The Grapes of Wrath Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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In The Grapes of Wrath, why does Uncle John have guilt that is driving himself crazy?  

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Uncle John is haunted by the death of his young wife many years before. They had been married only four months. She had been pregnant. When she complained of pain in her stomach, John dismissed it, saying she had eaten too much. She died the next afternoon. "[S]omepin jus' bust in her. Ap-appendick or somepin," Tom says. Uncle John's guilt over her death consumed him. Tom explains it in Chapter 8 of the novel:

. . . Uncle John, he's always been a easy-goin' fella, an' he takes it hard. Takes it for a sin. For a long time he won't have nothin' to say to nobody. Just walks aroun' like he don't see nothin', and he prays some. Took 'im two years to come out of it, an' then he ain't the same.

His guilt changed him and directed the rest of his life.

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kitsuecoe | Student

Uncle john feels responsible for the death of his wife, many years ago.  She complained of a stomach ache ,and he told her that she had just "et too much prok", but she subsequently died, most likely of an apendicitis.  He has been plagued by guilt since, which causes him to go on periodic binges of food, sex or alcohol.