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The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 13-15 May 8, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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An immediate sense of community formed when the Joads set up camp with the Wilsons- essentially strangers on the side of the road. Yet Cpt 14 says the thing to bomb is the beginning from I to We. Why do you think there is so much fear in community?

Why do you think the truckers left Mae such a large tip? Was it a reward for her compassion in giving the kids the candy? Was it a statement toward her initial lack of compassion? Was it something else altogether?

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1. bethany3boys - May 21, 2007

Okay this isn’t answering your questions…still need to finish chapter 15. But I love this book. There are so many things the characters say that jump out to me. In chapter 13 I love when ma said this…

“Up ahead they’s a thousan’ live we might live, but when it comes, it’ll on’y be one. If I go ahead on all of ’em, it’s too much.”

What wisdom she has.

2. amyb - May 26, 2007

Agreed, Bethany, that comment stuck out to me too. I would do well to remember that more often!

3. Heather - May 28, 2007

It seems like the ones who fear community are those who are intentionally choose the good of the individual over the common good – the tractor drivers, the land owners, the “campsite” owners, the Maes – and money seems to be their common denominator. The opposite seems to be true of those who seek out community, and though there are many in this book, I think Ma is a great example. She sees that there is strength to be found in being united that goes beyond having more materially. It’s an emotional strength, not a financial strength. It doesn’t matter that the preacher has nothing to add to the pot in terms of money or food or supplies, because he adds something emotionally just by being an ex-preacher. It doesn’t matter that the Wilsons have little and slow them down, because they have bonded emotionally over the death of grandpa. Ma goes ballistic at the thought of the family breaking up so some can go on ahead and start making money, because unity of the family is more important to her than making money.

I keep thinking of Ecclesiastes as I read this book. “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Further more, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Eccl. 4:9-12

That’s a great question about Mae and the truck drivers, Michelle. I’m not sure what I think. She gave in to Al so grudgingly on the issue of the bread, that it really surprised me when she gave them the candy for less. I think the big tip might have been a way for the truck drivers to reward Mae, but maybe, in a larger sense, it was a way for them to help out these bedraggled people they see on the roads every day.

When I first read that section I remember thinking, “Sheesh, Mae, just sell them the bread! They’re starving!” If I really stop and think about it, though, I think I can be more like Mae than I care to admit. We’re catching a glimpse of Mae in isolation – it’s just one family, coming in, hoping to buy some bread – but to Mae, this is just one family out of thousands who pass by her way. For all we know, people stop on a daily basis asking to either buy something cheaply or for hand-outs. If I think of it that way, I can feel her resentment, which really has more to do with fear. And again, her fear is tied to money – what is this going to cost her in terms of revenue or tips lost. When she talks about the “sh*theels” it all revolves around money – “Wonder where they all go to, said Mae. Come here for gas sometimes, but they don’t hardly never buy nothin’ else. People says they steal. We ain’t go nothin’ layin’ around. They never stole nothin’ from us.” P. 158 Ugh! I hate it when I see that in myself! It’s that sense of hoarding and gathering in and holding tightly, rather than standing there with arms outstretched and palms open. Again, I think of Ecclesiastes – “There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt.” 5:13

Did you notice all the references to the man’s humility in this chapter? Something about that persistent humility really struck me (and again, it reminded me of biblical references – this one being the neighbor knocking persistently at his neighbor’s door at midnight): “[he] stood with a curious humility…” “His humility was insistent.” “He answered with inflexible humility.”

And what about the irony of Al hitting the jack pot because he keeps track of the slot machine payoffs? 🙂

4. Michelle - May 28, 2007

“There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt.” 5:13 – Great reference Heather. I’m currently reading a book about the oppressed, poor, tortured, hungry… and man, Scripture sure does have a lot to say. God is not silent in this area. God is a God of Justice and He calls His people be active in the solutions. It’s both encouraging & provoking (to see what God cares about) and convicting (that my concerns have not matched my Creators- ie. how can I justify a savings account when there are cold and hungry people about?).
I am grateful for teaching books like “Good News About Injustice” and for fictionalized accounts like “The Grapes of Wrath”. God has used them both in my life to teach and remind me, and I sure to need alot of reminding.

5. bethany3boys - May 28, 2007

Oh Heather I agree about looking at Mae and hating her yet really being like her. We know the whole story we know the background of the family walking through that door but how often I am approached by pan handlers and I just assume they are going to take my money and buy alcohol or drugs…yet I don’t know their whole story and I could very well be wrong and missing an opportunity to give to someone in need. This book has been so convicting to me even where I live now. I am so quick to be annoyed with illegal immigrants and all that they do that effects our health care and schools and communities and yet most are families just trying to make it, just trying to feed and care for their family. I feel ashamed of my attitude sometimes. How selfish of me. What a wrong and selfish attitude as a Christian for me to have.


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