The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 7 Summary

Instructor: Rachel Hanson
In this chapter 7 summary of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, we learn about used car lots of the Great Depression. More specifically, we learn about the shady sales practices on these lots and which cars are easiest to sell.

Get Your Used Car Here

The chapter opens with a description of various kinds of car lots and their locations. These used car dealerships can be found in vacant lots, garages (as in mechanical repair shops), in towns, outside of towns, and wrecking yards. After the reader is made to understand that these lots, their quality, and, at times, their locations, are not exactly ideal, a scene unfolds in one of these used car lots. This chapter does not carry on the narrative arc or thread from the previous one. Instead it focuses on providing information about used car lots and what those who ran them were like during the Great Depression (the longest economic crisis in America lasting from 1929-1939). The opening description in chapter 7 ends with one particular lot, which surrounds a very small house, big enough only to hold a desk and car sales paper work, including a blue book (sales book, not the kind of blue book you might see used in today's classrooms for administering tests), and sales contracts.

Car Lot Owners, Salesmen, and Lookers

The narrator depicts car lot owners and car salesman analyzing customers and potential customers, at times referring to some as non buyers and merely 'lookers.' The owners coach salesmen on how to get someone to buy a car, the key being to focus on the weaknesses of the potential buyers. For instance, an owner coaches a salesman to target a female customer more than her male counter part if she seems to like the car. Doing so will put the pressure on the woman's 'old man' (husband) to buy it, as an owner states in the following passage: ''Watch the woman's face. If the woman likes it we can screw the old man. Start 'em on that Cad'. Then you can work 'em down to that '26 Buick. 'F you start on the Buick, they'll go for a Ford. Roll up your sleeves an' get to work.''

Another sales strategy the owner coaches the salesman in is to make the client feel guilty for taking up his or her time so that he or she will feel obliged to purchase a car.

Shifty Advertising

Other car lot owner strategies include using decorative flags advertising car deals at bargain prices to lure people to the lot. However, once people ask to see the advertised bargain car, the salesmen are to lie to the customer by saying the car has been sold. As it turns out, there was never such a deal on the table, so to speak, because the owner could never make money by honoring such bargain prices. The idea behind false advertising a bargain is to attract customers to the lot so the salesmen can try and sell them a more expensive vehicle.

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