Adam, one of my best friends in college gave me The Grapes of Wrath right before we went home for winter break our junior year. In addition to the inscription (“May your mind always be on fire.”) below, he included a note that said something to the effect of “I’ve really enjoyed all of our debates this semester and am looking forward to more when we get back.” It killed me to read it, because I had looked upon all those “debates” as arguments – arguments which, although I never confessed it, I never won. But I learned from him that a discussion didn’t have to be a competition. And that, if you open your mind to the possibility that you’re wrong, you’re likely to learn more.
The Grapes of Wrath makes you ask: Can large companies be kind and considerate? And what about the employees of those companies who are scared what might happen to them if they show a little kindness. The couple of people who do show kindness to the Joads: the trucker who gave Tom a ride and the cashier at the company store who loans Ma a dime, only do so after being shamed into it. The simple and sad message of the book is that powerful people take advantage of powerless people, and everyone in between works for the powerful people… unless they are working against them, which is the only real way to be a good guy.
When I think of The Grapes of Wrath, I think of Adam, who now, very fittingly, works for a law firm in Los Angeles that “combats slum housing while developing strategies to end homelessness.” He’s one of the good guys.
The Grapes of Wrath Movie
The Grapes of Wrath, starring a young Henry Fonda, is a really good movie. It captures the spirit of the book really well, but of course it doesn’t get everything right. The Casey character comes across as being loopy.
In the book, he is lost, not crazy. He’s trying to figure things out, which he finally does. In some ways, he is the man Tom hopes to become. But in the movie, he comes across as a little touched by his loss of religion. Tom’s brothers, Noah and Al, are also both special characters in the book, but you don’t get to know them well in the movie. The acting and writing are great though – definitely worth watching, but don’t miss the book!