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The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 23-25 May 23, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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Chapter 25 “… And in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.” Thoughts?

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1. bethany3boys - June 4, 2007

It is only a matter of time before the uprise. They are treating humans worse than they treat their animals. It is a shame. It is only natural when denied food and common even fairness to only take it for so long.

2. Heather - June 4, 2007

The way they are dehumanized is awful, isn’t it? I think what makes it even more sickening in this book is that just about every migrant worker is presented as someone who would do anything for work — they are NOT characterized as slackers wanting to live off hand outs, but as people who just wanted to be treated as human beings and to be paid an honest wage. Yet the wealthy are equating those desires with being communists who just want relief. In Chapter 24 a deputy is quoted: “Them g**d*** gov’ment camps,’ he says. Give people hot water, an’ they gonna want hot water. Give ’em flush toilets, an’ they gonna want ’em.’ He says, ‘You give them g**d*** Okies stuff like that an’ they’ll want ’em.’ An’ he says, ‘They hol’ red meetin’s in them gov’ment camps. All figgerin’ how to git on relief,’ he says.” Again, both sides are presenting a very different picture. A couple chapters ago one of the ladies on the committee mentions an experience at the Salvation Army where they were forced to grovel for charity. They might be poor, but they still had their pride. “We was hungry — they made us crawl for our dinner. They took our dignity.” p. 316 I thought it was interesting that when they first arrive at the camp, Ma, though appreciative of the showers and toilets, is really more excited about being with her own people again, and feeling like a person again: “Praise God, we come home to our own people…We’re Joads. We don’t look up to nobody. Grampa’s grampa, he fit in the Revolution. We was farm people till the debt. And then — them people. They done somepin to us. Ever’ time they come seemed like they was a-whippin’ me — all of us. An’ in Needles, that police. He done somepin to me, made me feel mean. Made me feel ashamed. An’ now I ain’t ashamed. These folks is our folks — is our folks. An’ that manager, he come an’ set an’ drank coffee, an’ he says, ‘Mrs. Joad’ this, an’ ‘Mrs. Joad’ that–an’ ‘How you gettin’ on, Mrs. Joad?’ She stopped and sighed. ‘Why, I feel like people again.’ ” p. 307. These camps were providing so much more than just toilets and showers. In some ways, I think those things were more of a secondary perk. Their more primary provision was in giving them back their humanity.

3. Heather - June 4, 2007

I marked this passage in Chapter 23:

“And always, if he had a little money, a man could get drunk. The hard edges gone, and the warmth. Then there was no loneliness, for a man could people his brain with friends, and he could find his enemies and destroy them. Sitting in a ditch, the earth grew soft under him. Failures dulled and the future was no threat. And hunger did not skulk about, but the world was soft and easy, and a man could reach the place he started for. The stars came down wonderfully close and the sky was soft. Death was a friend, and sleep was death’s brother. The old times came back — dear and warm…And the stars down so close, and sadness and pleasure so close together, really the same thing. Like to stay drunk all the time. Who says it’s bad? Who dares to say it’s bad?”

I think what struck me about this is that one of my number one reasons for not wanted to give money to someone asking me for it on the street is because I think they’re just going to go waste it on alcohol. Do I still think that’s wasteful? Well, yes, but that passage sure sheds a different light on their motivation, doesn’t it? Can you imagine your reality being so horrible that drinking yourself into a stupor sounds preferable to your current, miserable existence?

4. Michelle - June 5, 2007

oooo. Heather. I missed that. The alcohol thing. Thanks for bringing this perspective to me. Something new to think about.

Hm. Isn’t there somewhere in scripture where it says to give a man who is in pain or sorrow a drink – or something like that?? I’ll have to look it up.

5. Bethany - June 5, 2007

Wow Heather that is a good observation. I never thought of it that way before. But you are right under those same circumstances I am sure I would feel the same way. Gee right now with my aching body I was telling Aaron how much I would love a soak in a hot bath with a glass of wine…and what I am going through is nothing compared to what these people faced and homeless face every day….day in and day out. The passage you quoted is such a good description of how it removed the pain for them.


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