The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 5 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 5 of 'The Grapes of Wrath' gives us even more detail about what happens because of the drought. We get to see a few important exchanges between the owners of the land and the tenants of the land. In this lesson, we will take a close look at just what happens and what is said.

The Representatives

Chapter 5 of The Grapes of Wrath opens with the owners of the farmland (or their representatives) coming to kick the tenant farmers off the land. In Chapters 1-4, the narrator makes it clear that there is a drought and the land is not producing enough crops to make money. For this reason, the banks are taking the land back. The narrator explains that some of the owner men who come to speak with the farmers are angry, some of them are cold, and others are kind. All try to shift the blame away from themselves and onto the companies and the banks. They want it to be clear that ''they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time.''

The Monster

Throughout the chapter, the banks and companies that own the farms are referred to as monsters. The owner men and representatives who confront the farmers try to explain that the banks do not eat food, they eat profits, and without profits they will starve to death. The farmers try to argue that maybe next year things will be better. The owner men make it clear that the bank-monster needs profits now. Plus they can hire a single man on a tractor to do the same work as 14 families.

Angry Men

The farmers try to explain that they do not want to leave because the land is theirs. Even though a bank may technically own the land (because of loans), the farmers explain that ''being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it.'' The owner men say that they agree, but it's the monster that wants to take their land. When the men leave, the farmers tell their families that they will have to leave. The women and children leave the farmers alone, knowing that their anger could come out as violence.

The Tractor

The tractors come to plow through the land, and the narrator describes how the people who drive the tractors are also like machines. They do not care about the soil or how their actions affect the land. ''If the young thrusting plant withered in drought or drowned in a flood of rain, it was no more to the driver than to the tractor.'' A tenant asks one tractor driver how he can do this kind of work when it means destroying families. The driver tells him that he took the work so he could earn three dollars a day. The tenant explains that the the driver is destroying hundreds of lives for three dollars. The driver says he doesn't care; he just has to focus on his own family.

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