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The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 14 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.

If you are reading 'The Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck, you might find some of the philosophical and poetic chapters to be tough reading. Don't worry. In this lesson we will take a look at some of the quotes and happenings from Chapter 14 and what Steinbeck might be getting at with them.

The Nature of Humanity and Vacations

If you have ever felt really bored while on vacation, you already have a small grasp on what the narrator is talking about in Chapter 14 of The Grapes of Wrath. Chapters 1-13 describe the drought in Oklahoma and how it drove people westward looking for work and land. Chapter 14, on the other hand, digs into the very spirit of humanity and the part of us that wants to work, move and struggle forward. This is a bit like what you might feel on a boring vacation, except ''times a million.''

Who's to Blame ?

Chapter 14 opens by describing how the people in the West feel about the mass immigration of people from the Midwest. They are angry and lash out against changes such as the growing government and new taxes. The narrator tells us that the people in the West do not understand that these changes (the taxes and growing government) are ''Results, not causes; results, not causes.'' No. That wasn't a typo. The narrator says it twice because he really wants to emphasize that these changes are not the causes of problems - they are the result of changes and revolution.

The Hunger of Humanity

Chapter 14 goes on to explain that the real causes of revolution and change are ''deep'' and include the hunger for physical and emotional growth. All this hunger is, explains our narrator, is a million times stronger than actual hunger. He explains further by tellings us ''For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.'' In other words, the spark of life that makes us human is that desire to build and create things that we dream of.

The chapter goes deeper into its musing on what makes us human and explains that it is not such a bad thing when terrible events happen. Even when people are killed and bombs are dropped, it means that human beings are thinking and struggling to move forward. In fact, the narrator explains, instead of being afraid of the violence, we should ''fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.'' To put it another way, when people give up and stop fighting for what they want or what they believe.

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