Western Washington University Western Washington University ------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------

Business and its Environment


Discussion Questions for Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath:

1) We know that?all that. It?s not us, it?s the bank. A bank isn?t like a man. Or an owner with fifty thousand acres, he isn?t like a man either. That?s the monster?
We?re sorry. It?s not us. It?s the monster. The bank isn?t like a man?.
Yes, but the bank is only made of men?.
No, you?re wrong there?quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It?s the monster. Men made it, but they can?t control it.
Is the bank something more than men? If so, what does this imply about the personal responsibility of those who manage the bank?
2) The man sitting in the iron seat did not look like a man; gloved, goggled, rubber dust mask over nose and mouth, he was a part of the monster, a robot in the seat?He sat in an iron seat and stepped on iron pedals.
What are the managerial and ethical implications of portraying the tractor driver as a robot?
3) At noon the tractor driver stopped sometimes near a tenant house and opened his lunch: sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper, white bread, pickle, cheese, Spam, a piece of pie branded like an engine part. He ate without relish?Curious children crowded close, ragged children who ate their fried dough as they watched.
How does this passage extend on the development of the metaphor? What does it ?mean??
4) "Three dollars a day. I got damn sick of creeping for my dinner?and not getting it. I got a wife and kids. We got to eat. Three dollars a day, and it comes every day."
"That's right," the tenant said. "But for your three dollars a day fifteen or twenty families can't eat at all. Nearly a hundred people have to go out and wander on the roads for your three dollars a day. Is that right?"
And the driver said, "Can?t think of that. Got to think of my own kids?
Does the quest for greater efficiency justifiably override consideration of the welfare of those who are displaced in the drive for efficiency? Is the tractor driver correct in his assessment that he has no cause to worry about anyone else?s kids?
5) And the tenant pondered more. ?But let a man get property he doesn?t see, or can?t take time to get his fingers in, or can?t be there to walk on it?why, then the property is the man. He can't do what he wants, he can't think what he wants. The property is the man, stronger than he is. And he is small, not big. Only his possessions are big?and he's the servant of his property. That is so, too."
Compare and contrast the man who owns property he doesn?t see with the modern shareholder who has little if any opportunity or incentive to monitor the affairs of the corporations in which s/he owns stock.
6) "I built it with my hands. Straightened old nails to put the sheathing on. Rafters are wired to the stringers with baling wire. It's mine. I built it. You bump it down?I'll be in the window with a rifle. You even come too close and I'll pot you like a rabbit."
"It's not me. There's nothing I can do. I'II lose my job if I don't do it. And look?suppose you kill me? They'll just hang you, but long before you're hung there'll be another guy on the tractor, and he'll bump the house down. You're not killing the right guy."
"That's so," the tenant said. ?Who gave you orders? I'll go after him. He's the one to kill."
?You're wrong. He got his orders from the bank. The bank told him, 'Clear those people out or it's your job.' "
"Well, there's a president of the bank. There's a board of directors. I'll fill up the magazine of the rifle and go into the bank."
The driver said, "Fellow was telling me the bank gets orders from the East. The orders were, 'Make the land show profit or we'll close you up.' "
?But where does it stop? Who can we shoot? I don't aim to starve to death before I kill the man that's starving me."
Who can we shoot?

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