The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Chapter 12

Highway 66 is the main migrant road stretching from the Mississippi River to Bakersfield, California. It is a road of flight for refugees from dust and poverty. The people stream out onto Highway 66, risking the breakdown of their undependable cars on the way. And the travelers face other obstacles. California is a big state, but not big enough to support all of the workers who are approaching The border patrol can turn people back. The high wages that are promised may be a deception.


In this chapter, Steinbeck foreshadows a number of the problems that the Joad family will face on its travels. He highlights the problems that people often have with their cars -- including the possibility of breakdown, a problem that may afflict the Joad family's unreliable vehicle.

Building off earlier segments of The Grapes of Wrath, this chapter begins to affirm the unpleasant fact that California may not be a panacea for the Joads' problems. Even if the Joads reach the California border, they may be turned back. So many others are making the same journey that there is bound to be an overcrowded job market among the migrant workers in California. Arrival in California does not necessarily mean that the Joads' problems will be solved or that they will be in even a marginally better situation than faced them in Oklahoma.

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