In the classic film, The Grapes of Wrath, director Tom Ford shows that with unity, many conditions can be improved or overcome by the use of characterization, setting, and theme. The movie The Grapes of Wrath was based on a novel that was written by John Steinbeck in 1939. Though fictional, the novel was inspired by actual events that occurred several years prior to being published. “Three years before the book was published a drought in the Dust Bowl states forced hundreds of thousands of migrants to California” (Nearer, 1 These states included Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arkansas.
The families moved because their way of life had drastically changed. They could no longer farm their lands and without work, there was no food. “It punctuated an environment of poverty, where the people became resistant to change, fatalistic, suspicious, and distrustful” (Sample 768). Hundreds of thousands of individuals and families, men, women, and children, the young and the old, all migrated west in hopes of finding work and new lives. There are two main characters that the director used to deliver his message, Tom Goad, and Cays.
Tom load, who was portrayed by Henry Found, is a dynamic character. Although he has just gotten paroled after spending four years in prison for killing a man, his time behind bars did not change his outlook on life, or his character. There were two key experiences that changed Tom Goad for the better. At first, it was experiencing the injustice and the inhumanity that was being delivered by those who had the money, influence, and power. Secondly, it was when his eyes were opened by a former preacher turned friend, Cays, who was portrayed by John Circadian.
At one point in the film, Cays entreats Tom to join him in a strike against some employers who are trying to cheat he workers out of a fair wage. Cays delivers a passionate speech about there being power in numbers and the importance of fighting together for the greater good. Although Tom does not go along, he never forgets Cays words. Cays is also a dynamic character. He was a preacher at one point, and from Tom’s recollections, a very devout and popular one. However, the devastating events of the past few years have really taken their toll on him, and Cays has since lost his faith.
He has not lost his faith in God, but he has lost faith in humanity. This is evidenced when he is asked to speak over the DOD of “Grandpa” after he has a stroke and dies en route to California. His response is simply “l wouldn’t pray just for a old man that’s dead, ’cause he’s all right. If I was to pray, I’d pray for folks that’s alive and don’t know which way to turn” (Ford, Grapes of Wrath). The film’s setting spanned several states, farms, and migrant camps. Although the settings changed, one theme remained the same – the presence of hostility and opposition.
From the beginning, when the families were being evicted from the lands that they had been share-cropping for years, there was hostility and indifference from the androids. They were given two weeks to uproot themselves and then their homesteads were bulldozed. Once they were on the road, the Goads were often met with ridicule and contempt by stoneware and citizens who felt that they were superior. For instance, once when the family stopped to get gas, Tom Goad’s father entered a diner to attempt to buy a loaf of bread. He was met with contempt by the waitress who refused his request several times until she was forced to serve them.
Ultimately, her contempt turned to pity as she witnessed the direness of their situation. The family was even prevented room entering some towns by hordes of angry men who turned them around at the border. At one farm where the family finally found work, they found themselves being treated like animals. The Goads were numbered, herded through the gates, and given substandard housing. Given the reality of this period of American history, these scenes were believable. Tensions were indeed running high between the migrants as Californians stereotyped many of the migrants. An Koki, was not considered a fellow citizen of this country or someone looking for an opportunity to support their family. They were distinct, nonnative, members of an unwanted social group who were inferior to everyone around them” (McMillan, 52). The theme of this film is definitely the benefits of unity. Throughout all of the trials and tribulations the central characters of this film experienced, there was always either the concept of unity, or the foreshadowing of the continuing necessity for unity that was delivered to the viewer. The director, Tom Ford kept this a recurring theme in the film.
There was the beginning of the film, where Tom Goad was first released on parole. His first inclination was to find his family who it turns out had been evicted. When the loads were evicted from their farm, they first thought to seek out their extended relatives who lived nearby. Also, there are several instances in the film where Tom Goad finds himself in precarious situations. What helps him to escape these dangerous situations is his family, led by his mother, as they take some of his risk upon themselves. Beyond the theme of unity of the immediate family, there is also the theme of unity among humankind.
There is a scene in the film where the Goad’s arrive at their iris camp. As Ma Goad is cooking for her family, many of the children who reside in the camp stand around her cooking area, hoping to get some food. There is not much to share, but Ma still manages to leave enough for the children to get some. There are another two key instances in the film where the directors theme of universal unity is excellently portrayed by the actors. One is when Cays is speaking to Tom about the injustices that are being done to the workers and the need to band together to fight for their rights to decent wages and fair treatment.
Casabas main point is that there is strength in numbers and that if everyone were to stick together, even against the scorn and opposition, they would have a greater opportunity to achieve their goal. The second instance is at the end of the film – the theme of unity is ultimately presented through Tom Goad’s final speech. He gives this speech after he has realized that nothing will change if more people do not do their part to stand up for themselves and others and he vows that “… Wherever threes a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there (Ford, Grapes of Wrath).
In summary, the theme of overcoming through unity in this movie is one that is as timeless as the conflict and power struggles in the film which are things that have existed since the beginning of time. Through watching this film, I have learned to have a greater appreciation for a person’s life journey. Things are not always easy, and it takes a lot of character, courage, and perseverance to overcome life’s obstacles. I have also learned that sometimes it is necessary to not only stand up for yourself, but to stand up for others who have not yet found their voice.