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The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 9-12 May 6, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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There seems to be a sharp contract in morals being presented – there are wealthy men taking advantage of their fellow man in need (car sales, car repairs, pawn men, the bank). Yet the Joads, when faced with the prospect of another mouth to feed (Cary) when they are likely to starve, refuse to turn their back on him. “It ain’t kin we? It’s will we?” or on pg 156 there is a story of a family of 12 being cared for by a stranger in a sedan envoking “faith in their own species”. Do you think this is an accurate representation of life as you experience it – that those who have much give little and those that have little give much?

Why do you think it was so important for Muley and Grampa Joad to stay in Oklahoma?

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1. Heather - May 9, 2007

I wonder if the reason those with little give so much is because they are more in touch with their need, and they know that if they help someone, their good turn will probably be reciprocated at a later date. I don’t mean to say that they offer help simply because they’re going to get something in return; that would make them seem selfish. It seems more like they do it because they realize they are going to have ups and downs, and when they are up and can offer help they want to do that, because they know they’ll be down again and the be the ones in need of help. Sometimes I think they are more in tune with the idea that we are all in this together, and we need one another to make it through. The Joads hooking up with the Wilsons is a great example. Though I think they would have helped them out with their broken-down car anyway, especially after their kindness when Granpa died, they did see the symbiotic benefit to traveling together instead of alone. With two cars they could literally share the load! It wasn’t a one-sided sentiment, either, because Sairy said, “You shouldn’t talk like that. We’re proud to help. I ain’t felt so — safe in a long time. People needs — to help.” p. 141 Later Ma said, “You won’t be no burden. Each’ll help each, an’ we’ll all git to California…We gonna see you get through. You said yourself, you can’t let help go unwanted.” p. 148-149

In contrast, someone with much doesn’t have that same sense of need. Their excess isolates them from others. “King Me” is on the throne and he has no need for other people, because his money takes care of all his needs and he is autonomous. Obviously this is not true of every wealthy person, but I think it can be a temptation.

2. Michelle - May 9, 2007

I think you’ve got a point Heather.

I know when I’ve been the one who has much, I can have an attitude toward those who don’t have. Like, I worked for it and so should they~ and you don’t need me to point out all the ways that thought/attitude is full of sin. I feel like the more I am able to depend on myself (or think I am depending on myself), the less I’m able to remember what it’s like to live day to day and be in need- the less compassionate I am toward my fellow man.

I really like how Steinbeck shows the stark difference between those out to take care of themselves and those willing to sacrifice for each other. It is both convicting (because I tend to be the former) and encouraging (invoking faith in man).

3. Jennifer Napier - May 10, 2007

I was struck by your question Michelle. It seems to me that when I have little I feel less afraid to give, because I have nothing else to lose. But when I have a lot then I’m fearful of losing everything. I am amazed at people who have helped me when they have little themselves. I have found comfort and solace from those who didn’t have much to give of themselves, who were already needy or broken or desperate… but it’s as if we could understand each other being in the same place. Don’t know if that made much sense… sleep deprivation sometimes makes my words come out wrong.

4. Michelle - May 10, 2007

No, that does make sense Jennifer. I think you make a good point- having al ot to loose can increase our fear. That seems to line up with Scripture telling us that the things of this world can weigh us down and make it more difficult to live the Christian life we are called to live. Thanks for sharing.

5. bethany3boys - May 21, 2007

I agree with you Heather and Jennifer. You both made great points on the giving when you have little thing. I think it is so true. When I have been in Nicaragua and Russia and stayed with people that were very poor they were always so giving. It is amazing and convicting.

6. bethany3boys - May 21, 2007

In chapter 12 I loved this quote….so true.

“You go steal that tire an’ you’re a thief, but he tried to steal your four dollars for a busted tire. They call that sound business.”

7. Michelle - May 21, 2007

Yes! Good quote Bethany. It was convicting to me as someone who has vigorously argued for free market capitalism…


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