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In what ways does Mr. Thomas represent the dilemma of the small farmer in "The...

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federe | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 23, 2008 at 5:00 AM via web

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In what ways does Mr. Thomas represent the dilemma of the small farmer in "The Grapes of Wrath"?

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luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted April 23, 2008 at 8:33 AM (Answer #1)

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Mr. Thomas is the farmer who Tom works for briefly when he and the rest of the Joad family first arrive at Weedpatch, the government camp.  Tom gets a job there because Tim and Wilkie Wallace invited him to come along with them.  Tim, Wilkie, and Tom were laying pipe for Mr. Thomas when the farmer came over to them and said, regretfully, that he was going to have to lower their wage from thirty cents an hour to twenty-five cents an hour.  He tells them that he doesn't want to, but the Farmer's Association, which is run by the Bank of the West (which also happens to own much of the farm land in the area), tells him he has to lower the wage.  When he says that his workers are worth thirty cents, he is told that it doesn't matter, he has to pay the same as everyone else or he would cause unrest.  The person in charge of the Association then asks Mr. Thomas if he's going to need the same crop loan next year, hinting that if he doesn't pay the same wage as everyone else, he won't get his loan.  That would mean he wouldn't be able to plant a crop which would lead him to have no income, forcing him to eventually lose his farm.  The implication is that the big banks controlled everything; that it wasn't the small farmers who were out to cheat the migrant workers, it was the corporations.

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