Today, we look at the iconic Tom Joad speech in The Grapes of Wrath.
This is To Quote a Phrase, a spotlight on notable pop culture quotes.
October is a Month of To Quote a Phrase, both here and at Comics Should Be Good!
This is a bit of a tricky one, since the speech is pretty much taken word for word from John Steinbeck’s classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, so I guess I should credit that, right? At the same time, though, Henry Fonda’s delivery as Tom Joad in the 1940 film adaptation, The Grapes of Wrath, is so brilliant that it is hard to not spotlight the film.
In any event, in case you’re unfamiliar with the plot of The Grapes of Wrath, the story opens with Tom Joad being released from prison. He goes to rejoin his family on their sharecropping farm in Oklahoma, only to find that they’ve been driven out of their home. He eventually meets up with them again, and finds that they are about to make the long, arduous trip to California to find work there. He goes with them, along with Jim Casy, a former Preacher who serves as a sort of Christ-like figure in the story. One of the biggest foes they find along the way are union-busters, trying to prevent the migrant workers from unionizing, and Casy is ultimately killed by one the union-busters. Tom then kills the guard in self-defense, but suffers a cheek wound that will make it very difficult for him to hide from the other guards when they come for him.
After the family hides him for a bit, Tom explains to his mother that he has to leave them now, or else they’ll get in trouble for hiding him. She worries that she’ll never see him again (Jane Darwell won an Academy Award for her performance as Ma Joad. She’s excellent), and she’ll never even know if he’s out there some where. Tom explains that she will know because everywhere there’s a cause to be fought for, he’ll be there. He explains in the iconic speech…
“Well, maybe like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big one — an’ then—“
“Then what, Tom?”
“Then it don’ matter. Then I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be everywhere — wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ — I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build–why, I’ll be there. See?”
It gives you chills.
One of the big changes between the film and the book is that the film has a bit of an uplifting “We’ll make it somehow” ending, while the book is more, “Nah, we’re all doomed,” but the speech is present in both, and it’s really quite great.
Okay, folks, if you have notable quotes from TV, movie or music that you’d like to see me spotlight this month, drop me a line at email@example.com!