Study Guide

The Grapes of Wrath Betrayal

By John Steinbeck


Chapter 5

[the tractor driver:] "I got orders wherever there's a family not moved out – if I have an accident – you know, get too close and cave the house in a little – well, I might get a couple of dollars. And my youngest kid never had no shoes yet." (5.57)

Not only is individualism and self-interest values by the landowners, but violence and maliciousness are as well.

[the tractor driver:] "That's right," the tenant said. "But for your three dollars a day fifteen or twenty families can't eat at all. Nearly a hundred people have to go out and wander on the roads for your three dollars a day. Is that right?" (5.49)

If you were in the tractor driver's shoes, would you go to work for the landowners as he does, or would you unite with fellow farmers to try to fight the landowners? Has the tractor driver betrayed his community?

"Times are changed, don't you know? Thinking about stuff like that don't feed the kids. Get your three dollars a day, feed your kids. You got no call to worry about anybody's kids but your own. You get a reputation for talking like that, and you'll never get three dollars a day if you worry about anything but your three dollars a day." (5.53)

How exactly have times changed? The tractor driver indicates that "modern" America is one that favors the individual over the community.

Chapter 12

[the car salesman:] "Got to. I'll go on the rim before I'd give that son-of-a-b**** a dime." (12.30)

The self-interest of the car salesman breeds anger and hatred in his customers.

[a disgruntled migrant worker:] "Fella in business got to lie an' cheat, but he calls it somepin else. You go steal that tire an' you're a thief, but he tried to steal your four dollars for a busted tire. They call that sound business." (12.31)

What do you call the business of selling a busted tire for four dollars? Sound business or robbery?

[the car salesman:] "I ain't in business for my health. I'm here a-sellin' tires. I ain't givin' 'em away. I can't help what happens to you. I got to think what happens to me." (12.11)

Is the car salesman betraying his fellow citizens by running his business? Is he to blame?

Chapter 13

[Sairy Wilson:] "You shouldn't talk like that. We're proud to help. I ain't felt so – safe in a long time. People needs – to help." (13.210)

What does Sairy Wilson mean by "safe"? What does she feel "safe" from, or what is dangerous out in the wide, blue yonder?

"There's no beholden in a time of dying," said Wilson, and Sairy echoed him, "Never no beholden." (13.182)

The Wilsons stand in sharp contrast to the car salesmen and other merchants who would never give anything away for free, who deliberately try to cheat their way into a profit. The Wilsons believe in helping, sharing, and supporting other families in hard times.

Chapter 16
Pa Joad

Pa said slowly, "We ain't a gonna do it. We got almost a kin bond. Grampa, he died in your tent." (16.40)

By virtue of the fact that the Wilsons were so generous to the Joads, the two families cannot simply leave each other and return to their individual journeys. They value each other's company more than they value their own success.

Chapter 26
Ma Joad

[Ma Joad:] "I'm learning one thing good," she said. "Learnin' it all the 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." (26.529)

Why will poor people help in times of need more than people with money? How does wealth change people?