The Grapes of Wrath Anger Quotes

And now the great owners and the companies invented a new method. A great owner bought a cannery. And when the peaches and the pears were ripe he cut the price of fruit below the cost of raising it. And as cannery owner he paid himself a low price for the fruit and kept the price of canned goods up and took his profit. And the little farmers who owned no canneries lost their farms, and they were taken by the great owners, the banks, and the companies who also owned the canneries. As time went on, there were fewer farms. The little farmers moved into town for a while and exhausted their credit, exhausted their friends, their relatives. And then they too went on the highways. And the roads were crowded with men ravenous for work, murderous for work.
And the companies, the banks worked at their own doom and they did not know it. The fields were fruitful, and starving men moved on the roads. The granaries were full and the children of the poor grew up rachitic, and the pustules of pellagra swelled on their sides. The great companies did not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line. And money that might have gone to wages went for gas, for guns, for agents and spies, for blacklists, for drilling. On the highways the people moved like ants and searched for work, for food. And the anger began to ferment.

– John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 21. Steinbeck continues his blistering attack on large-scale commercial agriculture, which not only drives Oklahoma sharecroppers into poverty, but small California farmers too. Big companies buy the canneries, underbid the small farmer for his produce and put him out of business. So the small California farmer joins the Dust Bowl migrants in the desperate search to find work and survive. But there is a warning for greedy business owners and banks, who invest profits in putting down rebellion by workers instead of paying them decent wages. By ignoring the growing "murderous" anger of hungry workers, the companies and banks are ensuring their own doom. There is foreshadowing here of a fightback against their inhuman methods.

The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quick-lime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

– John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 25. The chapter’s final words are Biblical in tone expressing almost a sentiment of doom. The last sentence references the song <em>Battle Hymn of the Republic</em> written by Julia Howe shortly before the American Civil War. The novel’s title is taken from a line of the song: "Mine eyes hath seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on." The "grapes of wrath" metaphor is also an allusion to Revelations 14:19 where evil people perish: "And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the wine press, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs." A number of themes are in play in this important passage from the novel. They include the inhumanity of the large farmers, their greed, the anger of the people and the hunger that drives that anger. Steinbeck warns of the rising wrath of people left to starve in a California rich with food destroyed because harvesting isn’t profitable enough. There is foreshadowing of a rebellion by the people against this cruel system. Personification is used by the author in his depiction of the pigs "screaming."