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Free Study Guide-The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck-Free BookNotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 21

Summary

The migrants are no longer tied to the land and their agricultural way of life; now they scamper about throughout the West as they search for work. Although dispersed, the migrants are also united; the universal hostility of the Californians welds them into a oneness. Then, the landowners begin to fear "the flare of want in the eyes of the migrants;" they unite against the migrants. At cross purposes, conflict grows inevitable. The large companies and banks are creating their own doom.


Large owners also buy the canneries. When the peaches and pears ripen, they force down the price of the fresh fruit and take their profit on the tinned fruit. This bankrupts more of the smaller farmers, and they are also forced onto the highway seeking work. The migrants grow ravenous and murderous for work. They have been pushed across the line.

Notes

This chapter is similar to chapter19, in its portrayal of the pattern of land ownership in California. The migrants from the South are not the only exploited people. The smaller landowners are also at the mercy of the big landowners, who employ monopoly tactics and soon bankrupt them. The chapter reinforces the proposition that repression and authoritarian measures are counter-productive and do not accomplish anything. Trouble seems inevitable.

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