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Society Versus Reality


Who needs money? In the past, people have always been alienated in some way thanks to capitalism. Often times, revolutionary groups demanded better pay, shorter work hours, and better standards of living. These most often where met with the laughter of capitalism. If a revolution could not achieve these goals they demanded a political change from capitalism to communism.

Furthermore, the dustbowl that occurred in the 1930s was horrendous. These events were recaptured in the movie "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. The movie was Directed by John Ford and photographed by Greg Tolaoe. The film was released in 1939 and went on to win both Best Picture in 1940 and Best Film in 1940. The actors in the film were very compelling. Henry Ford's, main character, won Best Supporting Actor. Since, Capitalism consists of many components therefore; it will be broken down into industrial revolution, slowed social progress, landowners, and lost worker profits.

One of my first foundation principles is that "Capitalism[...] substituted machines for manual labor[...]" (Karl 33). What Karl is saying here, is that, capitalism greed has grown so strong that it brought upon the industrial revolution age. They are replacing expensive pickers with machines that can cover ten to fifteen families. This can be seen today when companies outsource to areas such as Mexico where workers are willing to work for far less than what they pay in the United States just to save money. In the movie, Grapes of Wrath the Joad family is being pushed off their land because their tenanted farming is less than profitable. The scene begins when a bourgeoisie pulls up in front of the house in a car. A white man wearing nice clothes with the camera projecting a high angle long shot with the lighting from the sun bouncing off his car onto the bourgeoisie face is informing the Joads that they need to leave.

Then, the scene cuts to a family member with a flat angle long shot with dimmed down lighting that comes in at angle adverting attention from the actors responding back to the bourgeoisie's demands. After the Joad family responded, then the camera switches back to the bourgeoisie, with a high angle that includes a close up shot with directional lighting on the man's face. These series of scenes shows that the bourgeoisie is in control and there is no hope left for the Joads but to listen to his demands. This is one of the many scenes in the movie that encouraged capitalism own down fall and the oncoming of communism.

Another foundation principle is that "Capitalism became a tremendous obstacle to social progress" (Karl 34). What Karl is implying here is people's self-center needs for wealth is making the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. The rich are not using their wealth to help society as a whole, they are hurting it. Society as a whole "May slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back" (Eckert 348). A scene in Grapes of Wrath illustrates this concept. The Joad family is heading to the government camp to find work. The scene begins with a long shot flat angle of the Joads family truck pulling into the government work camp. The family hits a speed bump on the way in which visuals illustrates a drastic change in the family's life. They get out and talk to a friendly man at the entrance with a flat camera angle and a medium shot with ambient lighting. The man informs them in a polite tone of the luxury features that the Joads family has been missing out on such as showers and flush able toilets. The family is over-whelmed and silent with ambient lighting high angle long shot.

This scene begins to break down the money relationship of each family member and develops a family relationship. When Henry Joad goes inside to check the family in, the old man is sitting down. There is a medium close up low camera angle with ambient lighting on the old man. Then the scene cuts to Joad with a high angle medium close up with ambient lighting as well. This illustrates how Henry Joad is in control because he is standing up and he has a choice as to what happens to his family. The ambient lighting in all of the scenes shows that everyone is equal at this camp. The old man asks how many can work just like they did on the privately owned land but this time, the old man did not ask about woman, children, or if they can all work. There was no directional lighting or close up on the old man's face showing that he is in control over Henry Joad or the rest of the Joad family. A positive and friendly environment is given off by the workers as well. This is demonstrated by using equal spacing, long shot, high angle, and ambient lighting across all the workers in the dance scene. This shows how capitalism has not corrupted the camp because it is government owned and people are not as self-centered on money.

Another subsequent principle is that "Under capitalism, the basic and decisive means of production belong to the numerically small class of capitalists and landowners" (Karl 34). Karl is illustrating here that the land owners had all the power. They had the ability to become extremely rich and since there was a large demand for work; they would pay their workers less and less. The bourgeoisie was using their wealth to bribe the police officers so they could abuse the legal but unfair laws in the United States that added to their profits.

Land owners use "Corporate farming, and its immoral but legal right to dispossess the heirs of America's frontier" (Keough 38). Grapes of Wrath could be used to display this Marxist principle in the scene when Henry Joad sneaked out of the privately owned work camp to look around. Outside the camp, he stumbled upon some of his friends on strike. The lighting in the movie was dim lit by the moon using a high angle long shot. Then when Henry went inside of the tent the lighting was more directional toward the actor's faces using a flat angle medium shot. Then as Henry's friend began talking about the strikes, the camera angle changed to a medium close up shot as the lighting was directed on either side of the actor's face. These series of scenes show the ever growing presence of the workers demand for more money. The workers are tired of the bourgeoisie swindling them of all their hard earned wealth just because of the landowners own greed. The spread of communism is on the horizon and it is due to the greed of many capitalists who are causing this movement.

One concluding principle of Marxism is "[...] it is the capitalists who appropriate the fruits of labor" (Karl 34). Karl is saying that instead of fairly dividing up work load payments and shares; they are disproportionately divided. This often seen today in the work force "Women make only 75.5 cents for every dollar that men earn, according to a new release by the U.S. Census Bureau" (Longley). Now, a Marxist would view this pay gap as stereotypical because she is a woman. This same type of pay gap occurred back in the 1930s. A scene from Grapes of Wrath that displays this is one when the Joad family went to the privately owned work camp.

The family car was stopped by a bourgeoisie. The scene depicts a high angle directional lighting toward Henry's face with a close up view. Then, when it switched back to the bourgeoisie, the camera angle was flat, with ambient lighting around the bourgeoisie's face, and with a close up camera view. The bourgeoisie asked him the number of workers, the number of men, number of women, number of children, and if they all could work. These series of scenes and the questions in the scenes showed how the bourgeoisie was in control because the Joad family needed work and had to submit to whatever pay rate the bourgeoisie gave the Joads. The different framing and lighting increased this fact because of the high angle to flat angle shots, not to mention the directional lighting. The ambient lighting around the bourgeoisie face showed how he was in control of not only that scene but also the entire camp the Joads where in as well. This scene just illustrates another issue that caused the rise of communism to come into power.

In a nut shell, capitalism need for an infinite amount of wealth caused its own down fall. The only good thing capitalism caused was initiating the industrial revolution but at the cost of the middle class. This revolution slowed America's social progress and only benefited the land owners who deviously took profits away from the workers. This writer believes that a Marxist would recommend the film, Grapes of Wrath in order to use it as an example to depict the downfall that greedy capitalists in a society bring on themselves.

Works Cited

Eckert, Ken. "Exodus Inverted: A New Look at The Grapes of Wrath." Religion & the Arts 13.3 (2009): 340-357. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.

Karl, Mark. The Communist World.New York: Appleton Century Crofts Division of Meredith Publishing Company, 1967. Print.

Keough, Trent. "The Dystopia Factor: Industrial Capitalism in Sybil and The Grapes of Wrath." Utopian Studies 4.1 (1993): 38. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Apr. 2011.

Longley, Robert. "Pay Gap Between Men and Women Getting Worse, Census Data Shows." About. U.S. Government Info – Resources. Web. 15 Apr. 2011.

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