Media - Language Arts- Connect

Analyzing Tone and Mood in Various Media

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939), or dramatic adaptation by Frank Galati (1988)

Not much more can be said about the excellence of Pulitzer Prize winner John Steinbeck’s writing or his novel, The Grapes of Wrath, but if time or accessibility is an issue, consider Frank Galati’s adapted dramatic play of The Grapes of Wrath. Galati won a Tony Award for Best Play for his adaptation.

  1. Either The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck) Chapter 28 or The Grapes of Wrath (Galati) Act 2 will work for the following activity. The importance of these scenes for the characters, plot, and themes, and for American progress as a whole during the Great Depression should be discussed.
    • What is the significance of Tom’s final words to Ma in Chapter 28 of The Grapes of Wrath:

      "Whenever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there... 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…”

  2. An excellent way to bring multimedia into the classroom and capture the power Steinbeck’s writing still has on current generations is to have students read Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics to the song “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” Rage Against the Machine has an extremely powerful cover of Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” as well. Playing both versions for students would allow for a deep discussion about tone, style, and imagery in the two very distinct versions.
  3. Hand out Music Comparison Worksheet for student to use to analyze and compare the two versions.
  4. A final comparison can also be made using the Animoto video Dust Bowl & Great Depression. Discuss how the tone would change if the video had used Rage Against the Machine’s version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” instead of Bruce Springsteen’s original.