Notes on Objects & Places from Grapes of Wrath

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Grapes of Wrath Objects/Places

Turtle: One chapter of the novel is devoted to the description of a turtle making its way over a perilous highway. The turtle is described as having a humorous take on the struggles of his life. Other turtles are mentioned throughout the novel. The turtles always survive their misadventures and persist in their journey. One turtle's path heads southwest.

Slot machine: Roadside restaurants have slot machines to entertain the customers. One player comments that the machines are fixed so you can never win. In another restaurant, the owner calculates when the machine pays out and makes sure he gets the jackpot.

Bank: An inhuman entity created by men, which feeds on profit. Businessmen scapegoat the Bank when their business practices destroy the lives of millions of tenant farmers. They say the Bank has no sympathy and that they are driven by it to commit acts of inhumanity.

Tractor: A machine that streamlines farming but distances men from the land and from other men. The drivers of tractors become like robots. They force their neighbors from their land and knock down their homes for three dollars a day.

Hudson: An overloaded jalopy, which is the Joads' means of transportation. The Joads pay an exorbitant price for the used truck. The truck has several breakdowns on the way to California, but holds together through the efforts of Tom and Al Joad until a flood shorts out the battery.

Grapes: The promise of California, which turns out to be a cruel hoax. Grampa says when he gets to California he will indulge himself by squashing grapes on his face, but the Joads find out that promised land is a place of suffering. The grapes of hope turn into the grapes of wrath.

House: Tom looks forward to coming home from jail but the Joads have been evicted from their house. They are forced to leave behind much of their belongings and all of their friends for a transient lifestyle among strangers. The house is damaged by a tractor and slowly degraded by natural forces. All traces of the Joad family disappear from the land they lived on for generations. Ma and Rose of Sharon dream about the little white houses they will have in California, but their dreams are never realized.

Hooverville: An independent camp of migrant workers the Joads join when they arrive in California. The camp is filthy and the residents are hopeless. There is no work to be had near the camp, and the local police have burned down the camp repeatedly. The mayor of Hooverville has adopted a complacent attitude toward his situation. He acts dumb and docile and always returns when his home is burned down. Here the Joads first witness the cruelty of the police when one deputy attempts to arrest one migrant without evidence and carelessly shoots off another migrant's hand.

Government Camp: A migrant camp subsidized by the government. This camp has running water and toilets. It is also governed by the migrants themselves and off-limits for police officers without a warrant. Here the Joads' hope is revived. Their lives regain some dignity and stability. The migrants in this camp demonstrate that they can effectively organize when they successfully ward off an outside attempt to start a riot within the camp.

Baby: Rose of Sharon holds great pride in the growing baby within her. All of her hopes for the future begin with the birth of her baby. At the government camp, she begins to think the baby might be deformed because of her sinful dancing, and then when Tom kills a man she tells him he is damaging her baby's chances. She believes to the last that she will have a nice house in which to have the baby. In the end the baby is born dead in a boxcar, and Uncle John casts it into a flooded stream so that it can speak to everyone who sees it.

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