John Ford's Film is Almost The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
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One of the greatest novels of all time, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, is a well-known American classic. Renowned for its portrayal of the struggle of migrant families during the Dust Bowl; the novel not only details the Joad family’s 1500 mile journey from Oklahoma to California but that of all migrant workers. The Joad’s travels reflect the hardships migrant workers had to face while trying to survive in a country that hated and feared them. The novel was published in 1939, and one year later it was made into a motion picture. John Ford’s film, also titled The Grapes of Wrath, was a major success, and a marvelous adaptation. However, while visually satisfying, the film does not convey the depth or intensity of Steinbeck’s classic. Neither a loose, nor truly close adaptation, The Grapes of Wrath falls into the category of an intermediate film. The Grapes of Wrath fails to convey a vital theme of the novel, the relationships cultivated not just between the Joad’s, but between all of the migrant families.
Cutting characters is a regular occurrence in filmmaking, but in a novel like The Grapes of Wrath it takes away from the message of growing kinship. The idea of family plays a huge role in this novel. The Joad’s most important goal is the keep “the family unbroke.” Yet, the film only gives characters important to the novel a superficial glance. Pa, Uncle John and Rose of Sharon are set in the background with little characterization. Noah Joad literally disappears