The title "Grapes of Wrath" is a Biblical allusion and a reference to the Book of Revelation, 14: 19-20, which states that, "So the angel swung his sickle to earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great winepress of the wrath of God."
This film's title also references the overly renowned song, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Owing to the fact that this song was written in the context of American history and politics, relates to the film since it also centers its narrative on a specific time and place in America. Based on this context, many scholars contend that the squishing of "the grapes of wrath" is considered a violent, yet emotional image which is closely associated with the widespread oppression of a people and with reference to the darkest chapter in the American history, slavery. In a similar regard, grapes are metaphorically used to make us think of the spilling of the blood.
What Are the Film’s Central Conflicts?
In the film, Grapes of Wrath, the characters face major conflicts as they are forced to move from their initial home and travel across the country in hopes of finding a new life as immigrant farmers. To begin with, one major conflict in the film is that of man vs. self. This conflict is excellently exemplified by Jim Casy, a former pastor, who has been facing an internal struggle. In the film, Casy enjoyed being a preacher and was overly good at it, but he felt like a hypocrite. Besides, while still a preacher, Casy spends a lot of time on his own after which he realizes that he was certain that the Holy Spirit existed, but was less sure of the spirit's connection to Jesus. This being said, Casy argues with himself about his beliefs and eventually quits the church.
The conflict between man vs. society is yet another conflict that is prevalent in the film. For instance, the film portrays that during the Great Depression, the wealthy people thrived off of the backs of the desperate working man, slavery. The people in this society realize that they can no longer depend on the bank, which uses tractors to move sharecroppers off the land. Besides, a similar form of conflict is seen with the wealthy California land owners who primarily put all the blame regarding the economy on higher taxes and labor unions instead of coming to terms with the fact that the existence of millions of hungry people was the reason for the unions and the taxes.
What Is the Film’s Genre?
The film, "Grapes of Wrath" is drawn from the 1939 novel which was written in a period that followed The Great Depression. The film can be said to fall in the 'social problem genre' owing to the fact that it highlights the struggles of migrant farm workers in California as they hopefully tried to find work in pursuit of the American dream.
Main Characters of the Movie
In the movie, the character, Tom Joad played by (Henry Fonda) is introduced in the novel as the favorite son to Ma and Pa Joad. Toad, who is the main protagonist in the film spends four years in prison, which he claims, have molded him into becoming a person who devotes both his time and energy into the present moment. More fundamentally, after returning home after his jail sentence, Tom finds out that his family had been kicked out of their family farm due to foreclosure. Being a positive minded person, Tom joins his family at his uncle's farm as they head for California, where they hope to begin a new life. In the movies, Tom is depicted as a character who does not waste his time with regrets, despite having killed someone. He, instead, lives entirely for the present moment, something which enables him to be a great source of vitality for his entire family.
Jim Casy, a role played by (John Carradine) is a former preacher who had given up his ministry out of a belief that every human experience is holy. In the movie, Casy is presented as the moral voice since he articulates a majority of the movie's themes. Since he was a close friend of Tom Joad, Casy goes to prison in Tom's stead where a fight between laborers and the California police erupts. In the end, Casy emerges as a determined organizer of the migrant workers.
Two Key Scenes from the Movie
Firstly, one of the leading scenes of the movie is seen when Granma Joad dies. This scene portrays a hard trial especially for Ma Joad, and from this point, we begin to look at the strain this life-changing move has on the Joads. Besides, from this scene, the film shows us the family's understanding of death.
Secondly, Tom Joad's release from jail is yet another central scene in the movie. In this scene, despite the fact that Tom is initially painted as a convict, this scene marks the beginning of yet another but utterly positive phase in Tom's life. This, in essence, gives his family some insight into the toughness that will benefit the Joads later in life.
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