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The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

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What does the tenant farmer mean when he says "Joe Davis's boy" is acting against his own people?

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In chapter 5 of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Joe Davis’s boy becomes a symbol of the changing times. Before, many men would be hired in order to work the land; however, now a tractor can do the same work quicker using less manpower. By using tractors instead of the men, the companies are able to make more money.

Because fewer men are being hired, they are not only losing their jobs but their homes and land as well. Steinbeck sets up two clear sides: the banks and the men. The banks are described as evil, profit-hungry monsters, and the men as people who are just trying to survive.

The bank—the monster has to have profits all the time. It can't wait. It'll die. No, taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can't stay one size.

In this chapter, the banks have told everyone that they are being displaced. Joe Davis’s son has taken a job as a tractor driver. He’s making good money, three dollars a day, but his neighbors see him as a traitor for taking the job. He explains, “I got a wife and kids. We got to eat. Three dollars a day, and it comes every day.”

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