By Chet Yarbrough
Grapes of Wrath
Narrated by: Dylan Baker
John Steinbeck, in “The Grapes of Wrath”, vivifies and immortalises the great depression. For those of us too young to remember the 1930’s depression, there is Henry Fonda’s 1940 movie classic. “The Grapes of Wrath” is the story of Tom Joad (played by Henry Fonda), Steinbeck’s principled hero, who begins and ends a family’ tale of hardship and tragedy.
One falls in love with the Joad family in “The Grapes of Wrath” because of its human warmth. The Joads, like many mid-western’ families in the great depression, lose their 40 acre farm because of poor farming practices and growing farm consolidation in the twentieth century. Steinbeck paints pictures of greedy banks foreclosing forty acre homesteads and bulldozing farm houses to combine farm tracts for corporate land owners. The Joad family is evicted from their 40 acre farm. They sell their plow team, farming tools, and non-essential belongings and buy a beaten down Hudson truck. They reframe the Hudson to carry passengers and possessions from Oklahoma to California. They are lured by a flyer that says there are good paying jobs in California for the unemployed; however, there are so many bankrupt farming families that respond to this flyer; the Joads find good paying jobs are a fiction; i.e. pay scales are driven down by mass unemployment and employer’ “greed”.
The Joad family journey is filled with hardship and disappointment with listener’ or reader’ pleasure only coming from vignettes of familial affection; i.e. family bonds; bonds held together by an indomitable mother.
VIDEO–JOHN STEINBECK & THE GRAPES OF WRATH: http://www.youtube.com/embed/xqaTv8cCWeg” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
Like Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, “The Grapes of Wrath” shows an extreme end of an ideologue’s perception of American capitalism. Politicians, pundits, and authors deny or exaggerate human nature to distort objectivity about capitalism.
In the case of authors, Rand pictures capitalism as the fountainhead of prosperity and a perfect society; Steinbeck sees capitalism as a vehicle of destruction, a “dog-eat-dog” existence that breaks families apart and destroys society.
In 2017, “Grapes of Wrath” offers lessons to Americans that deny the importance of a “safety net” for the unemployed; the dangers of a widening gap between “haves and have not’s”, and the fragile nature of the environment.
Unbridled capitalism tears the fabric of society when it ignores minimum standards of living, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the environmental consequence of human greed. Rand ignores capitalism’s evil potential and Steinbeck exaggerates it.
The truth is Rand and Steinbeck have written two highly entertaining books with opposite, myopic visions of the value and truth of capitalism; i.e. Rand envisions libertine capitalism while Steinbeck proposes collective capitalism; neither of which acknowledge the truth of human nature. Mankind is both good and bad and cannot be left in a state of nature. Human nature in a capitalist society must be prudently regulated by a deliberative government that balances the interests of its citizens.