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Can some explain to me why Chapter 5 of The Grapes of Wrath is considered a Macrocosm...

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vinceocam | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted July 12, 2011 at 1:43 PM via web

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Can some explain to me why Chapter 5 of The Grapes of Wrath is considered a Macrocosm chapter?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 13, 2011 at 6:34 AM (Answer #1)

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Unlike the intercalary chapters such as Chapter Seven of The Grapes of Wrath that serves much like the camera's-eye view of the used car salesmen and how they exploited the dispossessed Oklahoma farmers, Chapter Five presents a broad view of the economic problem of the 1930s in America. In the Dust Bowl representatives of the banks come to tell the farmers that they can no longer sharecrop the land.  The distance and coldness of the large banks is suggested as the representatives merely reply, "I'm sorry" when the sharecroppers claim that their families have lived on the land for generations and they have some entitlement. 

When the bulldozers arrive, they are as animate creatures on their own as the driver becomes subsumed in their identity. Given anthropomorphic qualities, the "snub-nosed monsters," described systematically destroy all the human elements in their paths: 

They ignored hills and gulches, water course, fences, houses. 

The man sitting in the iron seat did not look like a man; gloved, goggled, rubber dust mask over nose and mouth, he was a part of the monster, a robot in the seat.  The thunder of the cylinders sounded through the country, became one with the air and the earth, so that earth and air muttered in sympatheitic vibration.

Thus, the tractor, part of a new way of life, is inanimate  and the inhumanity of the banks underscores the great loss when people are removed from the land on which they have lived for generations.  This disenfranchisement portrayed metaphorically in Chapter Five makes the chapter illustrative of themes of Steinbeck's narrative, and therefore, expressive of the entire novel, rather than a microcosm, or encapsuled expression of a smaller idea.

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