Chapter 46

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The war continued. An early, false spring came to the Salinas Valley. In Europe, Germany was pushing toward Paris. People still hoped General Pershing would be their savior. Despite American resolve that they were "winning," there were troubling signs that the war was not going well. Flour was being rationed and older men were being accepted into military service. 

Those at home tried to make themselves feel useful. The Minute Men gave their one-minute speeches at movie theaters and churches. Women rolled bandages for the Red Cross. All of the good leather went straight to making belts and boots for officers. 

Americans adopted some British fashions, especially "Sam Browne" belts. This style of belt crossed over the chest as well as going around the waist. It had no function other than ornament, and even the British could not say if it ever had served a functional purpose.

Many men also began mimicking the British way of carrying handkerchiefs up their sleeves and sporting swagger sticks. Curiously, the one thing Americans were reluctant to emulate was the wearing of wrist watches. This was deemed "too silly." 

The fear of war "over there" soon transferred to fear "over here." There were spy scandals in nearby cities like San Jose. Salinas natives began to look with suspicion upon their own. One of the objects of this scrutiny was Mr. Fenchel, a tailor who had worked in Salinas for some twenty years. Mr. Fenchel was a German by birth but his accent had never been a problem before the war.

Suddenly, despite his long history of service in the community, Mr. Fenchel was shunned. Nothing he could do would change the minds of his former friends. He bought all the war bonds he could afford. He tried to enlist in the Home Guard and was refused. His business dried up because no one wanted to support "the enemy." No one would even speak to him any more, even though he had never met a stranger in the past. 

Steinbeck, stepping in as narrator to tell his own part in this shame, remarks on how he and his sister also hurt poor Mr. Fenchel. Although the man greeted the children as he always had, John and Mary taunted back, "Hoch der Kaiser!" Mr. Fenchel began to sob. He just stood there, crying and crying. The children turned stiffly and walked back home, each feeling an enormous burden of guilt. 

As poorly as the children treated Mr. Fenchel, adults were even more cruel. They marched outside of his home and called out "Hup! Hup!" They tore down his white picket fence and burned his home. And they felt in their hearts that they were "defending" Salinas. 

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Chapter 45


Chapter 47