The Grapes of Wrath Capitalism Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine how capitalism works against the Joad family, who loses everything during the Great Depression in John Steinbeck's ''The Grapes of Wrath''.

Definitions and Background

The movie 'The Social Network' is the story of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Due to a great idea and business sense, he became a billionaire from a program he developed in his dorm room at college. His overnight success story is capitalism at its finest. Capitalism is the free enterprise system of the United States of America in which the economics are based on entrepreneurship for profit rather than controlled by the government. In John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, the Joads are a victim of capitalism as they find again and again that powerful and corrupt businesses are willing to sacrifice the working class in exchange for a profit. Let's look at some quotes about capitalism from this novel.

The Bank

At one time, the Joads owned the land they worked in Oklahoma, but due to economic hardships, the bank took it over. Still, they stayed on the land and worked as sharecroppers until the bank realized that one tractor could do the work of more than a dozen families. At that point, the workers realized, ''We can't depend on it. The bank--the monster has to have profits all the time. It can't wait. It'll die. No, taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can't stay one size.''

This quote indicates that the desire to make more and more money outweighs the impact for the families that depend on that land. During times of struggle, the capitalistic powerhouses will not take care of the little people.

The Tractor Driver

When the tractor driver that has been hired by the bank shows up to knock the Joad's home off of its foundation and drive them off the property, the tenants are surprised that the driver is someone that they know. They are shocked that this neighbor is the one who would do this to them. The driver explains, ''Three dollars a day. I got damn sick of creeping for my dinner--and not getting it. I got a wife and kids. We got to eat. Three dollars a day, and it comes every day.''

The tenants don't understand. They respond, ''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?'' The tractor driver has become a capitalist. He doesn't worry about the hundreds of people he is displacing as long as he is making money for his own family.

Selling Belongings

The Joads decide that their only option is to sell nearly everything they own and move to California where they have heard there is work. They are disappointed, however, when they only receive $18 for all of their belongings. The narrator explains, ''And now they were weary and frightened because they had gone against a system they did not understand and it had beaten them. They knew the team and the wagon were worth much more. They knew the buyer man would get much more, but they didn't know how to do it. Merchandising was a secret to them.''

Realizing that the many people who are leaving Oklahoma for California are in no position to bargain, the capitalist merchants take advantage of them. They are able to make huge profits by buying low and then selling high. People like the Joads are left with almost nothing.

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