Lewis Honors College Capstone Collection

Year of Publication



Arts and Sciences



Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in English, Bachelor of Arts in History

First Capstone/Thesis Advisor

Dr. Michael Carter


While most book-to-movie adaptations are transparent, this project explores the nuanced adaptation of the novel The Grapes of Wrath into the movie Little Miss Sunshine. Little Miss Sunshine promulgates a unique approach to adaptation; additionally, the analysis of these two works provides conclusions for matters beyond literature. The project addresses the “American Dream” and differing perspectives on “winning” and “losing.” The initial step was a close reading of The Grapes of Wrath and a critical viewing of Little Miss Sunshine. From there, a research plan was developed, focusing on distortions of “The American Dream.” The research materials included books, scholarly journals, newspaper articles, reviews, and opinion papers. After studying these materials, a research paper was written, discussing historical context, differing modes of representation, bases of comparison, shared conclusive elements, and connections to current American affairs. The paper argues that loyalty (specifically to family) and perseverance against adversity defines success. Current social and economic problems stem from a distortion of this argument, but re-evaluating the “American Dream” and its effects can establish an appropriate mentality. Utilizing the conclusions of the two literary works, the paper explains the current economic recession, the 2008 presidential campaign, and current post-collegiate unemployment. Through the lens of The Grapes of Wrath and Little Miss Sunshine, the paper pinpoints adjustments that will rehabilitate the current American morale.