The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 1 Summary

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

The first chapter of ''The Grapes of Wrath'' takes us right into the story line. In this lesson we will take a look at just what matters from Chapter 1, including opening details and the basic set up for the rest of the book.

The Drought

If you have ever wondered what a drought feels like, look no further than the first chapter of Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. This book starts out pretty gloomy and gives a detailed portrait of the land and how people react when there isn't enough rain.

The Dry Corn

Chapter 1 throws us right into an intense description of a drought in Oklahoma. The narrator gives us a detailed story of how the corn and plants withered up and died. Lines like ''The brown lines on the corn leaves widened and moved in on the central ribs'' give us a description that presents the land as a living entity being killed by thirst.

Not only are the plants suffering but the land is so dry that ''Every moving thing lifted the dust into the air.' Men kicked up dust as high as their waist while wagons and automobiles blew it up even further.

A Few Drops of Rain

Eventually, in June, clouds moved in and it looked like it was going to rain. Those rain clouds spattered and moved on. The next day a small breeze came along and rustled the corn. The day after that, the wind was stronger and picked up the dust from the roads and settled them on the corn, plants and trees. The smaller particles of dust stayed in the air. In fact, there was so much dust and darkness that it looked like night even when it was morning.

The Wind

The wind continued to grow stronger until it knocked over the corn. When the farmers went to check on their corn, they wore cloth over their mouths and goggles to protect their eyes. People shoved pieces of cloth under their doors and around their windows to keep the dust out, but the dust was so small and air-born that it didn't help much. Finally, one night as everyone in the town is sleeping, the wind stops.

The farmers come and look at their destroyed crops. The narrator tells us that as the men studied their gardens and looked serious, ''And women came out of the houses to stand beside their men--to feel whether this time the men would break.'' The women also know that everything would be okay, even if the corn died, ''as long as something else remained.''

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