The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Chapter 11

The houses have been left vacant. Only the tractor sheds made of gleaming iron and silver are alive. Yet when the tractors are at rest the life goes out of them. The work of these machines is easy and efficient, so easy that the wonder goes out of the work and so efficient that the wonder goes out of the land and its cultivation. In the tractor, a man grows a spirit of contempt, since such a man is a stranger who has little understanding of and no relation to the land. The abandoned houses slowly fall apart.


This chapter provides one more critique of the new means of cotton production that is overtaking the farms. The fate of the tractors contrasts sharply with that of the farmers who once worked there. The tractors and their drivers have no connection to the land, little understanding of and no relationship with it. The farmers, in contrast, have a deep and long-standing affection for the land on which they lived and worked; this is part of the reason why Grampa, in the previous chapter, refused to leave Oklahoma.

Steinbeck also continues to remind the reader that the tractors are inhuman. He creates a mocking metaphor (in which the tractors ?go home at the end of the day and ?go to sleep) to demonstrate how far the spectacle of the tractors is from an actual human experience. Steinbeck even explicitly establishes how "dead" the tractors are, comparing one to a corpse.

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