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Contrasting Rich and Poor in Grapes of Wrath
One of the ironies of Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath was that, as Ma Joad said, "If your in trouble or hurt or need -- go to poor people. They're the only ones that'll help -- the only ones."(pg 335) The irony is that if you need something you have to go to the people who have nothing.
There are many examples of this in the book. The first example of this is at the truck station in chapter 15 when the restaurant owner and waitress give the family bread at a discounted rate, and candy two for a penny when it is actually nickel candy. The truck drivers then leave large tips to the waitress. Neither the truck driver nor the restaurant owner and waitress are very rich but they are generous anyway. In chapter seventeen the person at the car dump gives Tom and Al things for way discounted rates. Ma Joad is also an example of this. The Joads are poor and yet they give what little they have to the children who need it. They also stay and help the Wilsons when it just slowed them down. Another example is when the small land owner that Tom first gets work warns them of the plot of the Farmer's Association to raid the government camp. The clerk in the company store in chapter twenty-four is also generous, lending Ma ten cents so that she can get sugar for the coffee.
These acts of generosity are contrasted to how the rich people are trying to rip off the migrants. Chapter seven shows how the car dealer rip the people off by selling them pieces of junk for high prices. They use cheep tricks such as pouring sawdust into the gears or transmission to cut down the noise of the car and hide problems. They take advantage of the tenant farmers ignorance of cars and interest rates to make a profit. Chapter nine shows how junk dealers bought all the things from the tenant farmers at a very low price. The farmers have to leave and can't take the stuff with them, so they take advantage of the fact that the farmers have no choice but to sell them at whatever price they name. Chapters nineteen, twenty-one, and twenty-five are general chapters that show how the large land owners are cheating the migrants and smaller land owners to make a larger profit.
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Throughout Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, the acts of kindness by poor people are contrasted to the greed and meanness of the rich.