The Grapes of Wrath- #1 How can we live without our lives?

If Mary takes that doll, that dirty rag doll, I got to take my Injun bow. I got to. An’ this roun’ stick- big as me. I might need this stick. I had this stick so long- a month, or maybe a year. I got to take it. And what’s it like in California?

The women sat among the doomed things, turning them over and looking past them and back. This book. My father had it. He like this book. “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Used to read it. Got his name on it. And his pipe- still smells rank. And this picture- an angel. I looked at that before the fust three come- didn’t seem to do much good. Think we could get this china dog in? Aunt Sadie brought it from the St. Louis Fair. See? Wrote right on it. No, I guess not. Here’s a letter my brother wrote the day before he died. Here’s an old-time hat. These feathers- never got to use them. No, there isn’t room.

How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past? Leave it. Burn it.

They sat and looked at it and burned it into their memories. How’ll it be not to know what land’s outside the door? How if you wake up in the night and know- and know the willow tree’s not there? Can you live without the willow tree? Well, no, you can’t. The willow tree is you. The pain on that mattress there- that dreadful pain- that’s you.

And the children- if Sam takes his Injun bow an’ his long roun’ stick, I get to take two things. I choose the fluffy pilla. That’s mine.

Suddenly they were nervous. Got to get out quick now. Can’t wait. We can’t wait. And they piled up the goods in the yards and set fire to them. They stood and watched them burning, and then frantically they loaded up the cars and drove away, drove in the dust. The dust hung in the air for a long time after the loaded cars had passed.


If you haven’t read Steinbeck’s novel, it is about the Joad family’s exodus from their Oklahoma land to California. They were tenant farmers but were forced to move when the big banks were dissatisfied with the profit margins of the land in the 1930’s. Steinbeck moves back and forth in his book between the Joad family and the tenant families as a whole- talking in general terms about the aridness of the land, the difficulty in finding water, or the hazards of traveling across the west in an unreliable car.

In this section of The Grapes of Wrath, a tenant family is trying to determine which items to take and which items to leave behind. Space is limited. Families are large. Tough decisions are made.

While it pales in comparison, my only experience of moving came this summer. A school in another state contacted me about applying for a position. We thought and thought and thought about it. We talked about the different responsibilities, the increased pay, the more prestigious role and institution but we couldn’t get over leaving Indiana. We couldn’t get over leaving our friends, moving farther from our families, and walking away from the community at Huntington. But it also meant moving away from our home and flower beds. This may be small compared to friends, family and work community but the quote above struck me this summer as we were debating a move. Instead of the willow tree, how could we leave our honeysuckle vines. Their fragrance has filled our living room and front porch each morning and evening. Even more now that we have new windows in the living room that actually open up. I don’t think that I could be without that.


1 Comment

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One response to “The Grapes of Wrath- #1 How can we live without our lives?

  1. I have a tendency to agree with almost everything that was composed within “The
    Grapes of Wrath- #1 How can we live without our lives? | jbrownmetaphors”.
    Many thanks for all of the actual facts.Many thanks-Brett

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