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The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck

THE STORY CHAPTER 19

We've reached another turning point in the book. The journey is over. We've made it to the Promised Land- California.

It's a big state, one of the biggest. It's got lots of land. Since it's so big, how come there's so little of it for the quarter-million newcomers from the Dust Bowl? Steinbeck gives us his answers in this interchapter.

But first he gives us history. Initially, Mexico owned the land. Then the squatters arrived and laid claims to the land. After a time, loving the earth and growing things on it were not enough for the owners. Passion for the soil turned to lust for money. The owners had to be businessmen, too. Good businessmen ate up the bad ones and farming became an industry. Farms grew larger and owners fewer. The few owners no longer worked the land. They hired foremen and brought in immigrants to work for peons' wages. The owners farmed not on land but in ledgers.


Now came the threat. Hungry, dispossessed farmers from the Dust Bowl sought homes in a new place. No matter where they came from, they were called "goddamn Okies," and they were out to seize land. The owners hated them because they were fierce and frightening. The storekeepers hated them because they had no money, and the laboring people hated them because they worked for less and took away jobs.

The word went out: Keep the Okies down or they'll take over the country. Keep 'em in line or Christ only knows what they'll do. Make 'em live in Hoovervilles- little temporary towns of tents, cardboard shacks, and weedy enclosures. Send in the deputies once in a while to keep 'em in line. Get tough with 'em. Treat 'em rough. Scare 'em. Even burn their towns down. Hoovervilles are a menace to public health, anyway. We gotta keep the goddamn Okies movin' 'cause if they ever get together there ain't nothin' that'll stop 'em.

And that's the way it is in California when the Joads arrive.  

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© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
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