The Grapes of Wrath

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Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Grapes of Wrath, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon

In The Grapes of Wrath, the most brutal adversity the Joads face doesn’t come from the unforgiving natural conditions of the dustbowl. Rather, the Joads and the Okie community receive the cruelest treatment from those most capable of helping them: more fortunate individuals, typically ones who wield institutional power. Throughout the book, establishments and technological advances are shown to corrupt the humans behind them. Steinbeck’s depiction of the state police shows that they’ve been perverted by their authority: in the first Hooverville the Joads occupy, an exploitative contractor comes to recruit Okies for dirt-cheap labor, and the deputies that accompany him level blatantly false accusations of theft against Floyd Knowles, Tom, and anyone else who dares to protest.

Similarly, the banks are beyond the control of the men that work for them, and like the industrial farms, they expand unchecked, without regard for human life. As the banks and farms grow and grow, their owners stoop lower and lower in order to increase their profits. Some California farms even go so far as destroying perfectly good food in order to keep prices high, all while starving migrants clamor for food and jobs. Steinbeck describes the modern men of industry as mechanized, unnatural beings who live detached from the land and in so doing have become dehumanized, unlike the farming families they displace. This hostility is contagious—even small business owners fear and resent the Okies, and local Californians form militias to intimidate the desperate migrants.

At the same time, Steinbeck occasionally shows glimpses of humanity, especially in the most wretched characters. These acts often come when a character breaks the rules of an oppressive system, which further reinforces Steinbeck’s point that institutions tend to be dehumanizing and morally toxic. After she is extorted at a farm company store, Ma Joad observes that “if you're in trouble or hurt or need—go to poor people. They're the only ones that'll help—the only ones.” The poorest characters are often the most generous, and the richest the most selfish. Because most Okies can barely support themselves, let alone help others, every instance of altruism becomes a powerful moment in the text. Rosasharn’s breastfeeding of the starving man in the book’s final scene serves as the definitive example of the selfless altruism of the poor.

Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization appears in each chapter of The Grapes of Wrath. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Quotes in The Grapes of Wrath

Below you will find the important quotes in The Grapes of Wrath related to the theme of Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole.

Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

After a devastating dust storm that ruins the hard-earned crops grown on Oklahoma farms, the women and children mentioned in this passage worry that the fathers and husbands will feel "broken" by their struggles. They look to these men to set a standard for how to respond: the patriarchal structure of the family is not really questioned throughout the book, although some of the men do struggle with how to live up to the expectation that they be strong and powerful. 

The men, however, react with wrath rather than disappointment or brokenness. As a result, the women and children perceive them as still "whole": they have gained agency through their strong reaction and thus commit themselves to combating this difficulty, as well as any others that may arise. As the book begins, therefore, it at once shows anger to be a powerful, and potentially powerfully good, trait, one that can equip people like the Okies, who lack a great deal of social, economic, or political power, with a different kind of strength.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

“…sometimes a guy'll be a good guy even if some rich bastard makes him carry a sticker.”

Related Characters: Tom Joad (speaker)
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom Joad is traveling home after being released from prison, and here he is trying to cajole a truck driver into giving him a ride, even though the truck bears a sticker that reads "No Riders" on it. Tom appeals to the driver's sense of decency and community, one that for Tom exists between fellow inhabitants of the dusty Midwest. This community, he implies, has nothing to do with the centralized, powerful corporation that attempts to dictate how things are run far away. 

Tom thus makes a strong distinction between the "rich bastard" that holds the money and power, and the "good guy" that may be more economically vulnerable, but makes up for it by emphasizing his goodness and humanity. Of course, these lofty sentiments have a more practical side as well, since it's in Tom's interest to have the truck driver give him a ride, but the passage is also a legitimate example of the way Tom attempts to claim greater dignity for himself and those around him in general.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“I says, ‘Maybe it ain't a sin. Maybe it's just the way folks is. Maybe we been whippin’ the hell out of ourselves for nothin’.’…Before I knowed it, I was sayin’ out loud, ‘The hell with it! There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do. It’s all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain’t nice, but that's as far as any man got a right to say.’”

Related Characters: Jim Casy (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom Joad has met Jim Casy, a former preacher who believes that he baptized Tom long ago. Casy tells Tom why he left the church: he had been sleeping with girls in his congregation until he began to feel wracked with guilt. Here he explains to Tom the progress in his thoughts concerning his own actions and their relationship to his faith. He does feel that he betrayed the girls' trust, but he also cannot accept that his attraction to them was fully sinful. This realization has made him feel that there cannot be such black and white categories as "sin" and "virtue." Instead, he thinks that there is a more gray area in terms of how humans should act, a gray area that is so complicated that mere humans shouldn't claim to be able to pronounce without doubt what is right and wrong.

Still, Jim Casy's reasoning is clouded by a sense that what he did cannot be entirely excused. His exclamation, "The hell with it!", expresses his frustration with the categories that are available to him, as he searches for meaning that would be more satisfying than the empty-seeming rules and dictates of his religion.

“maybe it's all men an’ all women we love; maybe that's the Holy Sperit—the human sperit—the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’ Now I sat there thinkin’ it, an’ all of a suddent—I knew it. I knew it so deep down that it was true, and I still know it.”

Related Characters: Jim Casy (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

As Jim Casy continues talking to Tom about his struggle with his faith, he strikes a more positive note as he searches for an alternative to the strict categories of sin and virtue that he has long since decided are insufficient. He continues to make use of some of the terms and beliefs that were part of his arsenal as a preacher, but here he uses the idea of the Holy Spirit, for instance, to describe something different than the figure in the Bible. Jim Casy instead develops a notion of an all-encompassing sense of humanity, a community that all can be a part of, and a community defined by love rather than guilt. 

Chapter 5 Quotes

Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves.

Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage describes the tense relationship between the landowners  or "owner men" and the tenant farmers. The landowners have the power to tell the tenant farmers when they must leave the land so that the banks that are really directing these affairs can profit more from the land. The narrator describes these men in a variety of ways, from angry to cold to kind. Ultimately, it's suggested, it doesn't really matter which attitude the landowners take, since they are participating in a cruel process anyway, one that seems to forget that the tenant farmers are also complex people with desires and needs of their own.

In some ways, though, the anger of the landowners can be understood as similar to the anger of the tenant farmers. For both, wrath is a way to regain a piece of control over a situation that they cannot conquer. Here, the landowners may be powerful compared to the farmers, but they too are caught up in larger processes, which are directed by far-away corporations. As a result, it comes to seem as though these processes will unfold inevitably, no matter what individuals think about them.

Chapter 8 Quotes

“I ain’t sayin’ I’m like Jesus…But I got tired like Him, an’ I got mixed up like Him, an’ I went into the wilderness like Him, without no campin’ stuff…Sometimes I’d pray like I always done. On’y I couldn’ figure what I was prayin’ to or for. There was the hills, an’ there was me, an’ we wasn’t separate no more. We was one thing. An’ that one thing was holy.”

Related Characters: Jim Casy (speaker)
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

Granma has asked Casy to say grace with the family before they can begin eating. Casy's rigorous Christian belief system has long since eroded, but even as he lacks a confidence in his own faith, he still finds the structures of the religion to be a reference point that gives him a way to process how he acts and what he does. As a result, Casy's grace is rambling and sometimes confusing. He draws on the famous Bible story of Jesus going into the wilderness to pray, and being tempted by demons, to help him explain his own struggles with temptation and his own distancing from society.

Once again, however, Casy attempts to turn to an alternative to the strict catechism of Christianity, one that emphasizes community and common humanity over personal striving. This sense of community is what Casy continues to think of as "holy," even if it has little to do with traditional Christian beliefs. It is ironic but also significant that Casy uses grace - a short ritual that for most people is just something to get through before a meal - as an opportunity for real spiritual questioning.

Chapter 9 Quotes

To California or any place—every one a drum major leading a parade of hurts, marching with our bitterness. And some day—the armies of bitterness will all be going the same way. And they'll all walk together, and there'll be a dead terror from it.

Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

The perspective of the book has switched, in this chapter, to tenant farmers preparing to leave for California, and to one in particular who is disillusioned by the process of selling his belongings: his tools are now useless because of new technology, and he feels that he himself is now just as useless. California is treated by some in the book as a marvelous land of opportunity, a place to recover some of the agency and stability that the tenant farmers have lost in Oklahoma.

This farmer, however, begins to feel as though California is not just a random choice but a useless one. Wherever he and his fellow farmers go, he believes, they will be pursued by the sense of hopelessness that has defined their work up until now. If there's any sliver of hope left, it's in the fact that there are so many people like this that they make up "armies of bitterness," a group of people bound by shared experiences even if those experiences are desperate.

Chapter 10 Quotes

“It ain't kin we? It's will we?” …As far as ‘kin,’ we can’t do nothin’, not go to California or nothin’; but as far as ‘will,’ why, we’ll do what we will. An’ as far as ‘will’—it’s a long time our folks been here and east before, an' I never heerd tell of no Joads or no Hazletts, neither, ever refusin’ food an’ shelter or a lift on the road to anybody that asked. They’s been mean Joads, but never that mean.”

Related Characters: Ma Joad (speaker)
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

The family has begun to debate whether or not Casy will be allowed to come with the Joads to California. At first Pa Joad isn't sure, but soon his wife begins to overrule him. By making a distinction between "can" and "will," she reminds her family that so many of their struggles have been based on a seeming impossibility of "can": that is, a sense that they don't have the material means to gain power over their own situation. 

However, precisely because their capabilities are so uncertain, Ma Joad believes that it is crucial to express their will in whatever they can - to commit to certain actions regardless of whether they might seem impossible or hopeless. For her, these actions must align with certain values that are defining traits of the family, including kindness and generosity. By referring to her and her husband's ancestors, Ma Joad reminds her family of their long heritage in Oklahoma, and how these families have countered the economic and social fragility of their lives with the dignity and responsibility that comes from emphasizing community.

Chapter 11 Quotes

That man who is more than his chemistry, walking on the earth, turning his plow point for a stone, dropping his handles to slide over an outcropping, kneeling in the earth to eat his lunch; that man who is more than his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis. But the machine man, driving a dead tractor on land he does not know and love, understands only chemistry; and he is contemptuous of the land and of himself.

Page Number: 115-116
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the narrator describes certain changes taking place as a result of technological progress coming to replace humans with tractors and other machines on the farms of Oklahoma. By creating distance between the land and the person using it, between labor and its means, the narrator suggests that such changes are alienating people from the very source of their stability and livelihood. Farmers who are close to the land, who physically have to kneel down and rummage through the dirt, understand that the land is not just there to gain profits for him or for far-away corporations: instead, it is powerful and important in itself, as well as closely bound with farmers' own self-definitions.

As technology continues to distance people from their sources of wealth and resources, the narrator suggests, people come to look scornfully on this land, failing to understand the mutual interdependence between humans and environment. This does not only mean that vast landscapes will be transformed into ugly, barren outdoor factories, useless except for the money that can be extracted from them; in addition, it means that people themselves will feel less strongly a sense of humanity in its connection to the place they live.

Chapter 12 Quotes

The people in flight from the terror behind—strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever.

Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

For this chapter, the narrator has zoomed in on the experience of one migrant family in particular. A crooked salesman, knowing that they are desperate, tries to sell them a tire for an exorbitant price. After refusing and continuing to limp along with a broken trailer, the family finally enlists the help of another driver and manages to arrive to California. As a result, this family's experience is a typical reminder of the various ways that humans can treat each other, some of which include acting as though other people are simply instruments of one's own power and wealth. Other attitudes, though, value strangers as fellow travelers and fellow humans.

The narrator thus stresses that it is impossible to extract any one conclusion from the struggles of these migrant farmers, apart, perhaps, from the inherent complexity and inconsistency of humanity. Still, we also see in this passage that the families are desperate enough to leave behind the "terror" of their past life that they will cling to "beautiful" things more than "cruel" ones. The small examples of kindness and community will have to be enough to enable them to persevere on their journey.

Chapter 13 Quotes

“We’re proud to help. I ain’t felt so—safe in a long time. People needs—to help.”

Related Characters: Ivy and Sairy Wilson (speaker)
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

Granpa has just died, and the family is making preparations to bury him on the own. Earlier, the Joads had met a couple, the Wilsons, whose car had broken down, and after initially exchanging tense remarks, Tom's appeal to their common humanity had helped to ease the situation. Although Granpa's death has happened only shortly after their meeting, the Wilsons now feel close enough to the Joads to want to help in whatever way they can, in order to maintain Granpa's dignity even in a fragile situation. Friendship and community, this passage suggests, may be just as fragile, but they can also be powerful signals of common humanity. Indeed, as Sairy implies here, the act of helping another can be a positive force even for the person who offers assistance.

Chapter 14 Quotes

Fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.

Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator is describing the changes taking place in the West as a result of the influx of migrant farmers, some of whom are fighting for better wages and work quality. The narrator suggests that what they are really fighting for, however, is a sense of dignity and respect that the landowners involved refuse to give them. What is called the "concept" is this broader motivation behind the fight for change: while specific, material desires stir people onward, it is the belief in certain broader values that really defines humans and convinces them that a better life is possible. 

This process of change and perseverance is only possible, it's suggested, when a group of people bands together, so that life becomes not just a question of the individual I, but of humanity or "Manself" all together. Indeed, it is this community of strivers that defines what humans are and can be.

Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other…the danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one.

Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

After detailing the desires of humans fighting for greater dignity and banding together in communities in order to do so, the narrator turns to the enemies of these communities: the landowners and corporations who care little about the lives of these people who are so less powerful than themselves. The narrator frames the differences between these two groups in the form of rhetorical "advice" that he gives to those in power. While it is important for workers and the poor to express their common humanity through community, for those in power the opposite is necessary: they must continually break down the bonds of common humanity in order to prevent real change from happening. 

To do so, the narrator suggests, those in power must turn individuals against each other, encouraging them to suspect and harbor ill will towards each other. As a result, they will be able to maintain their own power over others just as they break down the dignity of those over whom they rule.

Chapter 16 Quotes

“It don't make no sense. This fella wants eight hundred men. So he prints up five thousand of them things an' maybe twenty thousan' people sees 'em. An' maybe two-three thousan' folks gets movin' account a this here han'bill. Folks that's crazy with worry.”

Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

Pa has met an exhausted, downtrodden-looking man at camp who is coming back from California. He is one of the first pieces of proof that California may not be the paradise that the Joad family had hoped it would be. The Joads, like many other families, have learned about the opportunities for workers in the West through advertisements that have promised work and a decent living. However, according to this man, the landowners advertised so much in order to have a large influx of labor, so that they could then haggle down the cost and exploit the workers. 

The man's estimations perhaps "make no sense" from a strictly factual point of view, but he knows well that the strategy does make sense from a business point of view. The landowners have an advantage in terms of money, time, and resources, and they use that advantage to the best of their ability to keep the workers (whom they nonetheless need) as powerless as possible. The man only briefly alludes to the consequences of this strategy, which makes already desperate people even more desperate, particularly after having overcome obstacles in order to arrive at a place they thought would be stable and welcoming.

Chapter 17 Quotes

At first the families were timid in the building and tumbling worlds, but gradually the technique of building worlds became their technique. Then leaders emerged, then laws were made, then codes came into being. And as the worlds moved westward they were more complete and better furnished, for their builders were more experienced in building them.

Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

The Joads have joined one of the many camps that have sprung up where migrant workers making the same journey as they stop for the night to rest. These moments are initially fraught with tension. The travelers don't know each other, for the most part, and recognize that they are all going in pursuit of the same jobs, so they could consider each other as natural competitors. However, this is not what happens. Instead, they begin to band together in makeshift communities. 

The narrator describes the building of such communities almost as if he were describing the historical development of society out of individuals and smaller units: indeed, in many ways the journey west recalls the more monumental historical journey of humans through time. Initially, these groups are rudimentary, but over time they grow more complex. While the novel is certainly critical of some complex social organizations, landowning corporations among them, this passage shows that not all communities have to be ruthless or small-minded. Instead, those in charge of creating bonds between people can learn from their mistakes through time, and work in support of human connection rather than against it.

Chapter 18 Quotes

“They's a time of change, an' when that comes, dyin' is a piece of all dyin', and bearin' is a piece of all bearin', an bearin' an' dyin' is two pieces of the same thing. An' then things ain't lonely any more. An' then a hurt don't hurt so bad, cause it ain't a lonely hurt no more, Rosasharn. I wisht I could tell you so you'd know, but I can't.”

Related Characters: Ma Joad (speaker), Rose of Sharon
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

Granma seems to be losing her mind, as she starts speaking incoherently and imagining that her husband is there with her. Rose of Sharon is worried about her, and here Ma Joad attempts to reassure her. She does so by making an appeal to the larger forces that structure human life. Giving birth, bearing children, and dying are all part of the same process, she says, and it is impossible to have one without the other. Ma Joad takes solace in this vision of death, because it suggests that we are not alone - that what seems frightening, unknown, and lonely to us in fact fits into a broader meaning.

Ma Joad does seem to have developed her own beliefs about life and death beyond what her Christian heritage has taught her. Instead, she draws on all that she's learned regarding the ability for humans to come together in a community. This community might be fragile, but she continues to believe in it enough for it to structure her beliefs.

Chapter 19 Quotes

And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.

Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout this chapter, the narrative zooms in and out, focusing first on the larger history behind those who owned and took over the land in the West, and then on the specific experiences of the Okies who are forced to move west because of the selfishness and greed of the landowners. Here, the narrator suggests that these landowners are blind to this cycle of history. They think themselves exceptional because of their powerful grip on others weaker than they are, because of their ability to erase the dignity of their workers. But the narrator points out that the desire to rebel against unjust power never goes away: it is a defining fact of human history.

Through these powerful lines, Steinbeck suggests that the story he is writing is only one part of a bigger history. His characters may seem desperate and constantly dehumanized, and their experiences may be in some ways unique, but in other ways their lives fit into a narrative about progress, resistance, and struggle for human rights and recognition. The book itself might not include any revolutions or even political battles, but these remain in the background, relevant to everything else that happens.

Chapter 21 Quotes

The great companies did not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line.

Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

As the situation of the migrant farmers becomes more desperate, the book states, these people no longer seem like real people, nor even like farmers, but rather begin to be defined solely as migrants torn from their homes and unable to settle into a new home. The "great companies" described here are eager to squeeze out as much work as they possibly can from the migrants, who are unable to support themselves or their families with their meager earnings. Instead, they grow hungrier and hungrier. The companies believe this hunger to be something manageable: indeed, they may even believe that hunger makes these people more docile and less willing to rise up against the unjust forces affecting their lives. What the narrator suggests, however, is that hunger is not something meek and quiet but rather another kind of wrath. And in this book, of course, wrath can be powerful and good, a force that can provoke change and remind characters that they are alive enough to fight. 

Chapter 22 Quotes

“Well, sir, Hines says, 'A red is any son-of-a-bitch that wants thirty cents an hour when we're payin' twenty-five!' Well, this young fella he thinks about her, an' he scratches his head, an' he says, 'Well, Jesus, Mr. Hines. I ain't a son-of-a- bitch, but if that's what a red is—why, I want thirty cents an hour. Ever'body does. Hell, Mr. Hines, we're all reds.'”

Related Characters: Timothy and Wilkie Wallace (speaker)
Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:

Timothy continues to express his frustration about the lack of justice he's experienced as a farmworker from those in power. Here he tells the others about a conversation he had with a certain Mr. Hines. "Reds" are Communists, but the term was also used for anyone suspected of having left-leaning politics. When Timothy attempted to ask Mr. Hines what the exact definition of a "red" was, it soon became clear that for Mr. Hines, the word was only an excuse: by calling someone a "red" he could threaten greater repercussions from the police and thus ensure that no one would dare to ask for thirty cents an hour rather than twenty-five. 

Mr. Hines seems to have no shame about his calculating attempts to keep his workers poor and powerless. Meanwhile, Timothy embraces the politically dangerous term "reds" to underline just how unjust he sees the system to be, turning Mr. Hines's logic on its head to claim that reds must define all the workers, no matter their political beliefs.

Chapter 25 Quotes

The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quick-lime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

Page Number: 349
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage describes what happens when there is a good harvest and too much food is left over after the expected supply is picked and dispatched. The business owners don't want there to be too great a supply, or else prices will go down and they'll risk losing money. For them, it is even too much a business risk to allow the farmers to collect the food that remains for their own use.

This refusal seems to change the businessmen's actions from a merely shrewd business strategy to an attitude meant precisely to dehumanize the workers, to emphasize their powerlessness at the hands of those who hire them. The workers are indeed forced to watch the potatoes, oranges, and pigs be destroyed, without being able to do anything about it. It is this sense of despair, and not only the shocking gap between the overabundance of food and the hungry, weak farmers that are responsible for picking it, that makes the "souls of the people" so heavy. The final line of this passage gives the book its title. The sentence uses a metaphor of wine vineyards, appropriate given the cultivation work of these migrant workers, to describe a growing feeling of despair and anger among them. Like the grapes that grow heavy as harvest approaches, these workers too are building up their wrath to an unknown but inevitable point in the future at which they will no longer be able to stand what they are forced to experience.

Chapter 26 Quotes

“Learnin' it all a time, ever' day. If you're in trouble or hurt or need—go to poor people. They're the only ones that'll help—the only ones.”

Related Characters: Ma Joad (speaker)
Page Number: 376
Explanation and Analysis:

Because of the unjust business strategy of the owners, which means that the Joad family is making even less money than before, Ma is forced to ask the shopkeeper to lend her money for the food she needs. The shopkeeper agrees, but this apparent show of generosity is a deceitful façade: the shopkeeper has inflated the prices at the store to take advantage of the workers' desperation, and it is in his best interests to keep people like Ma Joad dependent on him. 

Ma Joad seethes with anger, as she is forced yet again to reckon with the fact that even people who occupy the same general community as she does can too often be cruel and calculating. She realizes that the family must carefully weigh whom to trust and whom to remain suspicious of. One possible way of judging such a test, she decides, is poverty: even though poor people have less to give, Ma Joad has learned that they tend to be more compassionate and understanding, more willing to forge bonds of community than those who, paradoxically, have more. 

Chapter 28 Quotes

“But now I been thinkin' what he said, an' I can remember—all of it. Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul, an' he foun' he didn' have no soul that was his'n. Says he foun' he jus' got a little piece of a great big soul. Says a wilderness ain't no good, 'cause his little piece of a soul wasn't no good 'less it was with the rest, an' was whole. Funny how I remember. Didn' think I was even listenin'. But I know now a fella ain't no good alone.”

Related Characters: Tom Joad (speaker), Jim Casy
Page Number: 418
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom's secret is out, and he will now have to flee the camp in order not to be caught and punished for his crime. As Ma Joad generously gives him much of her savings, they talk about what Tom will do next. The book has come a long way from its beginnings, with Jim Casy's rambling remarks on what he learned since deciding to leave his position as preacher, but it turns out that Casy's words have actually had an enormous impact on Tom - even though even Tom didn't realize that he was affected by them at the time.

Tom too is in search of a bigger, more meaningful community, and he is struck by the recollection that for Jim Casy, isolating oneself in the wilderness is actually no guarantee of goodness. Instead, Tom is convinced that he must try to work with others to enact change. Like Casy, Tom is developing an alternative to the official catechism of the Christian faith he was born with, attempting to understand how humans relate to one another and how they might better connect.

Chapter 30 Quotes

“Go down an' tell 'em. Go down in the street an' rot an' tell 'em that way. That's the way you can talk. Don' even know if you was a boy or a girl. Ain't gonna find out. Go on down now, an' lay in the street. Maybe they'll know then.”

Related Characters: Uncle John (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Stillborn Baby
Page Number: 448
Explanation and Analysis:

Rosasharn's baby has been born stillborn, the ultimate sign of how the conditions in which the Joads find themselves afford so little possibility for life. Here, Uncle John puts the dead infant into a box and sends it down the current. He knows that, as things stand, the baby's death will remain unknown and unacknowledged by the world outside the desperate migrant camps. By sending it down into town, he hopes that the body will bear witness to the desperation of these workers, and their despair in the face of apathy and inhumanity on the part of other people. If others finally "know," perhaps, Uncle John will have done his part in sharing these people's experiences with the world, and in helping to change their reality, even if only slightly and slowly.