My column about all the lies Steinbeck shoved into his novel The Grapes of Wrath is currently in the Taki’s Magazine Top 5.
One of the characters is “Rosasharn,” a wholesome, saintly teenaged girl.
Interestingly, there is a similar character in the 1941 movie High Sierra.
Like Rosasharn, Velma is traveling from farm country to California in a beat up vehicle with her salt-of-the-earth family.
Perhaps it’s Roy’s misplaced love for Velma (a 16-year-old Joan Leslie), a poor girl with a club foot he meets along the road to Los Angeles. Velma’s grandfather — played by Henry Travers, forever Clarence the angel from “It’s a Wonderful Life” — takes an instant liking to what he senses is a kindred soul, for Roy used to be just another Midwestern farm boy before he became a notorious gangster.
Roy arranges for Velma to have an operation to fix her foot, which he pays for, with a mind to marry the girl half his age. I think Roy convinces himself he’s in love with her, rather than because of any real connection they share.
She’s goodness incarnate, and he knows he’s bad, and maybe he thinks being around her will rub off on him. Velma represents an ideal Roy strives for but can never attain.
Except Velma turns out to be not so saintly after all. Maybe she was always like this, or maybe the operation gave her a new way of looking at, and being in the world, but Velma turns out to be just another shallow, thoughtless teenager, not the deep, thoughtful one Roy first met.
…in a marvellously uncomfortable scene, the cured Leslie becomes a selfish, brittle tart with a thirty-year-old, slick-moustached divorcee boyfriend. Regular folks may have enviable security, but aren’t worthy of respect.