The Grapes of Wrath

What does Steinbeck describe in chapter 11?

Chapter 11

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Chapter Eleven: The houses were left vacant. Only the tractor sheds of gleaming iron and silver were alive. Yet when the tractors are at rest the life goes out of them. The work is easy and efficient, so easy that the wonder goes out of the work and so efficient that the wonder goes out of the land and the working of it. In the tractor man there grows the contempt that comes to a stranger who has little understanding and no relation to the land. The abandoned houses slowly fall apart.


This chapter provides one more critique of the new means of cotton production overtaking the farms. The fate of the tractors contrasts sharply with that of the farmers who once worked there. The tractors and their drivers have no connection to the land, little understanding and no relationship with it. The farmers, in contrast, have a deep and long-standing affection for the land on which they lived and worked, part of the reason why Grampa, in the previous chapter, refused to leave Oklahoma. Steinbeck also continues to remind the reader that the tractors are inhuman. He creates a mock metaphor in which the tractors Œgo home at the end of the day' and Œgo to sleep' to demonstrate how far that experience is from an actual human one. Steinbeck even explicitly states how "dead" the tractors are, comparing one to a corpse.