In The Grapes of Wrath, what does Mr. Wainwright's worry about Al and Aggie reveal about him and his way of life?  

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 28 of The Grapes of Wrath, two families are living in an old train boxcar divided by a blanket.  There's no privacy and really no way of hiding what's happening on the other side of the blanket.

This is obviously not how either the Wainwrights or the Joads would live if they had any other options; however, their circumstances are such that this is actually better than many of the other places they've been.  The Wainwrights have a daughter, Aggie, who has gotten close to Al Joad--and by close I mean it appears they're engaging in acts generally reserved for marriage.

In an uncomfortable but necessary meeting, Aggie's dad approaches the Joads about the two young people.  His concern is twofold:  they don't want any "trouble" (obviously referring to a pregnancy), and they don't want any shame on their family if Aggie does get pregnant and Al just keeps on moving.  Mr. Wainwright says,

We ain't had no shame in our family.

This entire scenario is more revealing about this time and these circumstances than it is about the Wainwrights themselves, it seems to me.  It's true he doesn't want his daughter to shame the family; however, he has nothing against Al.  He's simply pointing out the fact that it may be time for the young people to get married to avoid any possible shame for any of them.  We've seen all along that relationships are forged much more quickly in these dire circumstances, so we're not surprised that marriage is suggested so quickly after this relationship has begun.  I think no less of Mr. Wainwright for wanting to avoid shame.

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The Grapes of Wrath

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