Chapter 9 shifts focus away from the Joads and instead describes the preparations that tenant farmers in general are making for the exodus to California. It is mostly told from the general perspective of a farmer, who is trying to sell all his extra possessions before his family sets out westward. The farmer’s hand tools have been rendered valueless by the new, tractor-based farming techniques, and the farmer begins to see the buyers not as buyers of “junk,” but of “junked lives.”
This scene further emphasizes the harm that the landowners the tractor men, and technological progress in general have done to the lives of the tenant farmers. To these farmers, having to part with their few possessions and leave town is tantamount to losing their lives.
The farmer is extremely frustrated by opportunistic buyers, who offer unfairly low prices for his belongings. These buyers show no remorse for buying the possessions that the farming families have grown attached to through years of hard work. The tenant farmers return home disappointed in how little money they’ve rounded up. Families are forced to burn most of their heirlooms, as they have no room to bring along items with only sentimental value. As their belongings burn, the families grow restless, and drive away hurriedly.
Yet again, humans are shown to be willing to take advantage of one another in pursuit of profit. The hard times leave no room for sentimentality, and the farmers must leave behind not merely their land but items that they had come to see as their heritage.