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As you look for significant quotations from The Grapes of Wrath, think about the book's important themes and look for moments when the language of the novel expresses some aspect of those themes. There are many, many such quotations to choose from. Following are just a few examples.
Social Contract/Class Conflict: "Good Used Cars. Bargains. Clean, runs good" (71). In this quotation from chapter 7, a used car salesman claims his cars are good, when in fact they are not. His cutthroat business behavior shows a breakdown in the social contract, particularly where rich and middle class people, like the car salesman, interact with the poor migrant workers. The poor characters find that they have to work hard to rebuild social safety nets for themselves and each other.
Connectedness to the Land: "I could shut my eyes and walk right there" (71). Tom Joad explains to Jim Casy that, in the area where he was born, he knows the land so well he does not have to think about where he is going. Later in the novel, John Steinbeck repeatedly emphasizes how such connectedness to the land is lost as mechanization and factory farms replace farmers like the Joads, who have worked the land with their hands for generations.
Connectedness to the Land/The All-Inclusive Soul: "There was the hills, an' there was me, an' we wasn't separate no more. We was one thing. An' that one thing was holy." On Jim Casy's first morning with the Joad family, he says a strange prayer. His words show his connectedness to the land, and more importantly, they begin to articulate the theme of a larger soul that encompasses a multitude of people, rather than a single soul for each individual.
Connectedness to the Land: "How can we live without our lives? How will we know it's us without our past?" (96). In the inserted chapter about selling off possessions and leaving the land behind, migrants speak as though they are leaving themselves behind.
Hope and Doubt: "I'm scared of stuff so nice. I ain't got faith. I'm scared somepin ain't so nice about it" (97). In this quotation, Ma Joad expresses her doubt about the future in California. She does not think California can really be the paradise people claim it to be.
The Social Contract: "I never heerd tell of no Joads or no Hazletts, neither, ever refusin' food an' shelter or a lift on the road to anybody that asked. They's been mean Joads, but never that mean" (111). Ma Joad grows indignant when the men of the family consider denying a place to Jim Casy, who wants to join them on their journey. Throughout the novel, Ma consistently insists that her family take care of others.
Connectedness to the Land: "When the corrugated iron doors are shut, he goes home, and his home is not the land" (126). In the inserted chapter about the houses decaying after the migrants leave, John Steinbeck describes a tractor driver who is hired to plow the land. Unlike the former farmers who worked the land with their hands, this tractor driver lives a disconnected life.
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