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The Grapes of Wrath
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Archive 2015 > May 2015: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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message 1: by ☯Emily , moderator (last edited May 01, 2015 07:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

☯Emily  Ginder | 772 comments Mod
This is the thread for May's selection by John Steinbeck.


Kirsten  (kmcripn) I read this book in high school and was bored silly. (It was the 80's.) I read it again in 2008 and was amazed at how relevant it was. Maybe it was the time I read it or how old I was but it was incredible.

For even more background, read Whose Names Are Unknown: A Novel by Sanora Babb. She couldn't publish her book at the time, because Steinbeck's had been released first. She was a journalist that Steinbeck talked to for research. I highly recommend it.

Some people don't like Steinbeck's style, but I really liked this book. At least, now that I am older and wiser (a little bit).


RitaSkeeter I'm looking forward to this book, but won't get to it til mid-month.

Kirsten, I had to read The Pearl in high school and loathed it. I didn't touch Steinbeck again until we read East of Eden as a group and couldn't believe how incredible it was. I re-read The Pearl not long after and loved it.


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments I read this while in high school back in the mid 60s but not as an assignment. I remember of being impressed with the book but don't remember much else.

I am reading the Penguin Edition of The Grapes of Wrath which is nice because it has footnotes explaining various terms and concepts. I am also listening to the matching Audible version

http://www.amazon.com/The-Grapes-of-W...

I rather enjoyed the Reverend Jim Casey in chapter 4.


message 5: by Henry (last edited May 02, 2015 06:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Henry Le Nav | 171 comments One thing that surprises me about The Grapes of Wrath is how modern the voice is. I read this back in 1965 and had seen the movie with a very young Henry Fonda as Tom Joad. At the time of my reading it, the book was not even 30 years old.

Perhaps it is the difference between being 16 and 66, but at the time the book struck me as being very old...from the dark ages, and now not so much.

I have always measured things in term of cars. Not intentionally, but name a decade and a car will jump in my mind. So if we consider the passage of time in terms of cars, here was the new car of my dreams when I read the book in 1965:

http://www.sammac.us/1965%20Chevrolet...

Except make mine a 2 door Super Sport coupe with a 409 V-8.

Here is the vehicle the Joads used to get to California, depicted in the movie:

http://www.imcdb.org/i125825.jpg

That is a 1926 Hudson Super Six converted into a truck. OK, but what did a new car look like when Steinbeck wrote the novel in 1938? Here is a 1938 Chevy Master Deluxe:

http://www.spudsgarage.com/vehicles/3...

To put this in context, let us say that a modern teen, 16 years old in 2015 were to read The Bonfire of the Vanities which was written in 1987 and had a movie released with Tom Hanks in 1990. Tom Hank's Mercedes used in the film was a 1991 560 SEL:

http://www.classiccarstodayonline.com...

Not the greatest photo, so here is a better shot of the same year and model:

http://cdn.barrett-jackson.com/stagin...

Here is a 2015 Mercedes:

http://www.mycarz.co/wp-content/uploa...

Yes, a 2015 is sleeker and a Mercedes purist could point out 24 years of differences between these two vehicles, but I can almost assure you that if you were to walk past 1991 Mercedes sitting in the grocery store parking lot, you would not even notice it, unless you happen to be that Mercedes purist. Yet in 1965, a 38 Chevy would have attracted some attention.

Being something of a car nut back in 1965, I am sure the difference in these vehicles added to my opinion that The Grapes of Wrath had been written in the middles ages.


message 6: by Henry (last edited May 02, 2015 06:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Henry Le Nav | 171 comments In my Penguin Edition, there is about a 40 page Introduction, which I started to read and then grew impatient to start the book. This introduction does note that Steinbeck employed two types of chapters:


In early July 1938, Steinbeck told literary critic Harry T. Moore that he was improvising his own “new method” of fictional technique: one that combined a suitably elastic form and elevated style to express the far-reaching tragedy of the migrant drama. In The Grapes of Wrath he devised a contrapuntal structure with short lyrical chapters of exposition and background pertinent to the migrants as a group— chapters 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 11, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25 , 27, 29— alternating with the long narrative chapters of the Joad family’s exodus to California— chapters 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 30. (Chapter 15 is a swing chapter that participates in both editorial and narrative modes.) Steinbeck structured his novel by juxtaposition. His “particular” chapters are the slow-paced and lengthy narrative episodes that embody traditional characterization and advance the dramatic plot, while his jazzy, rapid-fire “interchapters” work at another level of cognition by expressing an atemporal, universal, synoptic view of the migrant condition.


Steinbeck, John (2006-03-28). The Grapes of Wrath (p. 2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Chapter 1 is an almost a poetic description of the dust storms that came to plaque Oklahoma. Chapter 3 gives us a view of the hazards of crossing a highway from a turtle's point of view.


message 7: by Henry (last edited May 02, 2015 08:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Henry Le Nav | 171 comments Near the end of chapter 1, Steinbeck speaks of the people coming out to survey the world after the first dust storm.


Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, only a little green showing through the film of dust. The men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses to stand beside their men— to feel whether this time the men would break. The women studied the men’s faces secretly, for the corn could go, as long as something else remained. The children stood near by, drawing figures in the dust with bare toes, and the children sent exploring senses out to see whether men and women would break. The children peeked at the faces of the men and women, and then drew careful lines in the dust with their toes. Horses came to the watering troughs and nuzzled the water to clear the surface dust. After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant. Then the women knew that they were safe and that there was no break. Then they asked, What’ll we do? And the men replied, I don’t know. But it was all right. The women knew it was all right, and the watching children knew it was all right. Women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole.

Steinbeck, John (2006-03-28). The Grapes of Wrath (pp. 5-6). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I am not sure whether this was intended as a testimony to the strength of men or their weakness. What Steinbeck totally neglects in this statement is the strength of women. In America, the Great Depression was stained with the abandonment of women and children by men. One of the stereotypes of the stock market crash was men jumping to their deaths from high windows. Men lost their jobs and abandoned their families becoming hobos, drifters, and alcoholics. Meanwhile their women were left to support a family and keep a roof over their heads. The women didn't have the luxury of abandoning their children. They had to hunker down and make do with nothing, while the men went off riding the rails and feeling sorry for themselves.

In my own experience in my marriage, I might be the fool who beats my chest, grunts, bellows, and swears, but the real strength in our marriage resides in my wife. In bad times we will be fine as long as she doesn't break. Me? I am just a source of noise and needless theatrics. I think men need women far more than women need men.


message 8: by Henry (last edited May 02, 2015 08:14AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Henry Le Nav | 171 comments In support of my observation above:


Traditional roles within the family changed during the 1930s. Men finding themselves out of work now had to rely on their wives and children in some cases to help make ends meet. Many did not take this loss of power as the primary decision maker and breadwinner very well. Many stopped looking for work, paralyzed by their bleak chances and lack of self-respect. Some became so frustrated that they just walked out on their families completely. A 1940 survey revealed that 1.5 million married women had been abandoned by their husbands.

On the other hand, women found their status enhanced by their new roles. Left with little choice, they went against the historic opposition to married women working outside the home to help support their families. Black women especially found it easier to obtain work than their husbands, working as domestic servants, clerks, textiles workers and other occupations. This employment increased their status and power in the home, gaining them a new voice in domestic decisions.

"The Great Depression," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2000).


From: http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/sn...

As noted in that article, here is one of the iconic photos of the Depression era, Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lan...

The description below the photo has an interesting commentary regarding the history of this photo.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) Henry wrote: "Near the end of chapter 1, Steinbeck speaks of the people coming out to survey the world after the first dust storm.


Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, onl..."


Good point - he goes on to make the wife the backbone and strength of the family to get them through transition and trial.


message 10: by Nina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina | 449 comments I ordered my copy 2 weeks ago and still haven't received it. hope I will have it by Monday and then join! I read Of mice and men in high school as an assignment and I loved it.


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments Nina wrote: "I ordered my copy 2 weeks ago and still haven't received it. hope I will have it by Monday and then join! I read Of mice and men in high school as an assignment and I loved it."

I hope you get it soon, I have really been enjoying this book, and am looking forward to your commentary.


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments Chapter 5 is one of the lyrical chapters describing in general how the croppers came to lose ownership of their land to the bank. The bank then gets new owners who hires a guy on a caterpillar tractor to harrow the soil and plant cotton all in one pass for three bucks a day. The tractor operator explains the economics.


Caterpillar tractor pulling multiple disc harrows:

http://www.library.hbs.edu/hc/pc/imag...

Dust storm:

http://www.farmcollector.com/~/media/...

Aftermath:

http://www.farmcollector.com/~/media/...


Kirsten  (kmcripn) Also, did anyone see Ken Burns' program about the Dust Bowl? Good reference.


Rebecca (rebeccasg) I just got this from the library and am hoping to start this week! I just need to finish 2 short books that I have to return to the library and then I can start.


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments Kirsten wrote: "Also, did anyone see Ken Burns' program about the Dust Bowl? Good reference."

Thanks for mentioning this, Kirsten. There is an excellent web site on the program. It has some videos and photos that are well worth the view:

http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/dustbowl/

Some of those videos are just unimaginable. It seems hard to believe that something as innocent as wheat farming resulted in a catastrophe of these proportions.

I have read that mechanized agriculture played another factor in the Great Depression. Before tractors all farm work was done by draft animals, predominantly horses and mules. The cool thing about tractors is that they don't use an ounce of fuel when you are not using them. Not so with draft animals. You have feed them everyday of the year even when you are not using them. So replacing draft animals with tractors opened up a tremendous amount of acreage that was used for pasturage and hay for the winter. Cash crops could be grown on land that was previous used in maintenance of the farm animals. The glut of agricultural products on the market caused the bottom to fall out of prices. It was cheaper to let the crops rot in the field than to harvest it.

We are a very strange species, with a glut of food, people go hungry.

I wouldn't be surprises to learn that the loss of fallow land used for pasturage and hay fields also contributed to the overall problem of the dust.


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments RebeccaS wrote: "I just got this from the library and am hoping to start this week! I just need to finish 2 short books that I have to return to the library and then I can start."

Looking forward to your commentary, Rebecca.


RitaSkeeter Wow, quite astonished by the pics of the dust storm and its aftermath.


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments RitaSkeeter wrote: "Wow, quite astonished by the pics of the dust storm and its aftermath."

That is just amazing is it not. The sky turning black like that. It seems, as the one woman in one of the videos stated, evil. To see something like that bearing down on you would just be horrific.

I went through some dust storms while stationed in the Mojave Desert. They would last for a day or two, but they were child's play compared to this.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) RitaSkeeter wrote: "Wow, quite astonished by the pics of the dust storm and its aftermath."

Me too, damn. Doesn't come through as clearly as that in book form, that's dreadful.


Rebecca (rebeccasg) Henry wrote: "Near the end of chapter 1, Steinbeck speaks of the people coming out to survey the world after the first dust storm.


Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, onl..."


The ending passage struck me for the same reason. The fact that Steinbeck almost writes off the women by saying they trusted wholly in the strength of their men and then went back to their work, was very strange. From the few books I've read about agricultural life, the women were just as strong and important as the men for survival at the very least. Also, it seemed strange that these women did not seemed very worried about the dust storm at first. I think if I saw all my crops (aka my livelihood) covered with red dust I would have a very passionate freak out!


message 21: by Rebecca (last edited May 06, 2015 06:52AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rebecca (rebeccasg) Thank you so much for the images of a dust storm and its aftermath. It's amazing to me that these really happen!! Living in a city, I don't appreciate the wide open world as much as I wish I could.

Chapter 2

(view spoiler)


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments Your guess is correct Rebecca.


message 23: by Rebecca (last edited May 06, 2015 08:04AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rebecca (rebeccasg) I think the format of this book will take some time for me to get used to. We get a snippet of fictional story and then we get a description of the land or the setting/time. While I enjoy how they paint a picture for me, I wish we could get back to the "action". Hopefully as I get further into this story it will seem more smooth.

Chapter 5 -
I cannot imagine spending my whole life living and working my butt off on land that can be snatched away so easily. This land was everything to these farmers and their families. I usually view technology as more helpful than hurtful, especially farming machines. To me, it seemed like they would help farmers get more product out of their work. However, this shows another view for the tenant farmers who were replaced by these machines. I can see why they view them as "monsters". And when the owner simply suggested that they move to California....that must seem like another planet to them! Much easier said than done.

It's also interesting that the tenant farmers view the tractor drivers as traitors.


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments What happened to farming is pretty much a standard formula for most economic interests in life. The industrial revolution put the kabosh to the old craftsmen and artisans. The railroads killed the canals and horse drawn livery. Mechanized agriculture killed the croppers and the family farm. The internet is doing a number on big box retail stores.

There is a down side but there is also an upside for those who survive the change. Usually however those caught up in the change do not fare so well. The tractor driver was right, you are not going to compete with 40 acres and a mule against a corporation and a tractor.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) RebeccaS wrote: "I think the format of this book will take some time for me to get used to. We get a snippet of fictional story and then we get a description of the land or the setting/time. While I enjoy how the..."

I admit skimming some of the downtime in between segments you're referring to. Beautifully written but if something was happening, I was impatient to get back to it =)


message 26: by Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (last edited May 06, 2015 09:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) RebeccaS wrote: "Chapter 5 -
I cannot imagine spending my whole life living and working my butt off on land that can be snatched away so easily. "


I don't see how this has changed. They can still take your land/house just as easily if determined, and disasters, including economics, cause much of the same effect now. Our recession was nowhere near the level of the great bowl depression area, thank God.


message 27: by Rebecca (last edited May 06, 2015 10:55AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rebecca (rebeccasg) Erin (Paperback stash) *is juggle-reading* wrote: "RebeccaS wrote: "Chapter 5 -
I cannot imagine spending my whole life living and working my butt off on land that can be snatched away so easily. "

I don't see how this has changed. They can still..."


That's a good point Erin. I didn't really think about it. I guess I was just picturing someone driving up and saying get off the land asap and driving away. You're right that similar things happen now, but may be carried out in a different way.

As a renter myself I guess my landlord could kick me out, but not without probable cause since we have a contract. But, like you said, if someone is determined then they will figure it out.


Rebecca (rebeccasg) Chapter 6-8
(view spoiler)


RitaSkeeter RebeccaS wrote: "Erin (Paperback stash) *is juggle-reading* wrote: "RebeccaS wrote: "Chapter 5 -
I cannot imagine spending my whole life living and working my butt off on land that can be snatched away so easily. ..."


Slightly different, but we have farmers here who need to walk away from their farms because they can't turn a profit. One example, we have a supermarket duopoly here, and they decided to sell milk for $1 a litre. That is less than in costs the farmers to produce it, so it is unsustainable for them. The farmers have little bargaining and negotiating power because there are just the two main supermarkets and they are in a 'to the death' struggle for greatest profits so they both only offer farmers the same price.
The end result is that the farmers walk away from their farms.
I think the only farming here that seems to be paying okay is medicinal poppies.
So even now, albeit with different forces than mechanisation, it is still a hard road for farmers.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) Yes farming is hard work for sure but such a strong backbone of our country. They definitely deserve credit for their work and all we owe on farming the land. Reading this book makes you reflect about different things.


Rebecca (rebeccasg) Henry wrote: "Near the end of chapter 1, Steinbeck speaks of the people coming out to survey the world after the first dust storm.


Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, onl..."


Also related to this, in Chapter 10 the family is rushing around, trying to get ready to leave for California. When the preacher offered to help salt the pork, Ma seemed shocked. She said "this is women's work" and could not even believe he would offer to do it. I like how he said "work is work" (sorry if the quotes aren't exact). Maybe this will be the beginning of a changing order in this family as they will need to do anything they can to survive the road to California.


Rebecca (rebeccasg) Erin (Paperback stash) *is juggle-reading* wrote: "Yes farming is hard work for sure but such a strong backbone of our country. They definitely deserve credit for their work and all we owe on farming the land. Reading this book makes you reflect ab..."

Definitely! I never really think about farming, unless I'm at the farmer's market. This book is giving me a totally new perspective.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) It's funny coincidence, but Goodreads just released this book post today:

7 Little Known Facts About The Grapes of Wrath


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments Regarding the risk of farming, I would say in the US it is just as bad as ever, except that there are some government controls and payments, there are fewer farmers, and corporations do not suffer to the degree that a farming family would.

I haven't seen any statistics lately but back in the 1990s the leading cause of death on the American family farm was suicide staged to look like an accident with farm machinery. Men found that they were going to lose the family farm after it had been in their family for generations. They did the only thing they could to prevent their family from suffering financial ruin. It is a sad economy where a man is more valuable dead than alive.

For an interesting look at life on a modern farm, although it is approaching 30 years old itself, is Farm: A Year in the Life of an American Farm by Richard Rhodes. Rhodes worked on a typical family farm in Missouri for a year. What I found positively amazing was that the husband was putting in 16 hour days, 6 days a week, the wife 12 hour days, and two children 2 to 4 hours after school. They handled millions of dollars in revenues and costs. When they balanced the books at tax time their FAMILY INCOME for all that work was $19,000 for the entire year if I remember correctly. Pretty damned thankless if you ask me.


RitaSkeeter Henry wrote: "Regarding the risk of farming, I would say in the US it is just as bad as ever, except that there are some government controls and payments, there are fewer farmers, and corporations do not suffer ..."

The question then is why they would persevere with such difficult conditions, and with so little recompense. Is it that strong connection and identification with the land?

Not sure if it is the same in the US, but here the great dream is home ownership. Everyone wants their own little piece of land. I wonder why that is? Do people see stability and security in owning property? Are there any similarities between people in the burbs striving to own their home with farmers who tenaciously cling to their land no matter what?


Rebecca (rebeccasg) RitaSkeeter wrote: "Henry wrote: "Regarding the risk of farming, I would say in the US it is just as bad as ever, except that there are some government controls and payments, there are fewer farmers, and corporations ..."

That's a really good point Rita. I know that my dream right now is to own my own home. Stuff is great, but something about having a piece of land that is YOURS and you can take care of it and do whatever you want with it, makes it mean so much more (at least to me). I know many people like to design their own houses or renovate their house, meaning they are putting their own hopes into what it could be. This may be similar to what farmers feel. Also, when I had a small garden that I took care of, the feeling of seeing things grow from your own hands is something that's amazing and hard to describe. I have a feeling many people feel that way about other professions too. That feeling of accomplishing something with your own skills and work is hard to beat.


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments RitaSkeeter wrote: "The question then is why they would persevere with such difficult conditions, and with so little recompense. Is it that strong connection and identification with the land? ..."

That is an excellent question. My uncle had a farm and he used to joke that it was easier in the old days. You just left the farm to the eldest son. Now it is more complicated, he had to find one of his kids stupid enough to take the farm when he left it in his will.

Out of my mother's family of 6 children that grew up on a hardscrabble farm in the Depression, my uncle was the only one that went in to farming. The rest left like rats on a sinking ship. My mother's goal was to get 3 states away. Well it ended up she got three counties away. My uncle bought his own farm. He worked full time in a steel mill because there was no way they could make a living off the farm, and he spent the rest of his waking hours farming. When he retired from the mill he still farmed full time but was compensated by his pension from the mill. All I can say is that he liked work a whole lot more than I do.

Had I had money when my grandfather's farm was sold, I think I would have bought it. I loved the place. But there is no way I would have attempted farming. I would has leased the fields out to neighboring farmers and just puttered around the barn and drive the tractor for fun. I was in the military and didn't even know that the family had sold it. The place was immediately stripped mined for coal and all that remains now is the house and infertile fields of black shale with scrubby pine trees growing on it. In short it is pretty much an environmental disaster. It breaks my heart to see it now. Anyhow out of the 15 grandchildren, I think I was the only one dumb enough to want the place and yes it was the pull of the land. I am deathly afraid of work, and I don't like manure.

Home ownership has been a dream in the past in the US. It is indeed security, stability, and a method of accruing wealth...the value of the home increases over time with proper maintenance. However, I think one of the lessons of the 2008 - 2009 recession was that the value of a home is vastly more subject to market forces than previously understood and that value can not be assured. It is also a double edged sword, it can be hearth and home, or it can be an anchor trapping you in a place that you would like to leave. Investments are far more mobile than houses. Modern economics may be too fluid for home ownership to be a source of security and wealth growth like it was in the past. From what I have read, millennials are not embracing home ownership like generations in the past.


message 38: by ☯Emily , moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

☯Emily  Ginder | 772 comments Mod
I know few adults of my children's generation who are interested in home ownership. It is too much work for them!


Rebecca (rebeccasg) ☯Emily wrote: "I know few adults of my children's generation who are interested in home ownership. It is too much work for them!"

I am working and trying to save all my money to buy a house, but most of my friends are happy to continue to rent. I'm sure some of that is not wanting to be "tied down", but what I've heard mostly is that it is too expensive to buy a house and maintain it right now.


Rebecca (rebeccasg) Chapter 13

(view spoiler)


Kirsten  (kmcripn) RebeccaS wrote: "Henry wrote: "Near the end of chapter 1, Steinbeck speaks of the people coming out to survey the world after the first dust storm.


Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying..."


I think it's deeper than that. They know that the bigger worry for them is not the storm, it's how the man reacts to the storm. What if he leaves the family? What if he resorts to violence? What if he commits suicide? It's not that they're not strong, they are. They just know how the man can affect their and their children's lives.

It reminded me of the Temperance movement pre-Prohibition. The women were strong there, too. Yet, they put themselves out there politically because they knew what alcohol did to their men.


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments RebeccaS wrote: "I am working and trying to save all my money to buy a house, but most of my friends are happy to continue to rent. I'm sure some of that is not wanting to be "tied down", but what I've heard mostly is that it is too expensive to buy a house and maintain it right now."

I think there is a good bit of truth to that as well. The value of education has suffered inflation, meanwhile the costs have sky rocketed. When my wife and I started out we had nothing, but I was lucky and found a decent blue collar job in manufacturing. We then had a mortgage, bills for all of our furniture, appliances and so forth. But neither of us was walking around with crushing student loans that we couldn't find a job with. The recession of 2008 - 2009 destroyed the job market and there are a lot of millennials with huge student debt and not much in the way of job prospects. If we want millennials to buy homes we as a society had better figure out a way for them to pay for it and the answer is more worthwhile jobs--not more education and more student debt. Education is a wonderful thing, but it has to lead to more income not more debt.

I remember during the great white collar professional crash in the early 90s, a guy with a BS in engineering and an MBA with 20 years of experience was told by the unemployment counselors to go to a community college and pick up some courses. What the hell!


RitaSkeeter ☯Emily wrote: "I know few adults of my children's generation who are interested in home ownership. It is too much work for them!"

This is an interesting difference to how things are here. Home ownership is still the 'Great Australian Dream' (not my capitals!). I don't know anyone who doesn't own a home, or is saving to buy one.

Though costs of home ownership are becoming much higher, particularly in paced like Sydney and Melbs.

RebeccaS wrote: "RitaSkeeter wrote: "Henry wrote: "Regarding the risk of farming, I would say in the US it is just as bad as ever, except that there are some government controls and payments, there are fewer farmer..."

I can relate to the loving to grow things. We moved to a small village (only half hour from the city) a couple years ago and have a huge vegie patch, fruit trees etc.

Henry wrote: "RebeccaS wrote: "I am working and trying to save all my money to buy a house, but most of my friends are happy to continue to rent. I'm sure some of that is not wanting to be "tied down", but what ..."

That is very sad about the family farm, Henry. Even more sad to see it mined, rather than continuing to produce.

Re the dropping of house prices in the US - what led to that? It's hard to imagine the bottom falling out of the market here without a Great Depression like event, but perhaps I am being naive.


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments RitaSkeeter wrote: "Re the dropping of house prices in the US - what led to that? It's hard to imagine the bottom falling out of the market here without a Great Depression like event, but perhaps I am being naive. "

Now you are pushing the limits of my blue collar knowledge of economics. In my worms eye view, essentially what happened was that a lot of very bad loans were made to people who had marginal credit. People could secure loans on homes that were way beyond their ability to pay. This created a false demand for houses and in many cities in the sun belt in the US the primary occupation was the building and financing and flipping of yet more homes. And we are not talking modest homes, we are talking 3000 square foot behemoths fondly known here in the US as McMansions. They are somewhat to a mansion what McDonalds is to fine dining.

Further compounding the problem was that many of the investment banks bought and sold these terrible loans bundled up in some kind of arcane financial instruments. Essentially it was a giant pyramid scheme and as long as more people bought into the pyramid, it remained afloat.

But what happens when people over extend themselves. They are living payday to payday and they are servicing huge interest loads. They can't get the principal paid off because they are swamped in interest. Compound interest is a wonderful thing when you are collecting, but it is insidious when you are paying. Then they start maxing out credit cards. Then the refrigerator breaks. Well you don't put a 14 cubic foot white klunker (to get by because money is tight) in a huge kitchen with granite counter tops, and gourmet cookware the size of oil drums. No you go for the 31 cubic foot stainless steel job and you add three grand to your credit card debt. Then you get sick and miss a month of work with high doctor bills, and now you are having trouble paying off some of the credit card bills. Money worries begin affecting your health and your marriage. Your spouse gets reduced hours....Then people start defaulting on their loans, the demand for new housing starts drops, people lose faith in the economy. Can't think about a new car now, I may be laid off by the end of the year...and poof an economy goes right up in smoke. It feeds on it self.

If I remember correctly there was concerns about people defaulting on loans as early as 2005. The number of defaults was becoming alarming but the balloon kept expanding until it popped in 2008 and it brought the rest of the economy down around it. Basically there was a lot of money made on essential nothing. Wisenheimers filled their pockets and ran. You can fool people about squeezing blood out of a stone, but sooner or later some one says, "hey that's a stone and you can't squeeze blood out of that" and the whole thing falls apart.

Take that explanation with a grain of salt, but something like that happened and a lot of these new developments in the sun belt became ghost towns.


message 45: by Nina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina | 449 comments I love the discussion so far, very interesting points raised! I finally got my copy, so I will jump in and hope to catch up with you!! Looking forward.


Rebecca (rebeccasg) Chapter 18
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Rebecca (rebeccasg) Chapter 22
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Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) RebeccaS wrote: "Chapter 18

I'm getting very worried for the Jode family. I cannot imagine what their feeling and how they are pushing onward. They left their home behind to try and find somewhere they could act..."


Rebecca,

I think one of the main reasons(view spoiler)


Henry Le Nav | 171 comments How appropriate that I read this description of Ma Joad on Mother's Day:


Her full face was not soft; it was controlled, kindly. Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.



Steinbeck, John (2006-03-28). The Grapes of Wrath (pp. 85-86). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. You truly are the citadels of the families.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) That was beautiful, Henry, thank you for sharing that.


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