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In the Grapes of Wrath, who does the film blame for the Joad family's losing their farms?  |

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In John Ford's Grapes of Wrath, Nunnally Johnson (the screenwriter who adapted it from John Steinbeck's novel) explicitly blames companies and banks (captalistic institutions) for their greed and lack of compassion for the working family.

After Muley loses his farm and family, he wants to use his gun for vengeance against someone.  Little does he know that there is no one person responsible for these predatory practices against farmers; instead, it is companies, boards of directors, institutions, conglomorates, banks which use their pawns to do their dirty work, evict families and bulldoze their farms.  Look at the conversation that Muley has with the Man in the car:

MULEYYou mean get off my own land?THE MANNow don't go blaming me. It ain't*my* fault.SONWhose fault is it?THE MANYou know who owns the land--theShawnee Land and Cattle Company.MULEYWho's the Shawnee Land and CattleComp'ny?THE MANIt ain't nobody. It's a company.SONThey got a pres'dent, ain't they?They got somebody that knows what ashotgun's for, ain't they?THE MANBut it ain't *his* fault, becausethe *bank* tells him what to do.SON(angrily)All right. Where's the bank?THE MAN(fretfully)Tulsa. But what's the use of pickingon him? He ain't anything but themanager, and half crazy hisself,trying to keep up with his ordersfrom the east!MULEY(bewildered)Then who *do* we shoot?THE MAN(stepping on thestarter)Brother, I don't know. If I did I'dtell you. But I just don't know*who's* to blame!

Steinbeck's gripe against capitalism is similar to that of Kafka's in The Castle: beaurocracy alienates the individual by using the "system" to hide greed and corruption.  After all, it's much easier to evict a family miles away from an office using a legal writ than it is face-to-face.

Just as K., the protagonist in Kafka's novel, never gains access to the castle or finds out who is responsible for the absurd governing practices, so too is Muley fed a line by the Man about who to blame.  In the end, institutions hide behind legalism and opportunists who will stiff the little guy as part of an elaborate shell game to deflect blame and responsibility.  Just ask Bernie Madoff!

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