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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
The houses are left vacant and deserted. They soon start to decay and fall apart become inhabited by animals. The tractors have taken over. The mechanization of farming has made the entire process easy and efficient, so easy that the emotion has gone out of work and so efficient that the wonder has gone out of the land. There is no longer a feeling of oneness with the land, for the contact with earth has been lost. The tractor drivers merely steer a machine.
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 behind."
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.