The Grapes of Wrath By John Steinbeck Summary and Analysis Chapter 14

Summary

The United States is nervous as change begins. The great owners try to blame these changes on obvious things, like the growing labor movement or new taxes. They are unaware that these changes are the results of circumstances, not the causes. The causes are much more basic: Hunger, not just in one stomach, but in millions, and the desire of men to work and be productive. This need to produce beyond the work itself, to suffer and die for a belief is the foundation of human nature.

Analysis

Chapter 14 documents the beginning of a social shift; a gradual emerging of social consciousness from "I" to "We" begins to emerge. In the previous chapters, Steinbeck chronicles the circumstances responsible for the growing anger and bitterness of the dispossessed. Frightened, tired, and hungry, these wandering people begin to join together, victims of the same circumstances, the gradual recognition of the gathering migrants that there is strength in uniting together. Acting upon Casy's belief that love between fellow humans is the key to holiness, these squatting migrants begin to share what little they have with each other. With these actions comes the realization that by banding together, they will survive. Ma's statement to the Wilsons in the preceding chapter sums up this attitude, "Each'll help an' we'll all git to California." It is the first cell of a growth in community made stronger by actions of individuals.

The chapter also intensifies the conflict introduced in Chapter 5 between the powerful bank or company and the small farmer. The drive of the powerful owners to produce a profit, first illustrated by the removal of the tenant farmers, is threatened by the common people who want only a place to settle and live. In this chapter, we see these dominant owners blinded by their own greed. They sense that a change is imminent, but Steinbeck suggests that their insulation from the land prevents them from understanding the undeniable power that will arise from the development of a like-minded community of disenfranchised people.

Glossary

Paine, Thomas (1737-1809), American Revolutionary patriot, writer, and political theoretician, born in England.

Marx, Karl (Heinrich) (1818-1883), German social philosopher and economist, in London after 1850, founder of modern socialism.

Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich (1870-1924), Russian leader of the Communist revolution of 1917, premier of the U.S.S.R. (1917-1924).

Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826), American statesman, third president of the United States (1801-1809), drew up the Declaration of Independence.

squatters persons who settle on public or unoccupied land.

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