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“The Grapes of Wrath,” 1940 film of the Great Depression to be shown Sunday at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

e_SSLq... there is a growing wrath...’

“... and in the eyes of the hungry, there is a growing wrath,” wrote John Steinbeck in his classic novel of the Great Depression. “In the souls of the people, the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy for the vintage ...”

A year after its release in 1939, Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” was turned into a film of the same title that was directed by John Ford and that starred Henry Fonda. Both the book and the movie became instant classics, perhaps the best-known depictions of the suffering and hardship of the poor in 1930s America. Steinbeck once said that he had written the book to lay bare the disaster created by “the greedy bastards” who had ruined the lives of so many.

Steinbeck’s book and Ford’s film chronicled the Joads, a family forced off their Oklahoma farm by the calamity of the Dust Bowl coupled with upheaval in the country’s agricultural and banking systems over which they had no control. Destitute and bereft, the family, like countless others at the time, packed up what little they had and headed west to California — only to learn that hoped-for opportunities there were little more than a mirage.

With their threadbare clothing and twangy accents, the Joads may look like they belong to a world long gone. But the themes the book and film addressed are likely to resonate uncomfortably today during what is still a time of recession and hardship for many.

“The Grapes of Wrath” will be shown Sunday at 5 p.m. at Bowker Auditorium in Stockbridge Hall at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Introduced by John Stifler; free.

— Suzanne Wilson

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