Mitt Romney as the “Evil Twin” of Tom Joad

McSweeney’s has published a wonderful parody of John Steinbeck’s most famous novel. Called The Grapes of Mitt, the parody imagines how things might have been different if Tom Joad had been born Mitt Romney. In the following passage, Tom Joad’s climactic speech about his commitment to the long fight for basic workers’ rights and human rights is recast as a persecuted rich man’s lament:

“Well maybe like Paul says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but his corporation does—an’ you can’t take that away—an’ then—”

“Then what, Mitt?”

“Then it don’t matter. Then I’ll be around. I’ll be ever’where—wherever you look. Wherever there’s a corporation that’s being told it’s not a person—I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a regulator beating a Limited Liability Corporation, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a white guy voting against a socialist, I’ll be there. . . . God, I’m talking like Paul. Seems like I can still see him sometimes even though he gone back to Congress and I’m—I’m still here. Comes of thinking of him so much. Thinking of him—and of his flannels. God, I loved his flannels, and the way his pecs looked in his flannels.”

“I don’t un’erstan’,” Ma said, “I really don’t.”

“Me neither,” said Mitt. “It’s jus’ stuff I been thinkin’ about. Get thinkin’ a lot when you movin’ aroun’ between vacation homes.” He glanced at his watch. “You gotta get back, Ma.”

“You take the Super PAC, then.”

He was silent for a moment. “Awright,” he said.

“And Mitt, later—when it’s all blowed over, you’ll come back to the way you were? Back when you believed in speaking French in public and that immigrants were people?”

“Sure,” he said.

 

In case you have forgotten the original speech in Steinbeck’s novel, here it is:

I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be ever’-where–wherever you can look. Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise, and livin’ in the houses they build, I’ll be there, too.

 

The speech, specifically as it was delivered very memorably and movingly by Henry Fonda in the John Ford-directed film adaptation of the novel, inspired Woody Guthrie’s song “Tom Joad”:

Tom Joad got out of the old McAlester Pen;
There he got his parole.
After four long years on a man killing charge,
Tom Joad come a-walkin’ down the road, poor boy,
Tom Joad come a-walkin’ down the road.

Tom Joad, he met a truck driving man;
There he caught him a ride.
He said, “I just got loose from McAlester Pen
On a charge called homicide,
A charge called homicide.”

That truck rolled away in a cloud of dust;
Tommy turned his face toward home.
He met Preacher Casey, and they had a little drink,
But they found that his family they was gone,
He found that his family they was gone.

He found his mother’s old fashion shoe,
Found his daddy’s hat.
And he found little Muley and Muley said,
“They’ve been tractored out by the cats,
They’ve been tractored out by the cats.”

Tom Joad walked down to the neighbor’s farm,
Found his family.
They took Preacher Casey and loaded in a car,
And his mother said, “We’ve got to get away.”
His mother said, “We’ve got to get away.”

Now, the twelve of the Joads made a mighty heavy load;
But Grandpa Joad did cry.
He picked up a handful of land in his hand,
Said: “I’m stayin’ with the farm till I die.
Yes, I’m stayin’ with the farm till I die.”

They fed him short ribs and coffee and soothing syrup;
And Grandpa Joad did die.
They buried Grandpa Joad by the side of the road,
Grandma on the California side,
They buried Grandma on the California side.

They stood on a mountain and they looked to the west,
And it looked like the promised land.
That bright green valley with a river running through,
There was work for every single hand, they thought,
There was work for every single hand.

The Joads rolled away to the jungle camp,
There they cooked a stew.
And the hungry little kids of the jungle camp
Said: “We’d like to have some, too.”
Said: “We’d like to have some, too.”

Now a deputy sheriff fired loose at a man,
Shot a woman in the back.
Before he could take his aim again,
Preacher Casey dropped him in his track, poor boy,
Preacher Casey dropped him in his track.

They handcuffed Casey and they took him in jail;
And then he got away.
And he met Tom Joad on the old river bridge,
And these few words he did say, poor boy,
These few words he did say.

“I preached for the Lord a mighty long time,
Preached about the rich and the poor.
Us workin’ folkses, all get together,
‘Cause we ain’t got a chance anymore.
We ain’t got a chance anymore.”

Now, the deputies come, and Tom and Casey run
To the bridge where the water run down.
But the vigilante thugs hit Casey with a club,
They laid Preacher Casey on the ground, poor Casey,
They laid Preacher Casey on the ground.

Tom Joad, he grabbed that deputy’s club,
Hit him over the head.
Tom Joad took flight in the dark rainy night,
And a deputy and a preacher lying dead, two men,
A deputy and a preacher lying dead.

Tom run back where his mother was asleep;
He woke her up out of bed.
An’ he kissed goodbye to the mother that he loved,
Said what Preacher Casey said, Tom Joad,
He said what Preacher Casey said.

“Ever’body might be just one big soul,
Well it looks that a-way to me.
Everywhere that you look, in the day or night,
That’s where I’m a-gonna be, Ma,
That’s where I’m a-gonna be.

Wherever little children are hungry and cry,
Wherever people ain’t free.
Wherever men are fightin’ for their rights,
That’s where I’m a-gonna be, Ma.
That’s where I’m a-gonna be.”

 

More recently, the speech has inspired Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” a song with a much more contemporary setting, also recorded by Rage against the Machine:

Man walks along the railroad track 
He’s goin’ some place, there’s no turnin’ back 
The Highway Patrol chopper comin’ up over the ridge 
Man sleeps by a campfire under the bridge 
The shelter line stretchin’ around the corner 
Welcome to the New World Order 
Families sleepin’ in their cars out in the Southwest 
No job, no home, no peace, no rest, NO REST! 

And the highway is alive tonight 
Nobody’s foolin’ nobody is to where it goes 
I’m sitting down here in the campfire light 
Searchin’ for the Ghost of Tom Joad 

He pulls his prayer book out of a sleepin’ bag 
The preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag 
He’s waitin’ for the time when the last shall be first and the first shall be last 
In a cardboard box ‘neath the underpass 
With a one way ticket to the promised land 
With a hole in your belly and a gun in your hand 
Lookin’ for a pillow of solid rock 
Bathin’ in the cities’ aqueducts 

And the highway is alive tonight 
Nobody’s foolin’ nobody is to where it goes 
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light 
With the Ghost of old Tom Joad 

Now Tom Said; “Ma, whenever ya see a cop beatin’ a guy 
Wherever a hungry new born baby cries 
Whereever there’s a fight against the blood and hatred in the air 
Look for me ma’ 
I’ll be there 
Wherever somebodies strugglin’ for a place to stand 
For a decent job or a helpin’ hand 
Wherever somebody is strugglin’ to be free 
Look in their eyes ma, 
You’ll see me!

And the highway is alive tonight 
Nobody’s foolin’ nobody is to where it goes 
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light 
With the Ghost of Tom Joad.

[All of these works are copyrighted, but except for the parody in McSweeney’s, they are available through multiple sources on the Web.]

If you have the opportunity to do a course on representations of labor issues on film, the following films might provide a starting point for constructing a syllabus. The films are organized roughly by historical chronology:

The Molly Maguires (1970)

The Killing Floor (1985)

Bound for Glory (1976)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

The Cradle Will Rock (2000)

Matewan (1987)

On the Waterfront (1954)

The Garment Jungle (1957)

Hoffa (1992)

F.I.S.T. (1978)

Norma Rae (1979)

North Country (2005)

Gung Ho (1985)

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don’t impersonate a real person.