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The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck

THE STORY CHAPTER 5

Why the Joads have deserted their farm becomes apparent in this chapter, a dramatized essay about the economic conflict between the tenant farmers and landowners. Steinbeck uses an imaginary dialogue, with each speaker representing the beliefs of his group. The owners send agents to speak for them. The banks, which Steinbeck aptly calls the Monster, must make a profit, say the agents. If the farmers can't pay, they have to get off the land.

Times are bad; the soil's too dry, the farmers reply.

Then grow cotton!

Can't do that, say the farmers. It'll kill the soil for good.

Too bad, then. Get off the land.

But we've been here for generations. Besides, where'll we go?


That's your problem. Get off!

To make sure the farmers move, the bank sends in bulldozers to knock down the houses. Tractors, like land-eating giants, tear up the land.

The drivers are farmers, too, often friends of the family. Why do they engage in such destructive work? They have to. It's a job, and they need a few dollars to feed their own hungry families.

NOTE: Steinbeck compares the drivers to their machines. In effect, they have become a machine part, no different from a cog or bolt. They lack feeling and sense. They don't think. Perhaps they don't allow themselves to think about their cruel deeds. They have given up their humanity, have sold themselves to the bank and, like the dispossessed farmers, have also become victims of the Monster.  

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