Not Sweet Enough The historical play "The Grapes of Wrath" has been turned into a movie and is acclaimed by some people to be a classic. There are many themes going on in the play "The Grapes of Wrath." Deciding which theme to grasp a hold of can be very difficult, but I have decided to focus on the Joad family as a unit and adapting to their circumstances. The purpose of this paper will be to show how the play "The Grapes of Wrath", by Frank Galati, demonstrates how when a family comes together as one, anything can be accomplished. Complementing this ideal I will explore the concept that the Joads progressed from a concern only for themselves and their own personal welfare to a concern for all the people in the world. They did this by changing their way of thinking and through their actions.
Finally, this paper will explore how the larger family unit of the migrant people replaced the Joads smaller family unit.
The Joad family's journey to California results in the breakup of their family. The very first cause of the breakup of the individual family was with the loss of their land. The Joad family had lived there for many generations and had very strong ties to the land. Losing their land was equivalent to losing their family history. This is expressed by "She puts them in her pocket, closes the box, stands and with resignation tosses the box on the fire"(Galati 21). It is very evident that ma is reluctant to let her past go. On their journey they lose their first family member, Grampa Joad. This shows that there is a strong connection between a man and his home. Grampa's great longing for his homeland ultimately resulted in his death.
The shift from individual thinking to wide spread thinking is most directly seen in the actions of Tom Joad. In the beginning of the play Tom is mainly concerned for his own welfare. He wants to make up for all the things that he missed while in prison. Later on in the play he is more concerned with the welfare of the people. Then finally his thinking had shifted to trying to do what is best for all the migrant people by helping them organize into striking. Casy also had foreseen trouble along the way, but the family still pursued west. When Casy states "I'm all worried up. I been watchin' the cars on the road, them we passed an' them that passed us. I been keepin' track" (Galati 36). You can tell that Casy is having second thoughts about leaving for out west, and it's almost like he is having a premonition. He tries to convince Tom that something funny is going on, but Tom just ignores him. Casy responds by saying "Oh, what the hell! So goddamn hard to say anything" (Galati 37). Uncle John is also having bad feelings and he expresses this to Casy when he says "I got a feelin' I'm bringin' bad luck to my own folks" (Galati 41).
Furthering the family break up, Noah, who was also traveling with the family, found his place when they were at the river. He realized that he could catch fish and never be sad. Noah did not want to leave his family but he knew that it wasn't going to get any better. While the Joad family was breaking up a shift was happening. After the family looses Connie, Casy and Tom, Ma knew that she is just supposed to go on. When 2.
she tells Pa "Man, he lives in a jerk-baby born an' a man dies, an' that's a jerk-gets a farm an' loses his farm, an' that's a jerk." (Galati 81). Ma is realizing that there is a circle of life, that the death of one may bring life to another, as shown in the end when Rose of Sharon feeds her breast milk for her dead baby to a dying man. Ma's way of thinking is also explained on the John Ford web-site, who was the director for the film the Grapes of Wrath. He states her character best by saying "The film has a far more upbeat finale, as Ma Joad urges her family on with a stirring curtain speech: "Can't wipe us out. Can't lick us. We'll go on forever. 'Cause we're the people." John Ford realized that Ma Joads' character was going through this shift in thinking and changed the ending of his film.
Through many struggles and multiple losses, the Joad family endured many nearly impossible situations. In the beginning we had a family that was out to get rich for themselves, and in the end we have a family trying to survive. Their dreams were crushed and the family was torn apart. The Joad family lost their farm and was forced into a society that was very unfamiliar. They had to adapt from being one individual family to a world family of many other people in their situation. In the end Ma realizes that the family doesn't come first anymore but anybody who just needs help should come first. Everybody in this play has had a shift in thinking and a worldview shift. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make a shift in the way people think.