The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 25 Summary

Instructor: Catherine Smith

Catherine has taught History, Literature, and Latin at the university level and holds a PhD in Education.

Chapter 25 of 'The Grapes of Wrath' begins with a description of ripe produce. By the end of the chapter, however, we learn that small farmers cannot afford to harvest their fruit and it all goes to waste, leaving the public angry.

Vibrant and Fruitful Land

This chapter opens with a description of California in the springtime. The reader gets a sense of a land that is covered with life and overflowing with fruit. We read, 'All California quickens with produce, and the fruit grows heavy, and the limbs bend gradually under the fruit so that little crutches must be placed under them to support the fruit.' Lines like this give the impression that all is going well in the world of growers -- there must be plenty of food and plenty of work to go around.

The Men Behind the Fruit

After a vivid description of the land and the fruit it bears, Chapter 25 moves along to a discussion of the men who are endlessly trying to perfect and maximize fruit production. There are experts in seeds and roots; experts who deal with plant diseases and pests; experts who 'bind wounds' in plants and experiment in grafting. In addition to these experts are people who work in the fields, working with the soil and removing weeds.

Small Landowners Unable to Compete

Unfortunately, the large farms have driven down prices of fruit so far that the small farmers can no longer compete in the market -- they can't afford to pick the fruit that they have grown on their farms. So all the fruit that has been described so far is left to rot; although it has grown to perfection, no one will be able to eat it. The fate of the prunes is described as follows: 'The purple prunes soften and sweeten. My God, we can't pick them and dry and sulphur them. We can't pay wages, no matter what wages. And the purple prunes carpet the ground. And first the skins wrinkle a little and swarms of flies come to feast, and the valley is filled with the odor of sweet decay.' This description is not what the reader likely expected from the introductory paragraphs of the chapter. All the fruit described as ripe and ready to eat is now going to waste because of market forces that are destroying the small growers. In the end, we learn, 'This little orchard will be a part of a great holding next year, for the debt will have choked the owner.'

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