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What does the word "Hymie" mean in chapter 7  in The Grapes of Wrath?  "I'll give...

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reading-resou... | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 1, 2010 at 7:52 PM via web

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What does the word "Hymie" mean in chapter 7  in The Grapes of Wrath?  "I'll give you a Hymie when I'm ready"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 2, 2010 at 1:55 AM (Answer #1)

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Chapter Seven of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is one of the chapters that parts from the narrative in order to portray further the plights of the dispossessed tenant farmers.  Since they knew little about cars, the salesmen exploited their lack of knowledge by disguising the poor condition of the cars in many ways.  They also took advantage of their ingenuousness in financial matters, as well, by inflating the costs for vehicles, and by hiding charges for interest.

In the passage that is under consideration, the saleman talks disparagingly about his customers and instructs another man to pump up the tire of a Nash, a more inexpensive vehicle, in case he cannot sell the one he wants them to buy.  When he says, "I'll give you a Hymie when I'm ready," he uses a pejorative term for a Jew, suggesting that he will let the other man know when he is ready for that man to come in and discuss the financial aspects of the deal.  This allusion derives from the fact that Jews have a long history of money-dealings since in Europe they were not allowed to own property and hold certain other positions.  Historically, they became merchants and usurers, often taking advantage of people by using their financial acumen against these people.  As a result, many disparaging remarks came about such as "being a Jew" for getting the best deal or exploiting some one on a financial transaction.  "I'll give you a Hymie" means that the salesman will let the other man know when it is time for him to exploit the tenants financially by overcharging them on both price and interest.

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