Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

What a great splash in the world the book and then the movie made!  Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and cited ( 20 years later) as a primary reason for the Nobel Prize. The movie was a great hit a couple of years later.  Steinbeck could do no wrong.  He was for the poor people, the little man, etc.   Instead of concentrating on big business he wrung the hearts of late Depression Americans with his heroic family struggling for a better life when their Dust Bowl farm when kaput.

Frankly, by my generation (well, at least to me) Steinbeck cloyed with his sentimentality, his black and white, the good people struggling to get along. I have never read the novel and had not seen the movie until today. A good film -- yes. Of course. But SOOOO long and so sentimental with the big speeches from Ma Joad and then even longer and harder to bear, Tom's big siloquey at the end. 

We have come through another depression -- well, they call it a recession -- brought on by another Wall Street bubble. This seems timely to some decision makers at the college. We're very good at looking back and seeing the  insanity of plowing up the prairie. We would rather look back at that which has been (heroically?) overcome than look at the destruction of perhaps half the water supply in America by natural gas fracking. That is too close to now, and too many people use natural gas to heat or cook. 

Gasland, the documentary, was shown yesterday.  I saw it some time ago.  I have been horrified ever since. It fueled my hatred of Halliburton and especially of its past CEO, Dick Cheney. As with the Joads and most of the Okies, the fracking companies have taken advantage of poor people who are not sophisticated enough to understand that they have allowed these companies to poison them and their animals and to ruin the water supply of large percentages of America. Perhaps big agriculture learned some lessons from the Dust Bowl (but not many!!). Will thousands of people have to die prematurely of various kinds of cancers and other diseases before what is happening now is attacked? And will it be too late for the water supply?

It has not been a happy week, not at all.  Our three-day film fest ends tomorrow with a three more films, non-docuementary. It will be a relief. I hope. It's not that I don't want to know about the ugliness and the constancy of greed as the pervasive evil, but that the examples hurt so much.

2 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

June -- Your thoughts have been similar to mine lately. It is easier to look back and be somewhat comfortable about the conditions during the dustbowl but to look at what is happening today to our resource and their effects is devastating. I have been doing research on populations and resources and it is frightening what lies ahead for us. But I feel that even though the news is not good we need to address it head on. Good post -- barbara

June Calender said...

Thank you, Barbara. It has been a week of good discussion on that topic here. Although we are not in danger from fracking, or ground water is fragile and as susceptible to pollution by fertilizers and chemical weed killers.