Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
In spring, California is beautiful. The fruit blossoms and tender vegetables appear in abundance. Grapes, swelling from the old gnarled vines, cascade down to cover the trunks. All of California quickens with produce. The larger and better crops are the result of the use of the knowledge provided by scientific research, but at harvest time the canneries offer low prices. This bankrupts the small farmers, and only the large farmers survive because they own the canneries.
Huge quantities of fruit rot on the ground or are dumped, and men spray kerosene on the dumped fruit to prevent the migrants from taking it. At the same time, children die of malnutrition and starvation. The migrants cross the thin line between hunger and anger and "in the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy for the vintage."
This chapter describes the fertile California valley and comments on the remarkable scientific knowledge that produces the rich harvests. That same intelligence, however, can pour kerosene on the fruit to destroy it and keep it from the starving children. It also destroys the small land owners, who are unable to fight the economic system and the under-handed tactics of the large land owners. The chapter depicts the beginnings of the anger and wrath generated by the tremendous waste, and the meaning of the title starts to form.