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Their options were very limited. Charity was an option but a very limited and demeaning one. At one point Slim comments on how George seems like a smart guy and Slim answers,
An' I ain't so bright neither, or I wouldn't be buckin' barley for my fifty and found. If I was bright, if I was even a little bit smart, I'd have my own little place, an' I'd be bringin' in my own crops, 'stead of doin' all the work and not getting what comes up outa the ground." (Chapter 3)
Of course smart had little to do with it. George, like many men in rural California, had little choice but to be a transient worker.