Why The Grapes of Wrath Still Matters in Oklahoma

Image of Ma Joad from Grapes of Wrath movie

“Legislature may be working toward ‘Grapes of Wrath’ revision,” a November 16 editorial in the Enid, Oklahoma News & Eagle, used this image of Ma Joad from John Ford’s film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel to remind readers that Steinbeck’s angry portrayal of preventable poverty in the Dust Bowl still resonates for residents of a state where education spending cuts have forced some communities to reduce the school week to four days in a region dominated by the wants and needs of the billionaire Koch brothers. The state’s Republican governor recently vetoed the budget delivered to her desk by the anti-tax Republican legislature, which included $60 million more in cuts to health and human services, and the three-term Republican mayor of Oklahoma City has made education an issue in his campaign to succeed her. Like the author of The Grapes of Wrath, the editors in Enid employed dark irony to highlight the human cost of poor public policy, particularly when motivated by willful ignorance and corporate greed: “Perhaps the Legislature is hoping that a modern revision of the John Steinbeck classic ‘Grapes of Wrath’ will be the secret to our state’s future success. Only this time instead of impoverished Dust Bowl-era farmers moving out of state during the Great Depression, it will be school teachers and health care providers leading the exodus.”

About William Ray

William Ray is a Steinbeck scholar living in Santa Clara, California. He received his PhD in English from the University of North Carolina.

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