In the end, Kern County’s establishment was overmatched. It could not stop people from reading the book. And although the county resolution implored Twentieth Century-Fox to desist from adapting the novel, the film was made and became a classic. Perhaps the only satisfaction that came to Kern County was that the Okies themselves, far from remaining a proletariat, climbed the ladder to become respectable middle-class Republicans.

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James Boylan is CJR’s founding editor.