Free Study Guide: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - Free BookNotes|
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THE GRAPES OF WRATH: LITERARY ANALYSIS / SUMMARY
This interchapter marks the end of the first section of the novel, which deals
with the story of the Joads in Oklahoma. The chapter contrasts the new
farming method with the older one. Although mechanization has made farming
easy and efficient, tractors have severed the wonder and deep understanding
between the earth and the farmer. Both the physical as well as the spiritual
link between the land and the farmer has been destroyed. The inanimate
tractor contrasts unfavorably with the living vitality of the horse. The
chapter also summarizes the poignancy of the situation of the migrants
who are forced to leave the land. The land also undergoes a process of
dehumanization when its link with the humans is severed. It becomes barren
and mechanical, seemingly devoid of any purpose.
The main route of the migrants to California is Highway 66. It is the long concrete path across the country from Sallisaw, Oklahoma to Bakersfield, California. It stretches over the red and gray lands, twists through the mountains, and reaches across the bright and terrible desert into the rich Californian valleys. Highway 66 is the path of a people in flight. It is the mother road into which all the tributary roads pour, and thousands of migrants are traveling on it. Sometimes the migrants are seen in a single vehicle, and sometimes they form a caravan. They listen apprehensively to the noises of their rickety cars and fear mechanical breakdowns. Garage owners cheat the migrants by demanding exorbitantly high prices for spare parts. One of them tries to sell a tire with a broken casing for four dollars.
The migrants face innumerable difficulties and have little money or food.
In the face of such daunting hardships, they derive faith and courage
from random acts of charity. A stranger in a sedan takes a large family
of twelve with their possessions in a trailer to California. The stranger
also feeds them. Such incidents restore hope in the people. The migrants
carry on against all odds since they are "in flight from the terror
This intercalary chapter foreshadows the trials and difficulties that the
Joads will face on their journey. All the migrants listen attentively
to the noises of their unreliable cars, which foreshadows Al's concern
about the Hudson Super Six. He listens with intense concentration to every
sound from the truck for which he feels responsible. The chapter also
exposes the unscrupulous business people along the way who show no guilt
in taking advantage of the situation and cheating the poverty-stricken
migrants. Amidst the misery, there are individuals who show random acts
of kindness and reinforce faith in humanity.
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