“No other [serious] novel of the thirties had anything like its national impact,” historian Donald Worster asserted.
“It taught an entire reading public what to think about the Okies and exodusters, and it would endure, for all its aesthetic and analytical faults, as one of the great American works of literature.” More than a million residents of the southwest would become migrants by the end of the decade, the “dirty Thirties”; and the epic that Steinbeck composed to recount the trek westward was virtually without precedent in its impact.
But since no treaty obligation compelled the Third Reich to make war, after Pearl Harbor, upon an industrial power of which Hitler was so ignorant, any analysis of his motives must remain speculative.
It may have been an urge for apocalyptic destructiveness (and self-destructiveness), a madman’s imagined in subterranean depths more accessible to the psychobiographer than to the military or diplomatic historian.
Economic backwardness was apparent in the Soviet response to The totalitarian reactions to this movie are only the most striking instances of the political polysemousness that is the subject of this essay.
Coming across as vaguely radical, Ford’s film—perhaps even more than the book that inspired it—nevertheless achieved an ambiguity that is more the signature of art than of politics, but effected a wide range of responses to the representation of the Okies’ plight.
Even though the Soviet Union stretched across eleven time zones, Stalin in particular was haunted by fears of capitalist encirclement that proved to be justified.
Ineptitude and inefficiency permeated the command economy he established—so much so that, had the Kremlin ever gained control of the Sahara, Western analysts liked to quip, there would soon have been a shortage of sand.
The second-hand opinion of the American Legion Radical Research Bureau in San Francisco was that the novel had been called—by whom?
—“Red propaganda.” Army G-2 was therefore bound to harbor “substantial doubt as to Subject’s loyalty and discretion.” Such was his reputation for radicalism that, as late as 1949, with the Cold War in full swing, the social democrat George Orwell secretly submitted a list of thirty-five “FT’s” (fellow travellers) to the Information Research Department of His Majesty’s government, drawn from his own notebook that contained 125 names.