Summary and Analysis
The California land is ripe with growing produce. The toil and ingenuity of many men create this bountiful harvest: Growers strive to learn better techniques for yielding succulent fruit, and chemists experiment with pesticides to protect crops from insects and disease. But the large landowners drive the price of labor down, and the small farmer, who pours his sweat and passion into the land, cannot afford to harvest it. He must turn his holding over to the great companies. The food that cannot be gathered must be destroyed. If hungry people are allowed free food from the fields, store prices will plummet. Crops are burned as hungry people watch, their anger mounting.
One of the strongest and most poetic of the intercalary chapters, Chapter 25 opens with the beautiful image of spring coming to the farms of California, and ends with a warning message of biblical retribution, resonating with a tone of moral and physical decay.
In keeping with his agrarian philosophies, Steinbeck continues to rail against the misuses of machinery and industrial power, although he has praise for those scientists who have labored to increase the bounty of the harvest. We should remember that Steinbeck was not anti-technology: His preoccupation with machinery for both positive and negative ends can be seen in many places throughout the novel. What was unconscionable to Steinbeck, however, was the use of the land for profit only, disregarding the life force that grows out of it. For those seeking only capital gains from the land, he has dire prophecies. As a result of the ruin forced upon the ripening harvest, children are dying. The interruption of one life cycle must interrupt another life cycle.
The chapter culminates with an apocalyptic contrast between land used for life-giving nutrients and land manipulated for profit. As in Chapter 23, Steinbeck concludes here with a reference to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and speculation that a revolution of the people cannot be far off.
quarantine any isolation or restriction on travel or passage imposed to keep contagious diseases, insect pests, and so on from spreading.
graft the act of taking advantage of one's position to gain items such as money and property dishonestly, as in politics.
cultivators implements or machines for loosening the earth and destroying weeds around growing plants.
putrescence the state or condition of something that is decomposing or rotting.
denunciation a public accusation or strong condemnation of someone or something.