Illustration of the back a man in a hat and overalls looking towards the farmland

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck
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What are some pieces of detailed information about chapters 1 and 2 of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck?

Some details from chapter 1 of The Grapes of Wrath include the oppressive drought conditions during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, which causes crops to die at a devastating rate, and the struggle of a family of farmers contemplating their next move. Chapter 2 features its first protagonist, Tom Joad, in his journey back home after being jailed for the last four years.

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The first chapter begins with some extended, detailed imagery of increasing drought conditions that gradually settle over Oklahoma's farmland, with particular emphasis on the corn crop. Dust becomes profuse and persistent, and wind drives it into the air where it hangs oppressively. The corn dies in fields and people can scarcely tell day from night because of the suspension of dust in the air. When the winds finally die down, women study their husbands and children study their parents; all are watching to see if the men will break. The men, in fact, do not break. They contemplate their next moves. There is little dialogue in chapter one, and no specific characters are introduced. It serves only an an exposition of the hard times that the Oklahoma farmers and their families face in what will become known as the Dust Bowl.

The second chapter introduces Tom Joad. The opening scene is of Joad in new, ill-fitting clothes, looking over a commercial truck as the driver sits inside a cafe, making small talk with a waitress. Joad takes a seat on the running board and asks the driver for a ride when he emerges from the cafe. He reluctantly agrees, seeing that Joad needs a lift. The two men warily size each other up as they ride along. The driver asks Joad some pointed questions about himself, and Joad gives short answers until they reach the place where he wants to be dropped off, a sharecroppers' farm that his father works. As he departs, Joad tells the driver that he's been in jail for homicide, having been sentenced to seven years but released after he has served four years.

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