The Grapes of Wrath: Novel Summary: Chapter 21

SummaryThe migrant farmer increase in number and locals of the various towns into which they stream feel as if they are being invaded by vagrants and “dirty, ignorant” people. They form groups and attack the “Okies” and call it self defense because they feel that these strangers will take away their jobs by working for less pay.AnalysisIn this brief, “big picture” chapter, Steinbeck describes the way in which landholders and large companies of the West react to the migrants streaming over the highways. Some react cruelly, in armed mobs. The land owners print up thousands of handbills in order to bring to the West more workers than are actually needed, so that the workers can be paid as little as possible. And great owners buy canneries, guaranteeing great profit, certainly greater than little, independent, recently arrived farmers. What the owners and companies do not realize, Steinbeck says ominously, is that “the line between hunger and anger is a thin line,” and that they are forcing the “Okies” they deride and fear to cross it.