The Grapes of Wrath

Spring IRP: Book vs Movie - Daniel Park 4th Period


Most of the first half of the film coincides with the novel. However that is not to say about the second half of the movie. Whereas the second half of the novel tells the story of the Joad family eventually splitting up due to different circumstances, the film switches the entire order of sequences so that the family ends up in a "good" camp provided by the government and events turn out relatively well. Additionally, the novel's final scene, where Rose-of-Sharon gives birth to a stillborn baby and then offers her milk-filled breasts to a starving man dying in a barn was not included in the film as it most likely was too controversial to include at the time of the production.

The last scene did not make it into the film for obvious reasons, it is just too offensive to incorporate, especially considering the time that the movie was released. Even if the movie was to be reproduced today, the scene involving the stillborn child would be borderline excessive.

The director most likely chose to take a different route from the novel because the original story had a somewhat depressing ending. Instead of portraying the story of the majority of the migrant workers found in the original story, by altering the plot around, the director successfully creates a fairy tale ending as the Joads finally find a home at a Government camp and finishes off with the speech given by Ma. The speech and the overall outcome of the story lead to a more optimistic ending rather than the sour taste the novel's ending gives.


In terms of setting, the novel and the film differ in many ways. While the film focuses mainly on the Joad family, while the novel's focus shifts from the Joads to the situation of all the migrants who went to California in the 1930s. Historical details like the dust storm and Route 66 both work to educate the reader on the setting of where the story takes place. However that is not all. Various episodes included in the novel like how the car salesman tried to rip off the Joad family or the altercation between the Joads and the camp owner over the issue of overcharging for their stay were also included in the novel. By including these episodes and details into the novel, Steinbeck was able to make the reader feel as if he was a part of the setting, since he was given how society worked in the West during the 1930s. However, since the movie did not include these episodes nor did it describe the dust storms and Route 66, it loses the edge the novel had of really immersing the reader into the daily lives of the migrant workers en route to California.

Although the movie did not contain these fine details, it does little to change the meaning of the story overall. This was probably done to make the movie concise enough and keep the flow of the story going instead of stopping here and there like the novel does.


All differences aside, the book and the film do share a common theme: family and change. Without each other, the Joads would have no way of coping with the loss of their land or of getting to California. Family is the one weapon that the Joads have against the cold, bitter world around. They learn that they are stronger and safer when they reach out to other families, when they create a sense of community.

Families cope as they are forced to change their lives, their homes, and their dreams. Change is bittersweet in this novel because it is imposed upon thousands of farmers and families who would otherwise prefer to remain right where they are. The Joads learn to cope with the great changes in their life by sticking together and by reaching out to other families.

With that being said, although the director of the film took a different interpretation of Steinbeck's original novel which resulted in the difference in plot and minor details, the underlying theme of family and change is still present.