The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Chapter 15
Summary

This chapter begins with a description of the hamburger stands and diners on Route 66. The typical diner is run by an often-irritated woman, who nevertheless becomes friendly when truck drivers --­ consistent customers who can always pay --­ enter. The more wealthy travelers drop names and buy vanity products. The owners of the diners complain about the migrating workers, who can't pay and often steal. A family comes into a designated diner, wanting to buy a loaf of bread. The one owner, Mae, tells them that her business is not a grocery store, but Al, the other, is more receptive. For her part, Mae eventually sells the family candy for reduced prices. Mae and Al wonder what such families will do once they reach California.

Analysis

Instead of depicting the plight of the migrant families from the perspective of the Joads, this chapter gives another, somewhat unsympathetic perspective on the migrants' situation. For the people who own the diners and other small businesses along Route 66, the migrant workers are little more than a burden, since the migrants ask these people, who are simply attempting to make a living, for handouts and charity. The men and women who work at the diners on Route 66 view the migrant families with a conflicted sense of loathing and compassion. They see these travelers as shiftless and threatening, yet do take pity on them. Mae and Al sell one group of migrants a loaf of bread and Mae even sells the children candy for a much-reduced price. Yet part of this compassion stems from impatience. It is easier to give the migrant families what they want and send them on their way.

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