Book Vs. Movie: The Grapes of Wrath


The Grapes of Wrath book is on the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die list. It was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Grapes of Wrath movie was one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry because it was considered being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It’s on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list and it won Best Supporting Actress and the Academy Award for Directing in 1941. Needless to say, both are very good pieces of art.

But which one’s better? They are both on lists, and you really should consume both, but if you had to pick one that is better, which would it be?

I love books that are made into movies. I love seeing how my imagination stacks up to someone else’s who gets big bucks for their creative mind. It’s not hard to understand why most people prefer the book to the movie – because the movie can never live up to ‘how you saw it in your mind’ because it’s not your mind that produced the movie.

Which one do I think was better? Here’s the breakdown –

What they’re about: The book and the movie follow the Joad family who, along with millions of others, get kicked off the land they’ve owned and farmed for years by the evil banks (still timely, no?) due to the Dust Bowl and struggling crops. They hear that there is good work in California, thus a Great Migration ensues. There are more people to do the work than there is work, so landowners take advantage of the transients and pay them next to nothing…and then keep decreasing their salaries. The Californians hate them as well, because they don’t want them in their neighborhoods or on their land. People starve, people die and a woman breast feeds an old man (NOW you want to read it, don’t you?!)

The book compared to the movie:

  • The book is much more descriptive. There are entire scenes in the book that don’t make it into the movie. If you are a book purist, this will annoy you.
  • The book is more realistic. If you are a realist and don’t like the glossing-over Hollywood movies tend to give to books with difficult subjects, then the book is the way to go for you. The movie is much more hopeful. Everyone is still positive and believes that life can go on. Not so much in the book. Although I do admire the Joads for their spirit overall. I bitch and moan about so much, and they never really complain. I was just dumbfounded by that. That’s my New Years Resolution. So stop me if you hear a bitch or a moan here.
  • If you want to know what I mean about a woman breast feeding a man, then read the book.

The movie pros:

  • While the movie does an OK job sticking with the book, it’s pretty much what I wrote about the book, reversed. That is, it’s more concise. When grandpa died, there was at least 30 pages about it. In the movie, it was barely 30 seconds. Sometimes that’s a good thing.
  • The movie is more hopeful. The Joad family take a beating in the movie, but they still persevere and march on. They seem relatively happy. It’s a lot tamer also. There is no woman breast feeding an old man. It was the 40′s, what do you expect?

My view:

If I had to pick I would…watch the movie. Ouch, did I really just say that? John Steinbeck is rolling now. He is easily one of my favorite authors – East of Eden is my favorite book of all time and I want to name my future daughter Abra after one of the main characters (my mom has already put the kibosh on that…) But, the movie left you feeling better overall. It was concise and showed the parts that really mattered. The book had a lot of historical chapters and chapters solely about dust in a field. I thought the movie was true enough to the book, so I think the movie wins for me.

But really, read the book. And then watch the movie. I swear you will like both.

Cloud Atlas, #13 on the 1,001 Books list, is being made into a movie with Tom Hanks (!) and Halle Berry with a release date of October. Can’t wait to read it, see it and bore you with my compariso

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.