Farms (The Grapes of Wrath, Ch 18-19)

And all their love was thinned with money, and all their fierceness dribbled away n interest until they were no longer farmers at all, but little shopkeepers of crops, little manufacturers who must sell before they can make.  Then those farmers who were not good shopkeepers lost their land to good shopkeepers.  No matter how clever, how loving a man might be with earth and growing things, he could not survive if he were not also a good shopkeeper. (232)

Here, the narrator explains to us how farmers were loosing their farms to businessmen, and basically gives us the story of how agriculture became industrialized.

As I talked about earlier, one of Steinbeck’s goals in writing The Grapes of Wrath was to point out many issues in the agricultural industry at that time and try to evoke change.  He was inspired by books like The Jungle and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and wanted to use their method of writing a book or novel to illustrate issues to people to show issues in farming.

At this point in the novel, the reader has already become familiar with the Joad family, and their way of life.  Their norms have, at least in the context of the novel, become the norms that the audience has accepted.  For this reason, when people refer to them as “Okies” or talked about how dumb the “okies” are, as a reader I am able to empathize with the Joad family, and even feel a little offended.

The form of farming that Steinbeck describes in the quotation is very different from the style of farming that we saw earlier in the novel in Oklahoma.  Because we have accepted the Oklahoma style of farming as the norm, and as reader empathize with the Joad family and see how industrialized farming will harm them and other families like them, we conclude that industrialized farming must be bad.  This is a conclusion that Steinbeck wants us to make so that he can accomplish his goal in writing the novel.

-Paulie 🙂


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