In the movie, “The Grapes of Wrath”, the scene that stood out to me the most was the diner scene. Two truck drivers pulled up and walked into the diner where they sat at the bar. The waitress began flirting with them, and make it apparent that they were her preferred guests. The Joads then pulled up shortly after in their truck with mattresses and pots and pans attached to it. Pa Joad walked in with the young boy and girl asking for a loaf of bread for ten cents. The waitress is quick to respond that they only have bread for fifteen cents. It is obvious that she does not like these road-bound families that come into her store because they simply cannot afford it.
The chef, Bert, tells her to sell them the loaf of bread, regardless of their shortage of change. Pa Joad asks them to cut the bread off ten cents worth, but Bert insists they take the whole thing. On their way out there is an exchange between Pa Joad and the waitress. “Are those penny candies, ma’am? Those stripy ones?” The waitress responded, “Well, no. Them’s two for a penny” The Joad’s took two of the candies and left the diner. When they left, the truck drivers revealed that those were nickel-a-piece candy. The truck driver soon walked out and refused his change from the waitress.
I picked this scene because I felt as though it resembled one of the central themes of this movie. The power and importance of community and generosity is displayed in scenes throughout the film. It started with Bert who did a selfless deed and gave the Joad’s the entire loaf of bread for ten cents. Although he indicated that it was yesterday’s bread, he was giving it to someone who needed it more than he did. The waitress was not exactly keen of this idea to start, but she soon had a change of heart. She disregarded the price of the candies and mimicked the generosity that Bert had just performed by selling the candies for nearly nothing.
When the truck driver left, he refused his change from the waitress. The large tip he left her was rewarding in the sense that all good things do come with good karma. The entirety of this scene, and other scenes in “The Grapes of Wrath” exemplifies the tension between the social classes during The Great Depression. Although there was often great tension, it only took one person to start a chain reaction of generosity and giving to those less fortunate. This scene broadened my understanding of what occurred during The Great Depression, because although it was rough, there was always someone willing to put other people’s happiness before themselves.
“The Grapes of Wrath” is so relevant to our country’s history as it portrays the plight of millions of Americans whose lives were destroyed by The Great Depression. This book and movie resonated with so many Americans because it revealed the reality that the American Dream is not always what it seems. In the movie, large companies from California sent out 20,000 handbills to desperate people informing them of workers needed on their farms. California was depicted as a utopia and a promise for these people that everybody would find a job. The Joads, and thousands of other families from Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arkansas picked up their lives and migrated west to California to what seemed like a better and brighter life, something they had always dreamed of. Little did these “dirty Oakies” know, these companies were only in need of about 5,000 workers.
The Californian companies were corrupt and took advantage of these helpless people all in plan to have a surplus of workers so they could lower their already meager wages. The Joads set west in search of their American Dream which turned into an ongoing journey. They arrived to a place that was not exactly what they were promised. The rumors of “you can reach out anywhere and pick an orange” and “there’s always work there, it never gets cold” was not always the case. It was difficult for the Joads to face this reality of not finding any jobs that could support their dream of a financially secure lifestyle.
“The Grapes of Wrath” had a very realistic and brutally honest attitude towards the American Dream. It didn’t matter how hard you worked or how far you travelled, the dream is not always attainable for everyone. I think this is one of the reasons that the “American Dream” as we know it is not concrete, and changes depending on the time period, location, and population. When the book was first released, it was in fact rather controversial due to the lack of holding back honesty during this terrible time. Business owners and large companies felt as though they were depicted as the “bad guys”.
An Article from National Geographic says, “Capturing the human experience of migrant farmworkers…The political frenzy went so far that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, upon reading the book, called for congressional hearings that resulted in reform to labor laws governing migrant camps”(Schleeter). This book exposed the entire country and made the issues of The Dust Bowl and The Great Depression public for everyone. The book was initially band, but was later acted upon in labor laws and was recognized receiving several awards for capturing a crucial time in our country’s history.
Ma Joad is the anchor of the Joad family and holds them all together. She is always so uplifting and always sees the light side of a very dark situation. Ma Joad is also usually the one who does the decision making for the family. Just before they left for California, she was the one who made the decision that Preacher Casy come with them, even when Pa Joad was insistent that
they couldn’t feed another person. Ma would not let this family fall apart, even the people who were not technically family. She has a stronger personality than Pa, but is also come and controlled when the tension gets heated. She takes over his role as the decision maker the strong figure of the family, but also maintains her feminine and mother-like traits as a care giver, and feeds off the love she has for her family. She is stern when she needs to be, when Grandpa was refusing to get in the car to go to California because “this is my[his] soil”. Ma Joad believes, “Rich fellas come up an’ they due, an’ their kids ain’t no good an’ they die out. But we keep a’comin’. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out; they can’t lick us. We’ll do on forever, Pa, ‘cause we’re the people.” No matter how difficult and heartbreaking the hardships they went through were, Ma was always there to bring together her family and be the source of hope for the people she loved. The emotions of the Joad family are reflected off of Ma, so she denies all emotions of fear and pain.
- The Grapes of Wrath- movie
- National Geographic Society. (2014, April 04). The Grapes of Wrath. Retrieved from https:// www.nationalgeographic.org/news/grapes-wrath/