Notes on Grapes of Wrath Themes

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Grapes of Wrath Topic Tracking: Humanity

Chapter 2

Humanity 1: Truck owners do not want their drivers to pick up hitchhikers. This truck driver risks his job to give Tom Joad a lift.

Chapter 6

Humanity 2: Muley Graves shares his hard-won dinner with Tom and Jim Casy. Even though he lives the life of a refugee, he will not be greedy in the face of need. He says he cannot let another man starve will he has food to share. Casy notes the larger importance of even a single act of generosity.

Chapter 10

Humanity 3: When the family convenes to discuss whether to ask Casy to join them on the trip to California, Pa expresses a doubt as to whether they will be able to feed him. Ma says that is not a question of ability but of willingness. She says the Joad family has never turned down a man in need before. She is willing to help a man at the expense of her own family.

Chapter 15

Humanity 4: A waitress at a roadside restaurant sells a loaf of bread and some candy at a reduced price to a poor migrant father to feed his family. The two truck drivers in the restaurant witness her act of kindness and leave her giant tips. One act of kindness begets another.

Chapter 18

Humanity 5: When the Joads part from the Wilsons they offer them two dollars from their meager savings and a meal of pork and potatoes. Mr. Wilson refuses their charity but they leave the gift outside the Wilsons' tent and leave.

Chapter 20

Humanity 6: Al offers to help Floyd fix his car and Ma after serving her own family members meager dinner portions she gives the leftovers to a group of hungry children.

Chapter 22

Humanity 7: The Wallaces, neighbors of the Joads at the government camp, offer to get Tom a job even though it will shorten the length of their own work. Thomas, their employer, warns them about a plot to start a riot in the government camp. This is the first and only humanitarian act to come from a non-migrant in the novel.

Humanity 8: Ezra Huston, the manager of the government camp, treats Ma like an equal. He is the only person in a position of authority to do so in the novel.

Chapter 24

Humanity 9: The entertainment committee averts pandemonium by identifying and removing three troublemakers from the dance floor at one of the government camp's parties. Instead of punishing them they simply reprimand them and escort them out of the camp.

Chapter 26

Humanity 10: Ma goes to buy dinner at the ranch store with the money the family has made picking peaches during the day. She realizes that the prices at the store are higher than at other stores, and that she cannot afford to get everything she needs for dinner. The cashier lends her ten cents to buy sugar for Tom's coffee, and she comments that only the poor help the poor.

Chapter 30

Humanity 11: Mrs. Wainwright and Ma talk about helping each other out. Ma explains that her generosity used to extend to helping her family, but now she must help everyone in need.

Humanity 12: Rose of Sharon happily gives the milk from her breast to a starving stranger in an act of pure selflessness.

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