FEBRUARY 23, 1940
GOLDEN BEACH, Fla., Thursday—Yesterday evening we went to see the picture:—"Grapes of Wrath." I think it is well done, but I wonder if it will convey to many people the reality of what they are seeing. People laughed near us at some of the broad remarks in the dialogue. I did not feel the tragedy gripped the audience. They did not seem really to know what this story actually meant.
There are some lines that are very well brought out, as for instance, when Mrs. Joad first sees "Tommy" again, after he is back from prison and asks him if he has been hurt so much that he is just "mean-mad." I have felt people were "mean-mad" at times and wondered if life were not treating them so harshly that they were unable to retain any of the qualities which make people lovable and that make life worth living. At the end of the picture the thing which struck me especially was Ma Joad's remark: "Rich people die and their children are no good, but nothing downs us. We are just hardened by misfortune and so we go on. We, the people, live." This is not an exact quotation, but those of you who have seen the picture will remember the idea.
I shall not forget it, for there is something in that beating down of fate which does harden the fibre of a human being. When life is too easy for us, we must beware or we may not be ready to meet the blows which sooner or later come to everyone, rich or poor.
In the midst of a world which seems to provide one at every turn with new tales of horror and suffering, a story has come to me which has nothing to do with war, for the suffering of the people of Korea has been brought about apparently by the mercilessness of nature. Last summer there was no rain and most of her people are agricultural and depend largely on what they grow for their livelihood. Everything was burned under the broiling sun. The people tried dry farming, but were unsuccessful. Their chief food in winter is "kimchi," a kind of pickled cabbage and turnip, but this crop was also extremely meagre and this is what they add to their constant diet of rice. Fuel for the poor in Korea is usually brush and twigs, but they are short of that this winter. The cotton crop failed and they cannot make themselves their cotton padded garments for winter, so they are starving, freezing and dying. Perhaps it would be more merciful to be in a war zone, for at least bombs leave you little time for slow suffering.
I tell you all this because, while Korea is far away, perhaps you will send an occasional check to the American Red Cross, marked for these people who are just one more addition to the world's suffering people. It seems hard to sleep at night these times because the stress of homeless, hopeless people haunt one's dreams. The Red Cross has announced that any of us may earmark our checks for whatever particular country we wish to benefit.