The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Chapter 23

The migrant workers look for amusement wherever they can find it, whether in jokes or entertaining stories. They tell stories of heroism in taming the land and dealing with the Indians, or relate the tale of a rich man who pretended to be poor and fell in love with a rich woman who, oddly enough, was also pretending to be poor. The workers find pleasure in playing the harmonica or a more precious guitar or fiddle, or in getting drunk.


This chapter portrays some of the simple details of the life of a migrant worker. These workers look for amusement and diversion, for they require a respite from their hardships. Some of these amusements are not exactly innocent: drunkenness is common because it softens loneliness and pain. It essentially serves as a form of temporary suicide, dulling a man into a drunken stupor and then finally causing him to sleep. Steinbeck even writes that "death was a friend, and sleep was death's brother." While not applicable to Uncle John alone, this description of drunkenness does seem to fit with the character's depression and does give some explanation for his behavior in previous chapters.

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