he tried to deliver him on his own, and ended up distorting his head.
- Crapsack World: America during The Great Depression wasn't a happy place, and the Dust Bowl had it especially bad.
- Doomed Hometown: The Depression and the Dust Bowl pretty much destroy Oklahoma.
- Empathic Environment: At the end, it begins to rain heavily when the cotton crop is picked through and the pickers are out of work.
- The Film of the Book: A very successful one, amply considered a classic.
- Funetik Aksent: To the point where Rose of Sharon's name is rendered as "Rosasharn" in dialogue.
- Gas Mask Mooks: the tractor drivers in the movie, looking distinctly inhuman. The one who talks to Muley Graves just wears goggles, however.
- Good Samaritan: Casy is the most prominent, but there are quite a lot of them, particularly in the original book. Arguably, they're half the point of the story.
- Happily Ever Before: In the book, the Joad family must endure the harsh conditions of the farms, while on the film they just find a good goverment-run camp and live Happily Ever After.
- Actually they leave the camp and move on after Tom takes leave. The film has a more ambiguous hopeful ending, leaving their fates up to interpretation.
- Hatedom: Jaw-droppingly vehement. They even had book-burnings for a while.
- Honest John's Dealership: A chapter describes a car dealership that sells old, crappy cars at outrageous prices to the migrating farmers.
- Inherent in the System: Chasing the tenants off their land is something nobody really wants, but yet it's done, because the financial system doesn't allow an alternative.
The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it.
- Iron Lady: Ma Joad She exemplifies all the traits but, most importantly, manages to hold the family together through sheer force of will alone. Mellower than most examples, see below trope.
- Just Following Orders: The tractor driver who talks to Muley Graves notes that Graves' anger to him for betraying his people is all very well, but he has a family to feed as well; if he quits in outrage, all that'll happen is the banks will hire someone else to do his job, and he and his family will merely end up starving along with everyone else.
- Last-Second Chance: Casy attempts this on a strikebreaker, who promptly bashes his head in.
- Literary Allusion Title: From Julia Ward Howe's hymn, which in turn was inspired by Revelation 14:19–20.
- Ludd Was Right: Zig-zagged. The farmers are driven away from their lands because a man with a tractor can do the work of a dozen families. Working the land with tractors is described negatively; people lose contact with the land, and become machine-like, unfeeling, uncaring. However, it's later stated that the real problem is not technology, but that the people who work the land don't own it.
Is a tractor bad? Is the power that turns the long furrows wrong? If this tractor were ours it would be good—not mine, but ours. If our tractor turned the long furrows of our land, it would be good. Not my land, but ours. We could love that tractor then as we have loved this land when it was ours.
- Messianic Archetype: Jim Casy, Tom Joad at the end.
- My Greatest Failure: In the book, John's wife had died years before after what he'd dismissed as a stomachache turned out to be much more serious. His every action is driven by remorse and atonement, and his self-hatred is such that even other characters consider it Wangst.
Uncle John shook his head over his plate. "Don't look like we're a-gonna get shet of this here. I bet it's my sin."
"Oh, shut up!" Pa cried. "We ain't got the time for your sin."
- No Ending: Tom is gone, a fugitive, and what's left of the Joad family is still in California, their fate uncertain.
- The Promised Land: California. Subverted in the fact that everyone else had the same idea of going there, and the Okies are blocked from getting anything decent out of it, forcing them to settle with labor camps.
- Punch Clock Villain: virtually every baddie. Discussed in a tragicomic scene where a fellow forced off his farm tries to figure out who he should shoot in revenge.
- Rabble Rouser: The corrupt Sheriff's department sends agitators to try to cause a riot at the government-run workers' camp. The workers spot the agitators and see them off without trouble.
- Secretly Wealthy: Two unnamed characters discuss this trope. The conversation mostly serves to highlight how ridiculous the trope sounded during the Great Depression, when a substantial part of the population had trouble affording food.
- Shout-Out: Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the protagonist, "Tom Joad", available on Dust Bowl Ballads, which was recorded in 1940, around the time the film was made.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: As the Great Depression starts hitting the Joads, it's Tom's bumbling, senile grandparents who are the first to die.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog
- Significant Monogram: Jim Casy.
- Title Drop: Comes at the end of the 25th chapter: "In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."
- Unnamed Parent: Tom's parents are referred as Ma and Pa. Pa's name is also Tom, but Ma's name is never revealed.
- Walking the Earth: Tom Joad at the end.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Noah Joad in the movie. In the book he decides he cares more about the river the family stops by than the family cares for him and leaves, in the movie the scene is still present but the aforementioned part is not, and Noah simply vanishes.
- What Is Evil?: Casy provides a rare heroic example. He believes in helping others, but he's no longer so certain that there's anything wrong with, say, free love.