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When the war broke out, everyone in Salinas felt that no one in the world could beat the United States. Patriotism ran high in spite of the scarcity of goods. As planned, Will took full advantage of the situation. He bought beans from the farmers at two and a half cents a pound and sold them to the British for twelve cents a pound. The war would make him richer, and Cal would also benefit.
In this very short chapter, Steinbeck explains that the war has begun, and Will and Cal are profiting from the scarcity of food. They buy beans cheaply from the local farmers and sell them for five times at much to the British. The scheme is making them rich.