The Grapes of Wrath
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Grapes of Wrath can be found here.

After losing their Oklahoma farm during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the entire Joad family -- Pa (Russell Simpson), Ma (Jane Darwell), Grandpa (Charley Grapewin), Grandma (Zeffie Tilbury), Uncle John (Frank Darien), Al (O.Z. Whitehead), Noah (Frank Sully), Winfield (Darryl Hickman), Ruthie (Shirley Mills), Rose-of-Sharon 'Rosasharn' Joad Rivers (Dorris Bowdon) and her husband Connie (Eddie Quillan), along with Ex-Preacher Casy (John Carradine) -- pack their meager belongings onto an old truck and head to California to find work. Virtually penniless, they take odd jobs, mostly as migrant workers, barely making enough to feed the family. Along the way, they meet other 'Okies,' endure prejudice, injustice, harassment, exploitation, desperation, death, and the possibility that there may be no work for them in California.

Yes. The Grapes of Wrath is a novel published in 1939 by John Steinbeck. It earned Steinbeck both a Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. The novel was adapted for the movie by American film maker Nunnally Johnson.

What is an "Okie"?

Technically, it's a slang term for a person from Oklahoma. During the Depression years, it became a derogatory term for people who were forced off their farms in Oklahoma and other "dustbowl" states and who became impoverished vagabonds searching for jobs as migrant workers.

The title comes from the Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; he is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored... Steinbeck uses the title in the book (at the end of chapter 25), talking about the starving people watching food being destroyed because it won't turn a profit: And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

Tom was sent to prison for killing a man in a fight. It was an acquaintance of his, and they were a bit drunk and at a dance. The man came at him and stabbed him with a knife, and Tom killed him with a shovel. He was sentenced to seven years but was paroled after four.

What happened to Noah?

Noah, Tom's mentally challenged brother, is last seen when the family stops to bathe in the Colorado River after just crossing the border into California. They are harassed by the local law who tell them to "press on" - they don't want no "Okies" hanging around. They have to get out of the area fast or risk possible problems with the police. Noah is not seen again, and his disappearance is not explained in the movie. In the novel, Noah insists on staying there. His rational is that at least he can catch fish in the river.

How does the movie end?

The cops come through the camp taking down license numbers while everyone is asleep. Realizing that they are looking for him and that his continued presence in the camp would pose a danger to his family, Tom decides to leave. As he sneaks out of the tent, Ma wakes up and asks whether he's going to say goodbye. She offers to hide him from the cops, but Tom refuses because that would make her an abettor. Tom kisses his sleeping Pa and explains to Ma that he's going to follow in Casy's footsteps, in an attempt to find out why good people are starving and being driven off their farms while rich landowners allow good land to lie fallow. Tom promises to come back when everything blows over, kisses Ma, and walks away into the night. The next morning, the Joad family packs up and heads north to Fresno, where they've heard that there's 20 days of work to be had. As they drive, Pa bemoans the fact that it is Ma, not him, who is keeping the family together, and Ma explains to him that it's because men and women look at life differently. Men see life in jerks whereas women see life as a continuous flow, like a stream. Rich fellas come and go, she opines, but we Joads will go on and on forever "'cause we're the people."

Those who have both seen the movie and read the book seemingly agree that, like almost any movie made from a classic novel, the movie version usually loses detail and condenses the storyline in order to fit it in the allotted run time. The most notable difference, and the one that draws the most criticism, is in the movie's ending, which was altered drastically because of the very strict movie codes in existence during the 1930s and 40s. The book ends with Rosasharn giving birth to a stillborn. With no baby to suckle, she ends up nursing a dying man in order to give him the nourishment.

Virtually every American movie with a contemporary setting made between 1930 and 1940 touches on the Depression in some way. A long list (over 250) of Depression Era movies can be found here. Some of the more well-known of these movies include To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Paper Moon (1973), The Sting (1973), Of Mice and Men (1992), They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), Bound for Glory (1976), Chinatown (1974), Citizen Kane (1941), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), King Kong (1933), and Seabiscuit (2003), and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

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