How is Chapter 5, a macrocosm chapter, divided into three sections?  John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 In this intercalary chapter, Steinbeck portrays the inhumanity of the capitalist system. 

1. The owners of the land in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s or their spokesmen drive out to the tenant farms.  There they sometimes put augurs in the ground to test how much of the topsoil has been lost.  They, then, tell the tenants that the Bank--or the Company, as though it were a entity of its own--cannot survive without profit.  Now, the day of the tenant farmer is over: "One man on a tractor can take the place of twelve or fourteen families.  Therefore, the tenants must vacate the land.  The spokesmen or owners, who sit in their cars and tell the farmers these facts blame the bank, "the monster," that men cannot control, for this turn of events.

2. The tractors come and make neat rows in the earth in order to plant cotton, which will strip the land of its last remaining nutrients.  The tractor man does not love the land anymore than does the bank.  The crop that will come up will not be one that a man has touched, or prayed over. At noon, the tractor stops and a man with goggles and a rubber mask lifts them from his face so he can eat a sandwich.  Children from the house on this land come out, eating only fried dough watch his Spam sandwich as the man lifts it to his mouth.  The tenant farmer comes out and talks to the driver, having recognized him. 

 "Why, you're Joe Davis's boy!...what you doing this kind of work for--against your own people?"

3. The driver explains that he has to feed his family, and he cannot worry about anyone else. The tenant "ponders" on how owning property, how is he is somehow bigger for it.  But if he does not see it, or get his hands in it, or walk on it, then the property becomes stronger than the man, who becomes small. "Only his possessions are big--and he's the servant of his property."  Unfortunately, these words of the tenant mean nothing to the driver concerned only about his three dollars a day.  Dispassionately, he states that he will have to keep the rows straight, even if it means going through the tenant's dooryard.  When the tenant threatens to shoot him, the driver replies that the tenant farmer will be hanged and he will have shot the wrong man, anyway.  Besides, maybe there is no one to shoot; perhaps the "property's doing it."  Then, the driver resumes work, and tractor cuts back and forth until the house falls. The tenant man stares after the tractor with his rifle in his hand, and his family, too, stares after it.


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The Grapes of Wrath

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