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Allen, Nina. "Re-Viewing John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath." The Grapes of Wrath: A Re-Consideration. Ed. Michael J. Meyer. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009.
Ford's novel is typically viewed as influenced by documentary realism and filmic expressionism. Allen suggests that a third stylistic influence on Ford is a series of lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton. She discusses the similarities in lighting between the artwork and the film and notes several scenes from the movie that seem to have been inspired by some of the lithographs. The influence of Benton's work helps create the mood and tone of the film -- one of its most highly recognized qualities.
Arthur, Jason. "'Where is the Dust?': James Agee's Lost Review of John Ford's Film Adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath." The Grapes of Wrath: A Re-Consideration. Ed. Michael J. Meyer. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009.
Arthur calls Agee's criticism of the film "bitter" and implies that the writer opposed the film's sentimental treatment of Steinbeck's novel. Agee's review was scheduled to be printed near the release date of his own book about the Great Depression, which he considered to be a "correction" to peoples' misconceptions. Arthur addresses the link between Steinbeck's Grapes and Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men treatment of rural poverty during the Great Depression by examining Agee's review itself, the books' biographical and historical links, and the writers' individual views of rural poverty.
Baskind, Samantha. "The "True" Story: LIFE Magazine, Horace Bristol, and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath." Steinbeck Studies 15.2 (2004): 39-74.
Bristol was a photographer who accompanied Steinbeck on a tour of the migrant labor camps in preparation for a collaborative project that never materialized. LIFE subsequently published some of the photos.
Bednarek, Janet R. Daley. "A Historian's View of The Grapes of Wrath." University of Dayton Review 23.2 (1995-96): 83-88.
While Bednarek does make mention of several inconsistencies within the film adaptation of the novel, she finds historical significance in many other scenes. She discusses the film's depiction of the treatment of immigrants and migrants as they pursue the American Dream, the role of the government in helping to achieve that dream, and the effects of poverty on attaining the dream. Overall, Bednarek recognizes both Steinbeck's novel and Ford's film as works of hope that mean to inspire people to see America as a collective in which people are to be included rather than cast out during their time of need.
Bloom, Harold. John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.
"A collection of seven critical essays on Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath arranged in chronological order of publication."
Bluestone, George. Novels into Film. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957.
Still seems to be the main source for a comparison of book to film, though see French's filmguide and Millichap as well. Bluestone finds the politics of the novel muted in the film and the religious satire absent. An entirely new structure is formed by ending the film in the government camp instead of in strike violence: "one of the most remarkable narrative switches in film history." The book ends with an exhortation to action, the film with assurance that no action is necessary: "the filmic portrait of Steinbeck's book was no serious threat."
Boyle, T. C. The Tortilla Curtain. New York: Viking, 1995.
Boyle "shifts the focus from the challenges faced by the Dust Bowl migrant workers to the lives of contemporary Mexican immigrants. Boyle says that the effort Steinbeck made to remedy injustice inspired him to imagine a new reality in a world that hasn't changed as much as it would like to believe." (NPR)
Brinkley, Alan. "The Grapes of Wrath." Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. Ed. Marc C. Carnes. New York: Holt, 1995. 224-27.
One of the best short introductory pieces to the film: "Steinbeck embraced, and John Ford faithfully recreated, a social vision no less deeply rooted in American culture than the individualistic ethos with which it competed. It rested on an almost romantic notion of the natural goodness of 'the people.' It imagined a culture in which a simple folkish patience and warmheartedness -- a spontaneous generosity -- would compensate for and eventually overcome the cruelty and oppressiveness of the economic system.
Byrne, M. St. Clare. "Of Novels and Films." Fortnightly October 1940: 409-16.
Byrne's main idea is that the film version did not translate the effectiveness of the novel in captivating an audience. He boldly states that the film not only ignored the "theme and structure" of the novel but that it was, in fact, a complete "failure." It is important that people who understand literature be a part of the film process in order to express each significant part of the novel into the film. However, Byrne stresses that essential details were ignored. One of the major themes in the novel is the fruitfulness of land and the devotion that people feel towards it. However, within the film there is weak photography that barely depicts the dust bowl and there is a lack of imagery to show the fruitfulness of California. While the casting of the characters was successful in the sense that the actors appeared to be a real family, the use of the characters on screen made scenes unorganized and cluttered. Many notable characters in the novel barely had any significance in the film. By in large, Byrne makes it evident that there was not much effort to correlate the movie to the novel and key parts that made Grapes of Wrath so appealing to the public were completely ignored in the on-screen version.
Casey, Janet Galligani. "Dis/Locating the Radical in The Grapes of Wrath." The Grapes of Wrath: A Re-Consideration. Ed. Michael J. Meyer. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009.
Casey argues that "the novel's radicalism is a carefully attenuated one." One major difficulty in defining The Grapes of Wrath as "radical" is that "despite accusations that it is propagandistic, it espouses no clear political agenda." Although Grapes clearly focuses on the travels of the Joad family, "their story is consistently interrupted by the story of a larger group." This idea that the Joad family is not alone strengthens "their apparent status as part of a larger whole." Instead of the Joad family struggling through the depression as one small family, they are part of a much larger "family" that is going through the same struggles. Casey explains that "Steinbeck clearly wanted to access the ideological power of a collective perspective, but he seems to have done so in a way that permitted individual character to win out." The Grapes of Wrath cannot be placed neatly in one literary category, because this novel is poetic yet political. But this inability to easily categorize the novel "might be understood as a radical move in itself."
Caskey, J. Homer. Letter to the Editor. Review of The Grapes of Wrath (novel). Saturday Review of Literature 20 May 1939: 9.
Caskey comments on the novel, calling it a "superb piece of reporting." He praises Steinbeck for his accurate portrayal of the peculiarity of the language of the Joad family, comparing it to the language of the hired hands he observed on his father's farms. The scenic descriptions in the novel are "astoundingly good," and the book is not dated. He has seen the journey of migrant workers across Texas with his own eyes, and he believes Steinbeck has made precise observations regarding this aspect of the Joad family's experience. Caskey concludes his positive review of the novel by citing Steinbeck's understanding of family dynamics and the vital importance of the Joad family councils, saying, "Plenty of novelists have shown such scenes in the parlors and sitting rooms of old-established middle class families, but few, if any, have realized the struggle which a Ma Joad may make to hold her family together and make them work for the good of the clan."
Cowley, Malcolm. Review of The Grapes of Wrath (novel). New Republic 15 April 1939: 382-83.
Cowley is deeply moved by the novel. He considers Steinbeck's "longest and angriest and most impressive work" quintessential to the disclosure of "a tragedy nearer home." The novel is "living--it has the force of the headlong anger that drives ahead from the first chapter to the last." Many of the images within the novel are stunning and hard to forget. Cowley himself recalls with passion the scene in which Tom and Muley draw in the dirt, hunched over, at the old Joad farm. Cowely also praises Steinbeck's use of brief "interludes which are effective in themselves, sorrowful, bitter and intensely moving." The interludes serve as a window into the depth of the poverty that Steinbeck exposes. Through them, it is apparent that The Grapes of Wrath isn't just the story of one family's struggles but rather the story of hardship at the national level. Such a novel, despite its moments of "shrill voice," carries a message that needs to be heard: a "thesis" rooted in a "deep fellow feeling."
Donohue, Agnes McNeill. A Casebook on The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Crowell, 1968.
Handy compilation of articles grouped under the headings of the novel as social document and as literature.
Eisinger, Chester. "The Philosophical Joads." College English 2 (1941): 315-25.
Jeffersonian agrarianism in The Grapes of Wrath.
Emory, Doug. "Point of View and Narrative Voice in The Grapes of Wrath: Steinbeck and Ford." Narrative Strategies: Original Essays in Film and Prose Fiction. Ed. Syndy M. Conger and Janice R. Welsch. Macomb: Western Illinois UP, 1980.
Emory attempts to establish to what extent Ford's film adaptation follows Steinbeck's novel -- most specifically his use of narrator and narrative voice. He notes that Steinbeck's work uses two narrators, one omniscient, one not, while Ford's film focuses on the individual, creating an omniscient narrator through effective camera work. Emory contends that Ford allowed his characters to narrate their own stories, eliminating the need for Steinbeck's "overt" narrator -- evident in scenes such as Muley's retelling to Tom Joad and Jim Casey. He also addresses the use of light and shadow in the film's telling of the story, identifying this motif as a subjective element much like Steinbeck used in his book. Emory's examination of elements such as these lead him to conclude that while Ford did not follow Steinbeck's story completely, he was able to present a depiction that closely represented the points of view and narrative voice used in the novel.
Fadiman, Clifton. "Highway 66 -- A Tale of Five Cities." Review of The Grapes of Wrath (novel). New Yorker 15 April 1939: 101.
Fadiman elevates Steinbeck's piece to the level of "the American novel of the season, probably the year, possibly the decade." He predicts its commercial success but ventures beyond them to emphasize the great impact he feels it will have on its time. He compliments Steinbeck's portrayal of the Joads as typifying "a whole culture on the move." Steinbeck manages to give his readers a sense of the migrant culture "in all its pathetic hopefulness, its self-reliance." Fadiman also points out the faults of Steinbeck's writing, particularly its excess of details and overly theatrical ending. However emotional and unrealistic his political thinking seems, Fadiman emphasizes "its grasp of the spirit of an entire people traversing a wilderness, its kindliness, its humor, and its bitter indignation." The Grapes of Wrath is the kind of art that's poured out of a crucible in which are mingled pity and indignation. It is this large interest in the whole lives of his Oklahoma farmers that makes The Grapes of Wrath more than a novel of propaganda, even though its social message is what will stick with any sensitive reader. Its power and importance do not lie in its political insight but in its intense humanity, its grasp of the spirit of an entire people traversing a wilderness, its kindliness, its humor, and its bitter indignation.
French, Warren. A Companion to The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin, 1963.
Especially helpful for reviews of reviews, "answers" to the novel, and other information about the book's reception at home and abroad.
French, Warren. Filmguide to The Grapes of Wrath. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1973.
Still a very handy book: scene-by-scene summary, analysis, detailed comparisons of novel/screenplay/film, etc. Solid resource.
French, Warren. "Analysis." Filmguide to Grapes of Wrath. Bloomington: U of Indian P, 1973.
French analyzes the similarities and differences between novel and film: "Both John Steinbeck's novel and John Ford's film have been acclaimed as masterworks; yet, despite their use of some similar characters, settings and situations, they are very different works, expounding different philosophies and presenting the same basic social situation, the plight of the migrant farm workers in California in the late 1930's in quite different ways." French speculates the differences between the two works are results of "the filmmaker's wish to confine the Joad's California experiences to three contrasting communities and speed up the pace of the work by cutting down on the concluding episodes." French believes that the beginning of the movie is "essentially a condensation of the novel with the language cleaned up"; however, the changes made at the end of the film "are of such far-reaching consequence that they make it into a wholly different, more sentimental and simple minded and actually somewhat antagonistic work." "The final part of the movie is exactly the opposite of the novel's." The movie is "an insistence that survival depends not upon changing and dynamically accommodating one's self to new challenges, but rather upon passively accepting one's lot and keep plodding along." Unlike the novel's original trope of the "American Dream and unlimited opportunity," the film reflects "the traditional conservative European view that there will always be rich and poor, aristocrats and peasants, but that the aristocrats will rise, dissipate themselves and disappear, while the peasants will keep trudging down a long, hard road."
Gassner, John, and Dudley Nichols. Twenty Best Film Plays. New York: Garland Pub., 1977.
The screenplay. See French's filmguide for a comparison of novel, screenplay, and the actual film.
Gibson, Wilfred. "Three New Novels." Manchester Guardian 8 September 1939: 3.
Describing Grapes as "one of the most vital stories [he has] read in some time," Gibson has only words of praise for the "indignant" novel. Gibson considers Steinbeck's focus on the Joad family as a single example of the hardship of the Dust Bowl instead of a less personal account of several perspectives. Through the Joad family's story, "the destruction of human values" and "the dignity of the human spirit" is boldly exemplified in a time of terrible tribulation. Overall, Gibson has great respect for the "realist" that is Steinbeck. For a book such as The Grapes of Wrath would have no substance without its roots in the real events of American history.
Gladstein, Mabel Reisel. "From Heroine to Supporting Player: The Diminution of Ma Joad." Critical Essays on Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Ed. John Ditsky. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989.
One of Steinbeck's main themes in his novel, aside from the depiction of the life of the Dust Bowl sufferers, is of women's endurance, strength, and striving for togetherness. Yet, as Ford tries to translate Steinbeck's full story into film, he loses this aspect of the story. Gladstein's review mainly focuses on the effect of the loss of the women's role in Ford's film. She explains that Ford deletes many episodes from the novel in translating the storyline to scenes for the film that lessen the significance of the role of women in the story. In the novel, Ma Joad is a strong character, capable of more power and impact in the plot than most of the male characters. Yet, Gladstein argues, Ford's translation of the story into film diminishes Ma's character and all that she is to represent. Ford also fails to give Rose of Sharon a chance to show her vitality, since she is inaccurately portrayed in the film as simply a hurting, dependent, vulnerable woman as she approaches adulthood with the birth of her child. Although Gladstein focuses on this particular flaw of the film, he still agrees that the film gives an accurate depiction of the life of Dust Bowl sufferers.
Hartranft, Marshall V. Grapes of Gladness: California's Refreshing and Inspiring Answer to John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." Los Angeles: DeVorss & Co. 1939.
An "answer" to Steinbeck's novel. The story of Shore Acres, a "suburban real-estate development where migrants are given an acre of land to work in return for minimal payment of interest and taxes." A migrant family discovers this paradise and rescues others.
Jackson, Joseph Henry. "The Finest Book John Steinbeck Has Written." New York Herald Tribune Books 16 April 1939: 8.
"I have no doubt that Steinbeck would not enjoy being called a prophet," says Jackson, "But this novel is something very like prophecy." Steinbeck tells the story of one family whose struggle was similar to all migrant workers during the 1930's in America. His prophecy was one that came true: "there was no home to go back to. The bank had taken over, and a tractor had run a four-mile furrow right through their door-yard." Steinbeck exposes the plight of the migrant worker through the experiences of a family uprooted and broken apart but still able to carry on with their tough Okie roots. This movie shows not only the perseverance of Okie workers, but how the support of family and friends can be their saving grace in a bleak time.
Kirby, Lisa A. "A Radical Revisioning: Understanding and Repositioning The Grapes of Wrath as Political 'Propaganda.'" The Grapes of Wrath: A Re-Consideration. Ed. Michael J. Meyer. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009.
Kirby explains how The Grapes of Wrath "is perhaps the most American story ever to be told" rather than the "radical, proletarian, social protest, Marxist, Communist, propagandistic, and anti-capitalist" work of literature that it is sometimes categorized as. Steinbeck focuses on "universal class oppressions," and, rather than a single nation, "the people who made up that nation." Steinbeck realizes there are many "American experiences," some of which are commonly ignored, and that every "American experience" has value. He seeks to "draw attention to a cultural and economic crisis," seeing a system that is now failing its people, "a monster . . . feeding off its most downtrodden inhabitants." This is far from an effort to topple the American economic system. Kirby points to Steinbeck's realization that the American system has limitations and that hard work does not always correlate with success. Here are Steinbeck's true motivations behind The Grapes of Wrath.
Kronenberger, Louis. Review of The Grapes of Wrath (novel). Nation 15 April 1939: 440-41.
Kronenberger believes that Grapes is Steinbeck's best novel. Throughout the first half, Steinbeck conducts "the reader on a sort of grand tour of exploitation and destruction." This first-half excitement ceases from the middle of the novel towards the end. Although it still has "content and suspense," the second half "lacks form and intensity." Although this novel "exposes something terrible and true," it is a story that people need to know, about a time that needs to be understood.
Lingo, Marci. "Forbidden Fruit: The Banning of The Grapes of Wrath in the Kern County Free Library." Libraries and Culture 38.4 (2003): 351-77.
The Kern County, California, board of supervisors' action to ban John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath from the Kern County Free Library shortly after the novel's publication in 1939 was controversial and unprecedented in the county's history, but so was the influx of migrant farmworkers into the county. At the height of the Great Depression, the county's population grew over 63 percent in five years. The board's action was influenced by powerful economic, social, and political factors. Caught between the ideological struggles of powers like the Associated Farmers and the unions and the seemingly contradictory policies of the American Library Association, librarian Gretchen Knief, with the advice of California State Librarian Mabel Gillis, complied with the board's order. While Knief protested in personal correspondence to the supervisors, publicly she remained silent, yet she defied the spirit of the order by making copies of the books available to other libraries in California—albeit briefly. Although the ban was lifted when the political climate in the county changed, it reflects the ambivalent attitudes about the Okies, illustrates the power of governing boards to censor public libraries, and underscores the precarious nature of intellectual freedom in libraries.
Lucius, Ramona. "Let There Be Darkness: Reversed Symbols of Light and Dark in The Grapes of Wrath." Pleiades 12.1 (1991): 50-58.
Lucius explains how valued light and dark images are in the film. Steinbeck purposely switched the standard definition of light and dark images. The typical connection to "light" is purity and sanctity. The contrary "dark" images are often closely associated with evil. Lucius points out that the Joad family always seeks out the dark. Scenes filmed in the dark are often full of symbolism, characterization, and are key to the plot. One example used to support this is the scene in which Muley, Tom, and Casy are talking in the house during nighttime. The flashback of Muley's house being destroyed by the tractors shows how the most depressing and hostile scenes are filmed in the light. When the characters are exposed to the harsh light, it creates a shadow of them. Many times there is an emphasis on the shadows of the people in the scene. This technique was used by Steinbeck to create an image of death and blankness. This reversed definition is a device used to define unfamiliar and unnatural as the standard. It is another method that proves the world for the Joad family has turned upside down.
Macklin, Tony. "The Grapes of Wrath: The Values of John Ford and John Steinbeck." University of Dayton Review 23.3 (1995): 99-103.
After metaphorically linking the relationship between Steinbeck and Ford to the characters of Jim Casy and Tom Joad, Macklin sets out to discuss the "spiritual vision" of both men as they created The Grapes of Wrath -- Steinbeck on paper, Ford on screen. Macklin addresses well known criticism of the film, commenting on reviewers' thoughts of sentimentalism and the overly-romanticized nature of the film, often agreeing with their complaints. Macklin's overall goal, however, is to establish the sense of hope the film portrays. He celebrates Ford as a filmmaker and applauds his interpretation of Steinbeck's novel, asserting that Ford was able to understand Steinbeck's message and bring it to life on the screen.
McWilliams, Carey. "Glory, Glory California." New Republic 22 July 1940: 125.
Review of Ruth Comfort Mitchell's novel Of Human Kindness as a "reply" to Steinbeck's novel. Mitchell makes the Associated Farmers "sociological saints."
Millichap, Joseph R. "The Grapes of Wrath." Steinbeck and Film. New York: Ungar, 1983.
Millichap compares Ford's adaption to Steinbeck's novel. Although most critics of the film stressed the differences between the film and the novel, Millichap states that his work will "emphasize the points of connection between them, especially the documentary heritage they both share." He continues in detail about the general change in artistic styles of the time period of the Great Depression, when art went from being merely a tool for entertainment to an instrument to document current economic and social issues. This inspired Steinbeck to change what was intended to be a nonfiction documentary into a novel about one family who would represent the migrant workers affected by hard economic times in their entirety. Millichap then provides a brief history of Ford's career and explains how his particular filming aesthetic both helped and harmed the delivery of Steinbeck's original message. This article stresses the changes Ford made to the story by comparing scenes between the movie and the novel, such as his "scrapping of the book's powerful final scene," as well as how differences between the two mediums made it difficult to fully translate the novel's meaning.
Miltner, Robert. "Monopolizing Monsters: Demise of the Family Farm and the Rise of Corporate Farming in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath." The Grapes of Wrath: A Re-Consideration. Ed. Michael J. Meyer. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009.
Miltner both challenges and applauds The Grapes of Wrath. He discusses the historically inaccurate aspects of the film, such as how the term "Okie" largely misrepresents the migrants who were forced to flee and how Steinbeck led his readers to believe that all states affected by the Dustbowl were destitute and poverty stricken. He disputes big businesses and the corporate farming industries for how they destroyed and revolutionized the entire agricultural market. Miltner even links the past with the present by claiming that the Okie's downfall, and more generally the private farming sector's demise, led to the rise of the vast food businesses that dominate today's food industry. Defending the Joad's story as one that is applicable to most farmers of their era, Miltner acknowledges and supports their deep love and cultural ties to the land, which he believed to be rightfully theirs. Lastly, to show his appreciation of Steinbeck, he praises him for his work that ultimately brought national awareness to the social injustice that these farmers were forced to endure.
Miron, George Thomas. The Truth about John Steinbeck and the Migrants. Los Angeles: printed by Haynes Corp., 1939.
An "answer" to Steinbeck's novel: "I merely wish to say that all revolutionary-proletarian fiction is more or less alike in the matter of prejudice, exaggeration and over-simplification. And I hope to trace these phases in some of Steinbeck's writing."
Mitchell, Ruth Comfort. Of Human Kindness. New York: Appleton-Century, 1940.
A popular novel by a popular novelist that is, in effect, an "answer" to Steinbeck's novel. Mitchell's work, according to Warren French, "glorifies the struggle of a proud and independent California farm family to wrest a living from the soil, and attributes the problems posed by the Okies to the shiftlessness of the migrants and the agitation of oversexed Communists." According to Carey McWilliams, Mitchell makes the Associated Farmers "sociological saints."
Pulliam, Rebecca. "The Grapes of Wrath." Velvet Light Trap 2 (August 1971): 3-7.
Pulliam points out Ford's efforts to make the film as raw and realistic as possible, such as his attempts to hire real "Okies" off the highway and the limited diet on set that only consisted of corn pone and beans. These strategies paid off because, in general, the film was appreciated by critics. Reactions to this provocative story were predictable, but all criticism was "thoughtful and respectful." Pulliam notes the general tendency of good business in the cities and disappointing sales in the country. She moves beyond the film's reception to her own opinions of the film, in comparison to the novel, as well as on its own. She feels that "many tensions" within the Joad family "do not emerge in the movie." She also criticizes the ending of the movie, specifically Ma's speech, saying that it is not "balanced in the movie by any realization of power in solidarity, which is very present in the novel": "The novel logically ended with death and desperation, whereas the movie tries to justify its ending with words of comfort and hope." Despite her critique of the story's adaptation to film, Pulliam praises the film's visual strategies. She feels "its best moments are cinematic rather than literary," in that "it all moves with the simplicity and perfection of a wheel across silk."
"Red Meat and Red Herrings." Commonweal 13 October 1939: 562-63.
Excerpts from reviews of the novel.
Roffman, Peter, and Jim Purdy. "The Grapes of Wrath." The Hollywood Social Problem Film. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1981.
Roffman and Jim Purdy compare the message of social revolution in Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath to the less controversial movie adaptation. Although the movie is considered "Hollywood's finest contribution to the cult of social consciousness," the novel explicitly calls for social revolution while the film omits the outrage that the novel conveys. Ma Joad is the center of family in both the film and novel, yet in the film when Tom's anger flares, Ma continually subdues and placates the young man. In the novel Ma would calm Tom, but at a point near the end of novel she begins to feel the same uncontrollable rage at the unrelenting inequality their family had to face. The film's adaptation of Ma undercuts the social criticism that Steinbeck explicitly establishes in his novel. Also, the movie states the problems instilled in America's economic system yet detracts from its own message by refusing to show specific political context in order that "the audience can leave the theater secure in the knowledge that everything will be all right." While the movie attacks the problems in America during the 1930s, it can not fully express the extent to which they persist because Hollywood requires that the film must defuse the audience's "awareness of the need for political action."
Rule, Philip C. "The Grapes of Wrath: The Poor You Always Have with You." Image and Likeness: Religious Visions in American Film Classics. Ed. John R. May. New York: Paulist Press, 1992.
Why do audiences find Grapes so interesting? Steinbeck's blunt portrayal of the mistreatment of the weak and the disparity between the haves and the have-nots goes against basic moral code in existence since the beginning of civilization and society as we know it. Any depiction of beliefs contrary to those many humans align themselves with produces fascination. Rule praises Ford's rendition of the human struggle of the Okies as an attempt to usher in social and economic change. Commenting on the differences between Steinbeck's novel and Ford's movie, Rule applauds the meticulous dissection of the novel, including the removal of overly specific religious commentary and the depressing last two chapters. It is through edits such as these that Ford maintains a balance of "social realism" and religious references to capture and captivate audiences all over, spreading Steinbeck's original message.
Sanderson, Jim. "American Romanticism in John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath: Horizontalness, Darkness, Christ, and F.D.R." Literature Film Quarterly 17.4 (1989): 231-44.
Sanderson depicts Ford as an "American" filmmaker by comparing Ford's film to works by artists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Norman Mailer, and William Faulkner among others. Sanderson attempts to establish Ford's Americanness by examining his romanticism, his relating of the individual to the environment, and his portrayal of faith. In providing support for each of these traits, Sanderson is able to draw a link between Ford and other famous American authors, establishing Ford's "exploration of American's sensibilities and the American film artists mind and method."
Sarris, Andrew. "1940-1947: The Poet Laureate." The John Ford Movie Mystery. London: Secker and Warburg, 1975.
Sarris points out that while The Grapes of Wrath may be a "courageous" film by the 1940s standards, it was the reverse by the 1970s. At a Yale seminar, "what had seemed unusually courageous in 1940 seemed unduly contrived in 1970 and the ‘realism' of the film ‘seemed strangely stylized.'" Sarris attributes this to the change in political ideology, stating that "New Dealish optimism which had initially inspired the project had evaporated over the years with the swings to the Right of McCarthyism, Eisenhowerism and Nixonism, and with the growing realization that the original Okies of The Grapes of Wrath were eventually to become the staunchest supporters of Ronald Reagan in California." Regardless, it "would be a mistake to view the alleged betrayal of a sacred literary source in purely ideological terms." Ford "had become a legend on the set" for his "eloquent silences," a striking difference from other "wordy plots." Despite Ford's "stylistic contribution," Ford strays from the novel, not in meaning, but with his portrayal of characters. While Steinbeck dehumanizes the characters, Ford humanizes them. This "enabled the audience to identify itself with the sufferings of the characters." Yet, there is still an element of "Ford's own feelings" being "so powerfully patriarchal that when Grampa dies, something in the movie seems to die with him." The result is that "the first third of The Grapes of Wrath is superior to the final two-thirds." Overall, Sarris claims that the film was "overrated in its time as a social testament" and now "underrated" as "a Hollywood movie."
Schweiger, Florian. "The Joad Collective: Class Consciousness and Social Reorganization in The Grapes of Wrath." The Grapes of Wrath: A Re-Consideration. Ed. Michael J. Meyer. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009.
Schwieger asserts that the novel is more than just a simple interpretation of the suffering endured by the farmer turned migrant worker. Steinbeck's creation of the Joad family is, in fact, an in-depth analysis of the plight of the tenant farmer during the corporate farming takeover, reflecting on both the economic and societal issues of the time. Schwieger discusses Steinbeck's treatment of these people in great detail, corroborating his contention that the author's knowledge of the subject matter delved much deeper than just a passing interest. Overall, Schwieger notes that the novel's blend of fact and fiction creates a work that is at once a radical and logical reflection of human tragedy and its part in the awakening social reform.
Shillinglaw, Susan. "California Answers The Grapes of Wrath." The Critical Response to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Ed. Barbara Heavilin. Westport: Greenwood P, 2000.
Shillinglaw addresses California's response to the migrant worker. She discusses their early campaigns to remove the influx of workers, along with their overt attack in the media, through which they defend their treatment of the migrants. After the publication of Steinbeck's novel, the campaign was elevated to a new level. Supporters of the California farmers spoke out vehemently against the novel, claiming it exaggerated and misrepresented the facts. Shillinglaw examines this idea of misrepresentation through interpretation by comparing the outlook of Steinbeck with popular novelist – and wife of a California dairy farmer and Senator – Ruth Comfort Mitchell. Through this comparison Shillinglaw is able to establish how differently two individuals exposed to the same situation are predisposed to interpret it in their own ways.
Shockley, Martin Staples. "The Reception of The Grapes of Wrath in Oklahoma." American Literature 15 (1944): 351-61.
Shockley offers an overview of and insight into Oklahoman mentality after the debut of Steinbeck's novel: "Much of what has passed in Oklahoma for criticism of The Grapes of Wrath has been little or nothing more than efforts to prove or disprove the factual accuracy of Steinbeck's fiction." Because this novel was so controversial in its factual accuracy, Oklahomans did not share a consensus towards its reality, resulting in a severed mentality. The antagonists who denounce Steinbeck's novel as false are editors of newspapers and politicians of the state, while the people who support the factual evidence are the very "Okies" Steinbeck describes in his novel. Shockley continues to elaborate on the situation that brews within Oklahoma as the tensions between the two sides bring about various political, economical, and social dilemmas. Shockley does not possess a particular standpoint but stands as an unbiased mediator as he describes the pros and cons that both perspectives face as the situation seems to heighten. Although Shockley never seems to have a conclusion, he successfully describes the bulk of the situation through the eyes of the pro-Steinbecks (Okies) and the anti-Steinbecks (editors and politicians).
Sillen, Samuel. "Censoring The Grapes of Wrath." New Masses 12 September 1939: 23-24.
Sillen documents the campaign to remove Steinbeck's novel from libraries in California -- and across the United States. He notes that the novel is commonly referred to as "vulgar" and "obscene" and even goes so far as to compare it to other works being censored at the time in an effort to test the validity of such claims. Many libraries refused to stock the book or to accept the donation of it from community members. Most of those seeking to censor the book do so out of a misbegotten notion that Steinbeck is enforcing a Communist agenda. Sillen's article operates as a call to arms in an effort to protect The Grapes of Wrath from its opposers.
Smith, John R. "Making the Cut: Documentary Work in John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath." Literature Film Quarterly 35.4 (2007): 323-29.
Smith draws similarities between Ford's film and those of documentary makers -- specifically Dorthea Lange – of the Depression era. He particularly emphasizes Ford's use of cropped images in relation to those of Lange's. Smith also draws a comparison between the documentary style of telling a story through the documented people and Ford's depiction of the Joad's. Overall, Smith praises Ford's work, referring to it as a "hybrid" that allows itself to be influenced by other forms while keeping Steinbeck's message in mind.
Sobchack, Vivian. "The Grapes of Wrath (1940): Thematic Emphasis Through Visual Style." Hollywood as Historian: American Film in a Cultural Context. Ed. Peter C. Rollins. Lexington: U of Kentucky P, 1998.
Sobchack contends that the controversy surrounding Ford's filmic interpretation of Steinbeck's novel – a highly criticized work in its own right – led to the over-analyzing of the film's content and the neglect of the film's visual aesthetic. Sobchack sees this treatment as something to be remedied, not because the film is an incredible work of art, but because it makes a visual statement. She delivers a thorough examination of the film's artistic elements, discussing composition, imagery, editing, lighting, and so on. Sobchack concludes that Ford's film should be acknowledged in its own right, rather than merely celebrated for its ties to Steinbeck's novel, as it serves to emphasize its own theme -- the Joads and their dependence on one another.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Viking, 1939.
The novel on which the film is based.
Stowell, Peter. "The Myth of American Agrarianism: The Grapes of Wrath and Tobacco Road." John Ford. Boston: Twayne, 1986.
In a detailed comparison of The Grapes of Wrath and Tobacco Road, Stowell focuses on two differing portrayals of American agrarianism. A clear separation between the two novels and their film adaptations exist. The most crucial of the differences is the presence of change. While both novels deal with the shift from "familial individualism to societal collectivism," Stowell describes Tobacco Road as a "picture of stagnation." The Joads accurately reflect the families of the Dust Bowl since they are constant migrants, always looking for their next home and meal. However, Tobacco Road does not portray the important aspect of movement in hope of finding a "greener" side of the situation during the Great Depression. Both films address the shift from the Jeffersonian ideal to Hamiltonian capitalist values, since this was one of the main causes of the Dust Bowl, but do not include many specific references to the issue. Stowell makes the point that progress itself, what initially led to land "ownership through occupation and labor," is the cause of the shift to "ownership by the right of legal contracts," an issue that is often thought to be overlooked by both works.
Tyler, Parker. "Mirage of the Sunken Bathtub." Magic and Myth of the Movies. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1947.
A good review. The scenes at the beginning of the film are especially effective. The weathered and broken down homes symbolize not only the plight that the Joads are going through, but every other family trying to survive the Dust Bowl. The audience becomes familiar with the sadness of leaving home and the hardships of trying to make a brand new start somewhere else. What really makes this film so powerful is the variety of emotions it evokes within the audience. It is unimaginable that citizens of the United States could be treated so unjustly by their fellow Americans, which makes many people enraged with anger. Tyler does mention a few flaws, however. Some parts were "purely Hollywood," meaning that scenes were manipulated in order to appeal to the audience. In particular, Tyler points out the charmed society that the Joads come across never really existed during the migration of the Okies to California. While it is evident that not everything within The Grapes of Wrath is historically correct, the film still sheds light on an important part of American history and doesn't ignore the cruelty that many Americans were subjected to during the time period of the Dust Bowl.
Weiner, Gary, ed. Readings on the Grapes of Wrath. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1999.
A collection of twenty-five pieces dealing with the novel under four headings, its writing and sources, themes, techniques, and reception and relevance.
West, Anthony. "New Novels." Review of The Grapes of Wrath. New Statesman and Nation 16 September 1939: 404-5.
West praises Steinbeck's ability to accurately depict the "horrible story" of the desolate farmer struggling to escape the dust bowl, even comparing the novel to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, a revealing novel about life as a worker in the meat-packing industry. Each novel serves to horrify its audience in an attempt to make them stand up in support of the plight of the mistreated worker. Despite his approval, West seems unimpressed, if not bothered by the form of the novel. He criticizes its "awkward" union of the Joad's accounts on the road with "a generalised account of the experiences of the small farmers of whom the Joads are typical." Further, he sounds bored by the personalities of the Joads, as clueless and spacey as they are while struggling to make decisions and take advice. West believes that Steinbeck's novel ultimately proves to be too long, ending at a semi-decent place where the characters seem to have the largest glimmer of hope and at a page number exceeding necessity.
Whipple, Leon. "Novels on Social Themes." Review of The Grapes of Wrath. Survey Graphic June 1939: 401-2.
The Grapes of Wrath sends such a strong message to its reader that the story itself can stir change in the world. To conjure this effect, Steinbeck presents a true story, crafts it artfully, sets his tiny characters against the backdrop of great injustice, and attracts such a large audience that his message could make an impact on the majority. Steinbeck endows his poor, rural, mundane family with a depth that few authors have the insight or skill to accomplish. Steinbeck utilizes corollary chapters like a Greek chorus, suddenly zooming away from the Joad family into generalization and cutting directly into real world issues like a hot knife through butter. Also, it illuminates the artful craft that Steinbeck employs to give the mundane Joad family special meaning in the reader's mind. Economic reports of the 1930's supplement Steinbeck's groundbreaking message. The number of tractors employed in farming during the 1930's increased. Poverty in California increased as well as the number of migrant laborers, and disease rose with the number of workers unable to find clean water, milk, or food. The Grapes of Wrath has the potential to do what it was written to accomplish. It has the foundational stability and artful crafting to add to America's "general store of knowledge" and allow us to set right the injustices caused by our government's inadequacies and increasing modernization.
Windschuttle, Keith. "Steinbeck's Myth of the Okies." New Criterion 20.10 (2002): 24-32.
While Windschuttle acknowledges Steinbeck's novel as a highly celebrated piece of writing, he contends that much of the novel's content consists of "outright lies" and immense exaggeration. He asserts that one such "lie" is the effect of dust storms on Oklahoma's farmers, claiming only a small portion of those living in the Dust Bowl region actually migrated to California. Windschuttle instead notes that most people traveling to California came from cities and did so in response to the economic trials of the Great Depression. Windschuttle goes on to examine many other historical discrepancies, concluding that Steinbeck's novel retains its popularity -- even in the face of its blatant misrepresentation of the time -- because it celebrates the ideas of the American family.

See Also

"Associated Farmers of Kern County, Calif, Approve Ban on The Grapes of Wrath." Wilson Library Bulletin October 1939: 102.

"Attempts to Suppress Grapes of Wrath." Publishers Weekly 2 September 1939: 777.

Bergman, Andrew. We're in the Money: Depression America and Its Films. New York: New York UP, 1971.

Burress, Lee. "Censorship and The Grapes of Wrath." Readings on the Grapes of Wrath. Ed. Gary Weiner. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1999. 159-64.

Christensen, Terry. "'We're the People': Reel Politics in the Late Thirties." Reel Politics: American Political Movies from Birth of a Nation to Platoon. New York: Blackwell, 1987.

Davis, Robert Murray, ed. Steinbeck: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1982.

Dickstein, Morris. "Steinbeck and the Great Depression." South Atlantic Quarterly 103.1 (2004): 111-31.

Ditsky, John. Critical Essays on Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1989.

Ditsky, John. John Steinbeck and the Critics. Rochester: Camden House, 2000.

Gossage, Leslie. "The Artful Propaganda of Ford's The Grapes of Wrath." New Essays on The Grapes of Wrath. Ed. David Wyatt. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. 101-25.

"Grapes of Wrath." Fortnightly October 1940: 409-16.

"Grapes of Wrath Banned by Buffalo Library." Publishers Weekly 12 August 1939: 453.

"Grapes of Wrath consigned to flames by Library board of East St Louis, Ill." Publishers Weekly 25 November 1939: 1994.

Guthrie, Woody. "Tom Joad." American Folksong: Woody Guthrie. New York: Oak Publications, 1961.

Heavilin, Barbara A. The Critical Response to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Jack, P. M.. Review of The Grapes of Wrath (novel). New Republic 3 May 1939: 382.

Lisca, Peter. The Wide World of John Steinbeck. Staten Island: Gordian Press, 1981. 1958.

Lisca, Peter., and Kevin Hearle. The Grapes of Wrath: Text and Criticism. New York: Penguin, 1997.

Lorence, James J. "The Resilient People: The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Exposes Poverty in the Land of Plenty." Screening America: United States History through Film since 1900. New York: Pearson, 2006. 65-77.

Maland, Charles. American Visions: The Films of Chaplin, Ford, Capra, and Welles, 1936-1941. New York: Arno Press, 1977.

McElrath, Joseph R. John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996.

"New Campaign for The Grapes of Wrath." Publishers Weekly 5 August 1939: 355. [novel]

Noble, Donald R. The Steinbeck Question: New Essays in Criticism. Troy: Whitston Publishing, 1993.

O'Brien, Kate. Review of The Grapes of Wrath (novel). Saturday Review of Literature 15 April 1939: 3.

Owens, Louis. The Grapes of Wrath: Trouble in the Promised Land. Boston: Twayne, 1989.

Pauly, Thomas H. "Gone with the Wind and The Grapes of Wrath as Hollywood Histories of the Great Depression." Journal of Popular Film 3 (1974).

Pells, Richard H. Radical Visions and Utopian Dreams: Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. 263-91.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Shindo, Charles J. Dust Bowl Migrants in the American Imagination. Lawrence: U of Kansas P, 1997.

Sklar, Robert. Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies. New York: Random House, 1975. 175-214.

Spearman, Arthur D. "Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath as Red Propaganda." San Francisco Examiner 14 June 1939: 12.

Taylor, Frank. J. "California's Grapes of Wrath [Joad family not typical]." The Forum November 1939: 232-38.

Tedlock, E. W., and C. V. Wicker. Steinbeck and His Critics, A Record of Twenty-Five Years. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1957.

"Trampling Grapes of Wrath [California farmers assail Steinbeck, concentrate on drive for restrictive labor laws]." Business Week 16 December 1939: 38.

Vaughan, James N. The Grapes of Wrath. Commonweal 28 July 1939: 341-42. [novel]

"Viking's Grapes of Wrath Campaign." Publishers Weekly 17 February 1940: 774-77.

Wartzman, Rick. Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Public Affairs, 2008.

Weeks, Edward. Review of The Grapes of Wrath (novel). Atlantic June 1939.

Weeks, Edward. Review of The Grapes of Wrath (novel). Atlantic May 1939.

Wyatt, David. New Essays on The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Cambridge UP, 1990.

Video/Audio Resources

Guthrie, Woody. Dust Bowl Ballads. New York: Buddha Records, 2000.
Classic period pieces by the famed folks singer: "The Great Dust Storm," "Dust Bowl Blues," "Tom Joad," "Dust Cain't Kill Me," etc.

Online Resources

America in the 1930s
The project views the 1930s through the lenses of its films, radio programs, literature, journalism, museums, exhibitions, architecture, art, and other forms of cultural expression.
Baxter, John. "John Ford." Film Reference.
Factual information and brief essay on the director.
"Between the Wars: The Dust Bowl"
The Dust Bowl in words and song.
Dirks, Tom. Grapes of Wrath (1940).
Overview and lush, detailed summary of the film with lots of quoting.
Franklin, Richard. "John Ford." Senses of Cinema.
Overview essay and filmography.
Gallo, Donald. A Teacher's Guide to the Penguin Edition of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.
The title says it all.
The Grapes of Wrath NPR
Serviceable overview and collection of resources.
Review of The Grapes of Wrath. Life 5 June 1939: 66-67.
Statue of Liberty on the cover. With pictures by Horace Bristol.
"Speaking of Pictures: These pictures prove facts in Grapes of Wrath." Life 19 February 1940: 10-11.
These pictures prove facts in Grapes of Wrath.