What are some thoughts and reactions to the effectiveness of chapters 7 through 11 of the novel The Grapes of Wrath?
About half of the chapters of The Grapes of Wrath focus on the main story about the Joad family. The rest of the chapters, which are sometimes called interchapters, provide information on the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, lending greater perspective to the Joads' individual story. In the segment we are discussing, chapters 8 and 10 focus on the Joads, whereas chapters 7, 9, and 11 are interchapters. The styles of the two types of chapters are very different.
Chapters 8 and 10 describe Tom Joads' reunion with his family and the family's subsequent preparations for the trip to California. Although both chapters are full of action and character introductions, the novel's themes are close to the surface. In chapter 8, for example, the theme of class conflict is evident in the fact that the family assumes Tom has broken out of prison. When they think this, they are either afraid because they think they will have to hide Tom from the police or proud because Tom outwitted his captors. None, however, is disapproving of the idea of breaking the law. All of the Joads share an "us versus them" attitude toward authority. Take a look at the eNotes description of the themes of The Grapes of Wrath to find further ideas about themes that are evident in these chapters.
We need to read each of the interchapters differently, depending on its point of view. Chapter 7 is told from the point of view of a cutthroat car salesman, and its words are largely ironic. The salesman constantly makes claims about the cars being clean and running well, when in fact they are junk and he is cheating poor families who often know no better than to believe him. Chapter 9, in contrast, is told largely from the point of view of the migrants as they try to sell their possessions so they will have money to move to California. This chapter is less ironic and more direct as the migrants express their anger and frustration. Finally, chapter 11 is told from an omniscient third person perspective, describing the decay of the houses that are left behind when families like the Joads move away to California. This chapter, like chapter 9, is meant to be taken literally.