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The ghost of Tom Joad  |  FEBRUARY 15, 2009

I just watched the THE GRAPES OF WRATH for the first time. Director John Ford seems to have captured everything in this film: a gripping story; poignant scenes; a heroic yet humble character, Tom Joad. As the thoughtful "Okie" driven from home by drought and the Depression, he sets out for California in search of a new life.

Actor Henry Fonda was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Joad, which many consider to be his finest role. Recalling Fonda's "I'll be there" speech, son Peter said, "I think the most brilliant part about that speech is the way my father delivered it. He never blinked. Like a prize-fighter, he never blinked."

Indeed, wherever people show great strength amid suffering Tom Joad is a powerful symbol. "I suspect I met a few Tom Joads in Kabul," said Khaled Hosseini in describing his book The Kite Runner. Joad has something important to tell us – about where we've been – and perhaps where we're heading. His actions in the face of economic ruin are historical lessons still relevant today.

 
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