The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 12 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.

Chapter 12 of ''The Grapes of Wrath'' takes us on a journey from the Midwest to California. Along the way, we learn just how hard it is and how cruel people can be. We also learn that kindness and faith show up during tragedies and tough times.

Highway 66

Chapter 12 opens with a description of the highway that everyone is using to escape from the Midwest. Highway 66 is described as ''the long concrete path across the country.' Because of the drought, tractors, winds and lack of resources everyone is using Highway 66 to travel westward. The previous chapters follow the story of those living in the Midwest who have been evicted from their farms due to lack of crops. Because of this, everyone is heading to California.

Chapter 12 explores the escape from the dustbowl.
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The narrator takes some time to describe the path that travelers take to get to California. This is mostly a list of the cities that they pass including Edmond, McLoud, Purcell and Albuquerque. Next, we get a description of how the land changes as the travelers move westward. There are mountains, deserts, a river and plateaus.

Car Troubles

People who are escaping their dead farms travel in different ways. Some of them cramp together in a single car, while others travel in small caravans. Everyone worries about their cars breaking down - especially when they are between towns. If the car breaks down in between a town they will have to camp while someone ''walks to town and gets a part and walks back.''

Since a breakdown could be a major problem, everyone knows to ''Listen with your ears and with your hands on the steering wheel; listen with the palm of your hand on the gear-shift lever; listen with your feet on the floor boards.'' They try to pay attention to what certain sound might mean since serious car trouble means they have to stay where they are and not get any closer to California. It also, of course, means more money spent on the car and less on food and provisions.

The problem of car trouble becomes even more serious since mechanics charge as much as they can. They ''look a fella over. They know he got to go on. They know he can't wait. And the price goes up.'' In other words, drivers get ripped off because the mechanics know they have no other options. An unnamed and unspecified driver has to replaces his tire and has a horrible experience. The man selling the tire charges him too much and tells him that border patrol is going to prevent him from entering California. The man needs the tire so he looks at it to inspect and sees that the casing is broke. The man loses his temper and promises that he will make it the next town rather than buy from this man. The driver complains, ''You go steal that tire an' you're a thief, but he tried to steal your four dollars for a busted tire.''

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