Human history is full of moments when collective effort was needed to address public concerns. And the history of films is full of examples when the medium was used to rally collective effort. Such movies never failed to get the attention of people and stir them to action.
The ability of movies to influence mass audiences has been made use of for a long time. Since the 30s and the 40s movies were used to glorify western culture, to strengthen religion and faith, to celebrate freedom, to decry communism and collectivism and to extol individual achievement and the American Dream.
For many Americans the 1930s was a period of contradiction. What started out as the land of dreams was slowly playing out as a land of nightmares. Democracy, capitalism, individualism and the optimism that was based on them were all proving to be myths. Milk, honey and the good life were all mere dreams; reality was a dire struggle for survival. You simply had to see it to believe that such suffering could have existed in America. (Sutton)
In the decades that preceded the 1930s settlers from the North and East flocked to the southern plains lured by the promise of an abundance of fertile soil and a happy life. The first few years looked as if they were on the way to achieving their dream. And then came a period of extended drought, which arguably is the worst drought of America.
It was a double whammy of sorts. ...
Desperate, many of them had to pack up and leave with their families, in search of work, to provide for their families. "The Dust Bowl was the result of a series of dust storms in the central United States and Canada from 1931 to 1939, caused by decades of inappropriate farming techniques" (Dust Bowl)
Although there was both government and private effort to help ease the situation, farming communities were not able to tide things over. "Private charities like the Red Cross also helped, but in general the level of assistance available prior to 1933 was minimal (Gregory 14)". People relocated. Often this relocation was as much a nightmare as their life in the dust bowl. But ultimately true grit and hope in the face of adversity were the qualities helped farmers to weather this period. This is the message that films like "The Grapes of Wrath" carried to the suffering masses.
The Grapes of Wrath
The film explicitly depicts the socio-economic impact of the Great Depression, and the drought of the 1930s on the thousands of displaced farmers from Oklahoma, Colorado, the Texas Panhandle and Western Kansas farmers in general and one family in particular - the Joads.
The opening scene is set in Oklahoma. It shows a figure walking in the distance. The figure is Tom Joad on his way back to his family's sharecropping farm. Tom hitches a ride part of the way and then he encounters Jim Casey on the road sitting under a willow tree. Casey is an ex-preacher and together they head towards Tom's farm.
When they reach the decrepit Joad cabin they find nobody there. A few moments later a figure emerges from the shadow. He is Muley Graves one of Tom's neighbors. Muley Graves is an instance of an individual who is so shattered at having lost his land that he is literally