The Grapes of Wrath


John Steinbeck

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The Grapes of Wrath: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

The lonely migrant travelers camp down for the night in large groups. These groups are inclusive and supportive; in them, “twenty families became one family.”
This general description of migrant community parallels the inclusive values Ma Joad emphasized in the last chapter.
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As these small “worlds” develop, the migrants come to understand what rights they must respect in others, and devise a set of rules that must be obeyed. These rules center on respect and hospitality, and breaking them is punished by violence or, worse yet, ostracism. The encamped families exchange advice for survival and entertain one another. When they leave, their cars move along the highway like bugs.
The migrant camps’ collaborative systems preserve individual honor and dignity, while working for the group benefit. Ostracism is even worse than violence because it involves kicking someone out of the group, forcing them to lose the protection and support and connection of the group.
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