The Grapes of Wrath

HISTORY OF CALIFORNIA: The Multicultural State


Dr. Y. De Luna

Project II
Film Analysis and Report

The Grapes of Wrath

By: Cortez Cate

February 17, 2005

Film Poster Grapes of WrathA Twentieth Century Fox Film drama presentation; produced by Darryl F. Zanuck in 1940 from the popular and powerful, 1940, Pulitzer Prizewinning novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939; starring Henry Fonda as Thomas (Tom) Joad and Jane Darwell as Ma Joad; and directed by John Ford.Jane Darwell and John Ford won Oscar’s, she for best supporting actress in her portrayal and he for best director.  Other Academy nominations were for Best Picture, Fonda for Best ActorRobert L. Simpson for Best Film EditingEdmund H. Hansen for Best Sound Recording, and Nunnally Johnson for Best Screenplay Writing. Subsequently this popular film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.


I expect to see the some of the events that has led to creation of dirt poor and destitute people that are being evicted from their homes. 2. From John Steinbeck’s writings published in the San Francisco News in 1936[1] I am looking for vigilante actions of the banks or land companies.


  1. I expect to see the Joad family identified in History 10As text book on page 343.
  2. I will be looking for other poor people, perhaps neighbors of the Joad’s.
  3. There should be a few law enforcement officers present throughout for evictions, highway and cities that are traveled through, border crossing etc.
  4. There should be other races involved rather than just the ‘Dust Bowl’ migrants or ‘Oakies.’
  5. I would like to see a prominent politician or two.
  6. I want to see who forms the vigilante groups that are mentioned in the text.
  7. I am interested in the Ranch and Farm owners that instigate the awful conditions that Steinbeck implies in his series of articles mentioned in our text and referenced with footnote 1.
  8. I want to see the Union organizers; how they are portrayed and perhaps find some supporting information on them.

Central Message:

1.The law is not fair, it is not logical and it is motivated by money.  Without collective bargaining those on the lower rungs of the social ladder will be abused by those above them much of the time.  Those who have no compassion and are motivated only by money and as always with money comes power.  Sad to say but there remain many, far too many, that are of that mind-set as we breathe.

2.There is a theme on the family unit portrayed.  Weak in my opinion but it is at least conceptually presented and there is merit.  Had the family not stuck together where or what would have happened?  What happened to Muley and his family?  Casey had no family, but was welcomed to join this family and became a part of it.  Ma is clearly the head of the family and its strength.  She does her job.

Effectiveness of the Film

To judge the effectiviness of this film I think one has to try to view from a perspective of the time that it was filmed.  In my opinion this film is very poor by todays standards.  However the story is still strong and powerful.  It was impossible to get the entire message across in the time alloted.  This story requires more time to really hit a home run.

I feel that my description in number one above regarding the central message is the base of this film.  What is logical about displacing thousands of people and allowing them to starve to death?  How many people starved to death during the great depression?  It is a difficult statistic and at best it is only guesswork but look at this picture  (the picture of the Alabama family circa 1935) and see what you think,  these people are near starvation. 

President Herbert Hoover declared, “Nobody is actually starving. The hoboes are better fed than they have ever been.” But in New York City in 1931, there were 20 known cases of starvation; in 1934, there were 110 deaths caused by hunger. There were so many accounts of people starving in New York that the West African nation of Cameroon sent $3.77 in relief. ***This statement has not been further verified but it comes from a quite reputable source; www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/. link.

Okay, so most of us will agree that it is not logical, certainly there is no one who would say it is fair to let a child starve.  Motivated by money… I rest my case because it is a no-brainer … look at the Southern Pacific Railroad, this company boasted that it threw 683,000 vagrants off it’s trains in 1931 alone.  Was the motive compassion? 

The film certainly shows the results of the greed but it provides no answer to how and why these people became the monsters they are portrayed.  Obviously that was never the intention of the film.  The book does give a little more juice in this area but neither explores that causation that I think is very important to the story.  In all fairness to Steinbeck it is many years since I read the book and I should be more freshly aware of its contents before commenting on them.  Neither have I found any evidence of Steinbeck’s collaboration on the film.  It is an interesting link that I would like to explore further when I have the time.

I tend to be far too critical when assessing these older works (being old too one might expect to be more generous) but I have to give them credit for their time.  I don’t see anything wrong with that.  Film making was in its infancy.  They have learned and grown tremendously.  It was a very good drama.  What can one say, look at the awards?

My description of the family unit element as being weak may be in error.  I am not capable of making that judgment reliably.  I live in a much weaker family than I would wish for (but I am not wishing).  My parents were divorced in 1945 just after my father returned home from the service.  My mother’s mother had died at a young age (24).  My father’s family was large and intact but my father was a wanderer.  The depression and the war both played parts in my family strength, or lack of it.  I left home when I was 15 years old and came to California with some friends.  In a caravan (1954) a little like the Grapes, and less than 20 years later.  I have failed to create a strong family unit and I regret that.  I have strong ties with only one of three living children. 

Ma Joad did all she could do to keep her family intact and she certainly had some degree of success.  When she said to Tom near the film’s end something like this, “Tom, we ain’t never been the kissin kind, but….”  Then Tom comes and kisses his Ma. In the beginning of the film when Tom got out of prison and she only shook hands with him I thought that very strange.  But I have been in California a long time and everyone hugs and kisses here.  I am thankful for that because I do believe the contact is very important. I was in Arkansas recently and my relatives and friends were all contact hug and kiss types.  I don’t remember how it was fifty years ago.

Minorities in California

            The only minorities I saw in this film were the migrant farm workers from the Dust Bowl apparently.  If there were other minorities in the film I missed them.

1.When the Joad’s first cross the river and gas up at needles.  The service station attendants exhibit what natives (?) think of the “Oakies” with these disparaging remarks.  “Them oakies got no sense and no feelings. they ain’t human.  A human being wouldn’t live the way they do.  A human being couldn’t stand to be so miserable.”

2.When Ward Bond talks with the Joad’s in Plainview, CA. and says he will have to lock you up if I catch you in town after dark.  For City governments to have such an attitude is despicable.  I am sure that there had and would be cases where trouble would happen.  That’s life, because a person is poor and destitute is not sufficient reason to ban them from a city street.

3.The case of the labor contractor offering work in the first migrant camp and being challenged by one of the oakies who had fallen for the same pitch twice before.  The labor contractor is no whiter than the oakies, so here the discrimination is not skin-color, but he is dressed nice, has a car, and has the ear of the police and thus with his word alone the policeman creates a charge against the minority migrant farm worker who is an oakie.

4.Next, the policeman fires a pistol with no more regard for these human beings than for a heard of wild pigs.  He shoots and severely injures an innocent woman, without regard or remorse or even the courtesy to assist a severely wounded person.  A blatant case that exhibits the law’s regard for minorities in California.  This case is reinforced by subsequent police making a sinister remark about how big a hole those 45’s make…

5.On the way to the Keene Ranch the Joad’s are confronted by an angry mob of citizens of some sort.  Surely many had to be of the same background.  Yet they blatantly discriminate against the Joad’s, simply because of where they are (near a camp in a dilapidated jalopy with all their belongings) they are branded and clearly a minority.  Ever notice how the guy with the least money is the minority.  Give that same oakie a fistful of $100.00 bills and what do you think he is then.  Could be governor now, as long as the money holds out.  I submit the only thing that really makes a minority is lack of enough money.


Book Cover Grapes of Wrath Because of the study we are currently engaged in I believe I have become more ‘attune to’ a much broader perspective.  John Steinbeck’s position of importance in California is unchallenged.  Much of his work depict the hardships, trials and tribulations of those unfortunate people that became migrant through dire neccessity after being displaced from their homes in the East.  The text devotes several pages in chapter 26 to Steinbeck  

Please take the time to closly study the two pictures that follow.  The cover (left) from The Grapes of Wrath and a dust cover (right) that was used on the book. You may not see what I see in the face of the man and you may not feel what I feel by viewing the dust cover drawing but a few moments of reflection may give you a different perspective.  What would we see if we had no knowledge as in the eyes of a young child?  Will we see differently with more knowledge?. 

Prior to reviewing the film for this project I do not think I ever viewed it in one setting.   I know I have seen portions of the film many times.  I feel innately familiar with most of the situations in the film and in the book. I  read the novel many years ago but I was not impressed with it and in fact inwardly I attempted to avoid it I suspect.  Propably the avoidance stemmed from a fear I was unaware of.  Thankfully that fear, if there was one, no longer exist, I pray.  My life has progressed to a wonderful state in which I enjoy a very high level of serenity much of the time; fear no longer has that subtle ominous effect on my life, again I pray.

Dust Cover Grapes of Wrath

I was born in 1938 in Northwest Arkansas and I am gratefull that I did not have the direct experience depicted in this film.  I know these times existed and they were much like the film portrays them from everything I have learned in my lifetime.  My life span, being only slightly removed from the period in question, experienced many similarities and ramifications of this dreadful period of history.  Obviousley I was directly exposed to those who had lived these experiences including my parents.  My parents had also suffered displacement but in a kinder way than those in the film.  Kinder because our extended family, some in Oklahoma, some in Arkansas were slightly better off than the many of those whom had little other choice than to join those long and hopeful treks to California.  Perhaps, only perhaps, this nurtured a fear within that I was not keenly aware of.

Life, as most of us now see it, is a series of redundnat events.  There are only subtle differences in major outcomes.  Almost anything that is said, has been said.  Unless you invent new words, in all probability, you are not likely to make original statements.   I once heard a speaker say that anytime he heard something profound from someone else that he would use their saying (words) and give those he had copied from full credit; for the first several uses; then, the words were his, by osmosis.  Almost daily I reflect on someones quote or saying.  One that has had a an impact on my thinking since we have been engaged in this course is one attributed to John Steinbeck and it is very relative to this film review, this history course and to life itself.  It is from a journal entry in 1938 Steinbeck wrote“In every bit of honest writing in the world,” he noted “…..there is a base theme.  Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other.  Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love…. always that base theme.  Try to understand each other.”  .... I have seen a slight variation of the words but only slight.  To me this is a very powerful concept and I will endeavor to keep it prevalant in my life.

I wonder what might have happened to the course of history had this simple human courtesy  been applied to the indigenous Californians;….to the Chinese, to the Mexicans, the Japanese, the Filipino, to the Oakies and Arkies?  As a people we only know what we choose to know based on what we see, touch and feel.  Seldom do we seek to understand the plight of others.  Do we allow ourselves to become comfortable while gross human suffering surrounds us?  Do we entrust others to make decisions that, perhaps, we should take a stronger position in?  Are we allowing ourselves to become entangled in a society of greed and misunderstanding that we can easily see has only recently preceeded us?  Do we care?

The Film

The film, The Grapes of Wrath, was produced in 1940, the same year that the book, written by John Steinbeck, from which the film is based was awarded the Pulitizer Prize.  The running time of the film is 128 minutes.

A study of the plight of the many, mostly sharecroppers, who became displaced from their homes during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years of, primarily, the 1930s.  The Joad family is the subject and the story begins as Tom Joad has been released from prison, on parole, where he has been, four years, serving a seven year sentence for manslaughter.

The Opening of the Story

Tom hitches a ride from a truck driver after a little wrangling and finagling.  The trucker drops Tom near his home and there he meets up with Casey, an ex-preacher that no longer feels able to preform the duties of the clergy.  Together they head for Tom’s house only to find it deserted.  (I noticed that the inside of the house did not have finished walls, only the framing lumber and nothing covering the walls.  In reality they would have more than likely papered the walls with old newspapers.)  The two men hear a noise and discover Muley, an old neighbor that is a bit touched, or so they say.  Muley explains to Tom that his family is with his Uncle John.  He explains how the bankers have had the sharecroppers evicted from their farms, and even how some of their own kind, Joe Davis’s son was driving the tractor that leveled Muley’s house, have joined up with the Shawnee Land & Cattle Co..  Destitute and desperate many are going to California in search of work.  Muley shows the two guys how to hide out in the cotton patch when a car races up to the farmhouse in search of Muley; Muley warns the guys to keep quiet.

Arriving at Uncle John’s the next day everyone is happy to see Tom, assuming he busted out of jail initally.  (I noticed that inside Uncle John’s house the walls were papered with newspapers unlike the previous house of Ma and Pa Joad that had no paper on the walls.)  The characters are somewhat established at this time but it is still a little hard to follow and figure out who everyone is.  Tom’s sister Rosasharn, has married Connie and is pregnant.  Grandpa and Grandma are old and devious.  It was Granpa that was hollering “jailbird—jailbird” and laughing and dancing when he realized Tom Jr. was back.  Tom Sr. appears of broken spirit and Ma Joad is clearly the strength and head of the family.

The plan is to head for California.  The entire family has been picking cotton and pooled two-hundred dollars of earnings.  They spent seventy-five dollars on the old truck and after groceries and supplies have only around one-hundred dollars to make the trip.  They have planned and prepared a budget for the trip having garnered information from others about the journey enough to create a cursory budget/plan.

The Trip To California

The Joads are up early for the trip.  The truck had been loaded with their meager belongings and all that remains is to get everyone aboard.  There are thirteen, by my count, people in all that are going to be riding on this truck, only two are not Joads’, Connie Rivers, Rosasharn’s husband, and Jim Casey the former preacher.  At the last minute Grandpa has a change of heart and decides he no longer wants to leave his home an his dirt.  The family has to drug him with some of the soothing syrup they used to get the kids to sleep.  It works and they load him on the truck.  Ma Joad reflects on memories while the episode unfolds. 

The trip to California begins, in the early morning and judging from the cotton field that Tom, Muley and Casey slept in a couple of nights earlier I would guess the time of year to be late August or September.   My barometer for that estimate is the cotton bolls looked ready for picking when Tom, Casey and Muley hid in the cotton field on the first evening.  When they arrive in California the time frames seem to suggest it is a little earlier, perhaps even July.  The year is around 1935 - 1936.  Steinbeck has purposely delayed revealing some of the characters and these time frames for reasons of his own literary style.  I read that he labored several months on the structure of the book.  Al drove the truck onto the paved highway near Salisaw just west of the Arkansas state line and they head toward Oklahoma City where they will intersect with the main street of America, U.S. 66 and that highway will carry them to within a couple of hundred miles of their destination.  They make Oklahoma City and a little beyound and near the end of the day they pull off at Bethany for the night.  Granpa is discovered dead and they assume the cause of death to be a stroke; he is buried with a note that Tom composed and placed in a fruitjar upon his chest. 

This here is William James Joad, dyed of a stroke, old, old man. His fokes bured him because they got no money to pay for funerls. Nobody kilt him. Jus a stroke and he dyed.

Tom complains that the government might have more interest in a dead man than the living.

There are a lot of signs along the road.  ‘Water’ is an important theme that develops from the signs such as “water 15¢” and “Camp 50¢” lots of signs in the movie.  Another camp, assumedly another night, has Pa talking with a migrant from Arkansas who tells of a store he owned and had to give up.  The film writer is trying to pull the heartstrings of compassion with the dialogue.  The screen writer has chosen to eliminate a lot of the book by this stage of the film that would have enlightened us to some of the names of the characters and shown a bit more of the human side of the story, such as the dogs and the turtle chapter and the first gas station stop and the teaming with the Wilson’s.  

Next there is a returning migrant who scornfully admonishes the Joad’s enthusiasm and tells of the overprinting of the handbills advertising for 800 pickers.  He tries to tell the Joad’s what it took him a year to find out, he says.  Then he tells of the children starving to death and the coroner saying on their death certificates that they died from heart failure.  The man describes the symptoms of malnutrition all in the effort to warn the Joad’s that not all was what it was cracked up to be in California.  One feels the man is desperately trying to convince the Joad’s so that they will not have to endure the hardship he has suffered.

Pa and all the men are a bit shaken by the testimony of the returning migrant.  Pa asks Tom and Casey, “Do you think he was telling the truth?” 

Casey:  “He was telling the truth alright, the truth for him.”  “He wasn’t making it up.” 

Tom:  “Do you think it is the truth for us?” 

Casey:  “I don’t know.”

The next important scene appears to be in New Mexico at a truck stop and demonstrates the good side of the more fortunate folks that at least had jobs.  This scene shows a couple of truck drivers at the counter eating.  The café cook/owner instructs the waitress to sell a 10-cent loaf of bread that Pa Joad’s was asking for, even though they did not have such a loaf.  The scene also shows the compassion of the waitress when the two young children are eyeballing the candy with desire.  Pa Joad asks, “Is them candies there a penny a piece?”  The waitress responds, “no these here candies is two for a penny,” the truck drivers chide her that the candy was a nickel a piece, but they each leave a tip of which seemed to the waitress out of the ordinary.

There are several  more scenes during the trip west and all build on compassion or with a flavor of disdain concurrently.  It only takes the Joads about four and a half days to reach California at the Colorado River near Needles.  This information is not in the film and only by referring to the book would one know.  Upon arriving at the river the men show elation and head into the water to both cool and wash themselves.  It was a celebration of sorts.

Next there is a mild confrontation with an Agriculture Inspector near Barstow.  Ma Joad convinces the Inspector that Granma is very ill and the Inspector allows them to continue on without causing them to unload their truck.  A few hours later the rich Tehachapi valley is in view and the beauty of California is first seen and enjoyed by the Joad family.  Ma Joad breaks the news that Grandma is in fact dead and has been for some time.

Next the family is confronted by a nice policeman (played by Ward Bond in a this very minor roll) who says that he too is from Oklahoma, been here two years and is very friendly with the Joads.  He does warn them that they should be off the street and out of town or they will face legal actions.  He also must burst the bubble of the handbill by explaining that he had seen ten thousand of them.  The policeman did say he thought the guy that printed them, or caused them to be printed should be locked up.

Hooverville Transient Migrant Camp

With only the one-gallon of gas the Joads arrive at the migrant camp.  It is a scene of desperation and disillusionment but they feel they have no other choice at the moment.  Everyone is hungry and one would assume the vehicles are all out of gas or at least nearly so.  The Joads set camp and Ma proceeds to cook up some stew while a throng of hungry children gather around. 

After the family is fed Ma tells the hungry camp kids to help themselves to what is left and at Ma’s command they scurry to find something to hold the food.

A purported contractor arrives in camp asking for labor but not willing to say the rate of pay.  One disgruntled worker questions him and explains that he had twice fallen for this type of false promises.  He demands to see the contractors credentials.  Of course the contractor will not give a promise or his license and brands the migrant that speaks up as a trouble maker inciting others to riot.  The contractor gets a sheriff and levels false charges on the man.  The man resists when he is accused of busting up a used car and when the sheriff attempts to arrest him he slugs the sheriff and runs to escape.  The sheriff draws his gun and fires wildly striking an innocent woman and severly injuring her or perhaps killing her.  Casey tackles the sheriff and Tom knocks him out.  Casey convinces Tom to hide in the willows until—“I whistle four times and then it is all clear.”  Soon the place is swarming with police, Casey accepts all responsibility for trying to stop the sheriff from shooting and he willingly surrenders, intent on protecting Tom.  Casey is hauled away.  Tom is hiding in the willows where Casey had directed him. 

While hiding Tom overhears a plot to burn the camp out and gets back to the camp and convince the Joads to load up and get out.  In the meanwhile, Connie had skiped out on the family leaving Rosasharn distraught and feeling abandoned.  Tom tries to console his sister but they have to get away from this camp.   They do get away from the camp but we are not shown how they got more gas or when.  They have made it back on the road and now they are confronted by an angry mob that admonishes them to get out of town and don’t come back until it is cotton pickin time.   

Keene Fruit Ranch Migrant Camp

The next day while fixing a flat on their truck a fellow name Spencer pulls alongside in a shiny convertible and offers them work at the Keene Fruit Ranch, about forty miles up the road, just this side of Pixley.  As they arrive there are hundreds of workers wandering around along the road side, but saying nothing.  The Joad’s are waved through the crowd but they are confused by the silence.  Tom has an instinctvly bad feeling about the situation.  The gate is opened for them and this is even more perplexing.  There are a lot of shotgun toting guards, private policemen.  They are very rudely treated by some Ranch boss who asks if they want to work?  Tom replies with a “sure, but what is this?”  The guy says, “none of your business.” … Name?  They are assigned cabin number 63 and it is indeed a step up from where they were the night before, but still a real mess inside.  Ma sets about getting things cleaned up and organized.

Next a bookeeper (real nasty fellow) comes asking a bunch more questions and taking down their truck information to check against a list of known agitators.  Ma and Rosasharn are cleaning the joint while the men join a group of bucket carrying slave like people apparantly heading to pick fruit.  Next the family is having dinner and Ma is complaining about the price of food.  I have not seen them get any money since they spent their last on gas at the first camp.  Obviously they have had to get some money somewhere to keep going.  Of course, today they worked and earned a little.  Ma says they charge extra at the company store and there ain’t no other place to buy anything.

Meanwhile Tom is trying to find out what is going on outside the fence.  He is warned strongly to stay inside his cabin and not be caught outside unless it is for personal business.  They are nothing short of enslaved at this camp.   The treatment of the migrant farm-workers was so very terrible that many people refuse to believe it actually happened the way it is depicted in the film.  Sad to say it did happen this way.

Tom waits for an opportunity and then slips away.  He comes upon some tents down by the riverbank and hears Casey’s familiar voice and they are again united.  Casey explaines that they did not jail him but just ran him out of town.

Asking about all the people outside the ranch Casey explains how the owners use the extra workers to keep the labor price low.  They are paying so little that you cannot leave the ranch without oweing the ranch for being there.  Casey predicts that as soon as the strike is broken the owners will cut the already low 5-cent price in half.  That will be one-ton of peaches picked and carried in for one-dollar.  That is not enough money to buy enough food to stay alive on for one person.  Casey and Tom have a philosophical discussion but only resolve that they do not have an answer.  Casey muses to Tom that the owner representatives already think that he is a leader of this union organization because he has asked a few intelligent questions.  Casey is amused at his label of being a union organizer. 

Suddenly they hear sirens and dogs and armed guards hollering.  They run across the shallow river water to hide but are spotted by the guards.  Casey pleads for common sense—“think of the children”—he says to the club carrying thugs but is chopped down by one in mid sentence --- a deadly blow was struck and a kind man is murdered.  Tom becomes enraged and grabs a club and retaliates killing the guilty thug with one mighty swing, but not before being smacked rather smartly to the face.  Tom was not recognized but the thugs knew that they had wonded him in the face and he should be easy to spot.

Tom makes his way to cabin no. 63 and tells Ma of the events.  Ma, after hearing Tom’s explanation merely says, “I wished ya didn’t do it, but ya done what ya had to do.”  This line paraphrases Steinbecks’ quote in the novel, “A man got to do what he got to do.”

Knowing that he will be identified Tom tries to bid farewell, but Ma, using all the pity she can muster chides Tom into staying and keeping the family together. 

Tom and Ma overhear a new family moving in and commenting on the wage today being 2-1/2 cents just like Casey said it would be.  Tom laments: “That Casey, he might have been a preacher, but he seen things clear.  He was like a lantern.  He helped me to see things, too.”  Soon the guards are looking for the killer in the camp.  They quiz no. 63 and question where the other fellow in this group is?  Al responds by saying, “you mean that hitchhiker fellow? the little short guy with the pale face?  Aw shucks, he took off this morning when he heard the picking rate had dropped.”

Without further incident the family is able to get off the Keene Ranch.  They run out of gas at the top of a hill and coast down into the third camp.  A clean self-governing Department of Agriculture camp.

The Farmworkers’ Weedpatch Government Camp

This is a nice camp but it does not provide jobs only a place for workers to stay.  After the difficulties the Joads have encountered getting here it is almost to good to believe.  In this camp the workers themselves form the committees that govern their community.  Steinbeck, in the novel, calls this camp weedpatch while there are other depictions that call the camp “Wheat Patch”, I have not been able to substantiate the Wheat Patch name and the camp still exists today under the name weedpatch.  Weedpatch is also the name of a small town in Kern County near the weedpatch camp.

Aside from the waitress and men in the truck stop back in New Mexico and Ward Bond as the policeman in the California town and the returning migrants there has not been a lot of kindness and humanity exhibited in this film to this point.  As the Joad’s arrive at the weedpatch camp they are greeted by an administrator that has a remarkable resemblence to FDR.  Kindness abounds here and one gets the feeling that there is a bit of salvation after all.

There is a dance each Saturday evening and there are other social activities here.  But the best thing is that this is a nice place, with sanitary facilities that match the need.  Fresh running water and there are no restrictions on coming and going.  Of course the tin-stars or rent-a-cops plan a riot to try to entrap some of the people there but their plans are twharted by cleaver leaders who have been tipped about their ruthless and sneaky plans.  It appears they still suspect the Joad’s may have been involved in the incident at the Keene Ranch.  At the Saturday night dance Tom dances with his mother and sings.  Four suspicious fellows are spotted and the committee keeps an eye on them and when they attempt to start trouble they are quickly twharted.  In the meantime by prior arrangment a group of deputies plan to break-up the riot started by their thugs and therby have reason to enter the camp without a warrant.  On cue they arrive with bells and sirens only to find everyting in perfect order to their astonishment.

Later that night Tom spots a couple of deputies that have sneaked in the camp and are looking at the Joad’s truck.  Tom realizes that he must go a different way.  Tom muses the reasons and causes that he must pursue.  Tom now understands that he must carry on Casey’s mission of seeking and understanding.  It was Casey that made the light shine on things he did not understand and now Tom must somehow develop that light and continue on to where others wait in need.  That there is much to be done and only a few to do it.  That Tom now has a mission is a pinnacle event in this story.  The epics that had to evolve before the mission became visible is the miracle; but the question of how this higher power arranges events and situations to reveal a persons inner meaning contains a mysterious sequence of events having no clearly defined order or interperable meaning.

As Ma now reflects on what has happened she resolves that she shall never be fearful of anything again.  The family loaded in the truck they are headed to Fresno for twenty-days of work.  Ma is sad that hers son must go away, but proud that the remainder of the family has survived what seemed to be sure destruction at times.  As the leader of this family she can hold her head high.  She has maintained their dignty through the most adverse of situations.  Together they faced each mountain and perserved even when the odds were heavily against them.  Their reward is now the pursuit of a new life with new hope and new dreams.  Most of all the knowledge that they can face huge obstacles and still survive.  This is surely the most valuable tool one can possess because life can take sudden and unannounced detours.


            Early on I posed the question; do we care?  Well, it is a bogus question.  We all care, truly we do, it is just a matter of degrees.  Now we are talking a different subject.  It cannot be resolved as a subject but rather must be attacked by individuals.  If we care enough we can make a difference but we have to sell the thought to other people.  Did Hoover care?  I will bet you all the tea in China that he said he cared.  The solution to many problems are simple if we can only clear our eyes enough to look.  Previously I used the example of Hoover’s ranch near Fresno and my experience working with a gentleman that had personally tried to get work there in 1933 or thereabout.  My friend swears there were posted signs at the armed and guarded gates of the ranch, just like those depicted in the movie of the Keene Ranch, that stated “white men need not apply.”  My friend was young then, could he be mistaken?  Did Hoover just like other immigrant minorities better than oakies?  Is it safe to assume the only white men applying would be oakies; right?  This link is an article (very long and very revealing) by the Washington Merry-Go-Round in 1931.  I just have to sneak in this one paragraph from the above link (accept my caveats) but it is strangly revealing.

It was in these circumstances that Herbert Hoover developed the habits of autocracy which have so handicapped him in the White House. Because he had the power to command, he never developed the power to lead. His word was law. Once, expounding his views on labor troubles to a friend, he told how he had always found that chaining a Chinese coolie to a stake for a day in the hot sun was conducive to good discipline and a minimum of strikes.

The verification of sources of anything found on the internet is a problem not too easily overcome… It is often difficult or inpossible to verify sources in a reasonable manner.  I am of the opinion that if the document is hard to verify it most likely is not too valuable and may be nothing more than someone’s rambling attack.  But to the question of caring.  I care very much, but I have failed to do anything about it.  Therein lies the test.


The other important question is in understanding.  Understanding is, for me, often a difficult task and requires a lot of effort.  It, understanding, does not just happen because one wills it.  It requires in depth study.  Often the act of understanding is so consumming that one must learn to effectivealy multi-task in order to achieve results while trying to understand something or someone.  To understand a person we will have to understand many things that link to that person.  But this is a valiant effort.


It is easy for me to understand the plight of the Joad’s because I have lived so very close to their realities.  When I came to California it was a much different place than the Joad’s found.  However I was not seeking farm work and I had a house to live in.  Not too much money, but enough to buy gas and eat in a diner.  Sometimes only a little money raises one above minoritie status.  The houses they lived in back in Oklahoma, I have lived in houses only slightly better than that.  I lived in houses that had newspaper for wallpaper.  I have helped to paper those walls.  We even made our on wallpaper paste from a mixture of cornstarch and some other household staples, I do not recall the formula.  Things change as time changes.  The Californians were suffering themselves, many were unemployed or only working a few hours a week.  They resented any threat to their job and that is exactly what each and every other unemployed person is; potentially.


Pick up any newspaper today and there will be multiple incidents reported of some sort of racial discrimination.  Today for instance in the Los Angeles Times, section B1; an article headline beneath a picture of a minority couple reads Alleged Racial Incidents Shatter Security of Santa Clarita Valley. It will not stop, it will rear its ugly head each day, just as greed and dishonesty rear their ugly head each day, but because of Tom and Casey and you and me and a million others that care and are trying it is a whole lot better than it was in 1935.  Thank God.


[1] California An Interpretative History 8 Edition: Chapter 26, page 343.