The Grapes of Wrath | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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The Grapes of Wrath | Chapter 27 | Summary

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Summary

Placards and handbills advertise for cotton pickers. Workers like the Joads must buy a bag for a dollar to put the picked cotton in. Workers have their filled bags weighed by the scale man. The scales are sometimes crooked. To counteract this, the workers sometimes fill their bags with rocks. More migrants arrive and set up cotton camps. Cotton fluff clings to fences, rolls into little balls on the road, and gets in people's noses. The workers don't get paid much and try to save enough for winter. More and more people arrive, and workers start fighting for rows to pick. The cotton farms keep advertising for more workers.

Analysis

Steinbeck depicts cotton picking in California as adequate work, but just barely. Although the work is hard, many migrants seem to view it as decent work. Pickers might earn enough to buy a cheap cut of meat. On the downside, workers have to deal with crooked scales. This work is probably the best that the migrants can hope for. Nonetheless, Steinbeck shows that cotton picking is not sufficient, because the work often does not last long and workers probably will not earn enough to save for winter. Cotton pickers are lulled into a false sense of security because the work is just enough to afford them decent meals.

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