The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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In The Grapes of Wrath, what role does the bank play? What power do the small farmers have against the banks and the tractors?

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For Steinbeck, the bank serves as the complete moral antithesis to the small farmers: large, imposing, austere, and machine-like, that bank is an institution without feelings or remorse. Even the men who work at and own the banks are referred to as “slaves” of the banks, which are “machines and masters all at the same time.”

Steinbeck’s book is about the hardships faced by poor Western-American farmers during the Depression Era. His characterization of the bank allows him to juxtapose its lifeless, calculating presence against flesh-and-blood human beings. For example, a group of squatting tenant men have a conversation about what the bank is and why a farmer shouldn’t borrow money from it. One says that a man can hold on to his land and grow crops until they fail, and then he must turn to the bank for help. He continues,

“But you see, a bank or a company can't do that, because those creatures don't breathe air, don't eat side-meat. They breathe profits; they eat the interest...

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