American Literature books summary
room and stays with her until she dies.
The doctor offers to drive him back to the hotel, but Henry declines.
He goes back into the room and tries to say good-bye to Catherine, but says
that it was like saying good-bye to a statue. He leaves the hospital and
walks back to his hotel in the rain
Frederic Henry - The novel's protagonist. A young American ambulance
driver in the Italian army during the First World War, Henry is disciplined
and courageous, but feels detached from life. When introduced to Catherine
Barkley, Henry discovers a capacity for love he had not known he possessed,
and begins a process of development that culminates with his desertion of
the Italian army. Throughout the novel, the Italian soldiers under Henry's
command call him "Tenente"--the Italian word for "lieutenant."
Catherine Barkley - An English nurse who falls in love with Frederic Henry.
Catherine's fiancee was killed in the battle of the Somme before she met
Henry. Catherine has cast aside conventional social values, and lives
according to her own values, devoting herself wholly to her love for Henry.
Her long, beautiful hair is her most distinctive physical feature.
Rinaldi - Frederic's friend, an Italian surgeon. Mischievous and wry,
Rinaldi is nevertheless a passionate and skilled doctor. Rinaldi makes a
practice of always being in love with a beautiful woman, and at the
beginning of the novel is attracted to Catherine Barkley; Rinaldi's
infatuation causes him to introduce Frederic and Catherine to one another.
Helen Ferguson - A friend of Catherine's. Though she remains fond of the
lovers and helps them, Helen is much more committed to social convention
than Henry and Catherine; she vocally disapproves of their "immoral" love
Miss Gage - An American nurse. Miss Gage becomes a friend to both Catherine
and Henry--in fact, she may be in love with Henry. Unlike Helen Ferguson,
she sets aside conventional social values to support their love affair.
Miss Van Campen - The superintendent of nurses at the American hospital
where Catherine works. Miss Van Campen is strict, cold, and unlikable; she
is obsessed with rules and regulations and has no patience for or interest
in individual feelings.
Dr. Valentini - An Italian surgeon who comes to the American hospital. Self-
assured and confident, Dr. Valentini is also a highly talented surgeon.
Frederic Henry takes an immediate liking to him.
Count Greffi - A spry ninety-four year old nobleman. Henry knows Count
Greffi from his time in Stresa, and the two play billiards together toward
the end of the novel. Despite his advanced age, the count is intelligent,
disciplined, and fully committed to life.
The Grapes of Wrath
Chapter One: Steinbeck begins the novel with a description of the dust bowl
climate of Oklahoma. The dust was so thick that men and women had to remain
in their houses, and when they had to leave they tied handkerchiefs over
their faces and wore goggles to protect their eyes. After the wind had
stopped, an even blanket of dust covered the earth. The corn crop was
ruined. Everybody wondered what they would do. The women and children knew
that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole, but the
men had not yet figured out what to do.
Chapter Two: A man approaches a small diner where a large red transport
truck is parked. The man is under thirty, with dark brown eyes and high
cheekbones. He wore new clothes that don't quite fit. The truck driver
exits from the diner and the man asks him for a ride, despite the "No
Riders" sticker on the truck. The man claims that sometimes a guy will do a
good thing even when a rich bastard makes him carry a sticker, and the
driver, feeling trapped by the statement, lets the man have a ride. While
driving, the truck driver asks questions, and the man finally gives his
name, Tom Joad. The truck driver claims that guys do strange things when
they drive trucks, such as make up poetry, because of the loneliness of the
job. The truck driver claims that his experience driving has trained his
memory and that he can remember everything about a person he passes.
Realizing that the truck driver is pressing for information, Tom finally
admits that he had just been released from McAlester prison for homicide.
He had been sentenced to seven years and was released after only four, for
Chapter Three: At the side of the roadside, a turtle crawled, dragging his
shell over the grass. He came to the embankment at the road and, with great
effort, climbed onto the road. As the turtle attempts to cross the road, it
is nearby hit by a sedan. A truck swerves to hit the turtle, but its wheel
only strikes the edge of its shell and spins it back off the highway. The
turtle lays on its back, but finally pulls itself over.
Chapter Four: After getting out of the truck, Tom Joad begins walking home.
He sees the turtle of the previous chapter and picks it up. He stops in the
shade of a tree to rest and meets a man who sits there, singing "Jesus is
My Savior." The man, Jim Casy, had a long, bony frame and sharp features. A
former minister, he recognizes Tom immediately. He was a "Burning Busher"
who used to "howl out the name of Jesus to glory," but he lost the calling
because he has too many sinful ideas that seem sensible. Tom tells Casy
that he took the turtle for his little brother, and he replies that nobody
can keep a turtle, for they eventually just go off on their own. Casy
claims that he doesn't know where he's going now, and Tom tells him to lead
people, even if he doesn't know where to lead them. Casy tells Tom that
part of the reason he quit preaching was that he too often succumbed to
temptation, having sex with many of the girls he Њsaved.' Finally he
realized that perhaps what he was doing wasn't a sin, and there isn't
really sin or virtue there are simply things people do.
He realized he didn't Њknow Jesus,' he merely knew the stories of the
Bible. Tom tells Casy why he was in jail: he was at a dance drunk, and got
in a fight with a man. The man cut Tom with a knife, so he hit him over the
head with a shovel. Tom tells him that he was treated relatively well in
McAlester. He ate regularly, got clean clothes and bathed. He even tells
about how someone broke his parole to go back. Tom tells how his father
Њstole' their house. There was a family living there that moved away, so
his father, uncle and grandfather cut the house in two and dragged part of
it first, only to find that Wink Manley took the other half. They get to
the boundary fence of their property, and Tom tells him that they didn't
need a fence, but it gave Pa a feeling that their forty acres was forty
acres. Tom and Casy get to the house: something has happened nobody is
Chapter Five: This chapter describes the coming of the bank representatives
to evict the farmers. Some of the men were kind because they knew how cruel
their job was, while some were angry because they hated to be cruel, and
others were merely cold and hardened by their job. They are mostly pawns of
a system that they can merely obey. The tenant system has become untenable
for the banks, for one man on a tractor can take the place of a dozen
families. The farmers raise the possibility of armed insurrection, but what
would they fight against? They will be murderers if they stay, fighting
against the wrong targets.
Steinbeck describes the arrival of the tractors. They crawled over the
ground, cutting the earth like surgery and violating it like rape. The
tractor driver does his job simply out of necessity: he has to feed his
kids, even if it comes at the expense of dozens of families. Steinbeck
dramatizes a conversation between a truck driver and an evicted tenant
farmer. The farmer threatens to kill the driver, but even if he does so, he
will not stop the bank. Another driver will come. Even if the farmer
murders the president of the bank and board of directors, the bank is
controlled by the East. There is no effective target which could prevent
Chapter Six: Casy and Tom approached the Joad home. The house was mashed at
one corner and appeared deserted. Casy says that it looks like the arm of
the Lord had struck. Tom can tell that Ma isn't there, for she would have
never left the gate unhooked. They only see one resident (the cat), but Tom
wonders why the cat didn't go to find another family if his family had
moved, or why the neighbors hadn't taken the rest of the belongings in the
house. Muley Graves approaches, a short, lean old man with the truculent
look of an ornery child. Muley tells Tom that his mother was worrying about
him. His family was evicted, and had to move in with his Uncle John. They
were forced to chop cotton to make enough money to go west. Casy suggests
going west to pick grapes in California. Muley tells Tom and Casy that the
loss of the farm broke up his family his wife and kids went off to
California, while Muley chose to stay. He has been forced to eat wild game.
He muses about how angry he was when he was told he had to get off the
land. First he wanted to kill people, but then his family left and Muley
was left alone and wandering. He realized that he is used to the place,
even if he has to wander the land like a ghost. Tom tells them that he
can't go to California, for it would mean breaking parole. According to
Tom, prison has not changed him significantly. He thinks that if he saw
Herb Turnbull, the man he killed, coming after him with a knife again, he
would still hit him with the shovel. Tom tells them that there was a man in
McAlester that read a great deal about prisons and told him that they
started a long time ago and now cannot be stopped, despite the fact that
they do not actually rehabilitate people. Muley tells them that they have
to hide, for they are trespassing on the land. They have to hide in a cave
for the night.
Chapter Seven: The car dealership owners look at their customers. They
watch for weaknesses, such as a woman who wants an expensive car and can
push her husband into buying one. They attempt to make the customers feel
obliged. The proffts come from selling jalopies, not from new and
dependable cars. There are no guarantees, hidden costs and obvious flaws.
Chapter Eight: Tom and Casy reach Uncle John's farm. They remark that
Muley's lonely and covert lifestyle has obviously driven him insane.
According to Tom, his Uncle John is equally crazy, and wasn't expected to
live long, yet is older than his father. Still, he is tougher and meaner
than even Grampa, hardened by losing his young wife years ago. They see Pa
Joad fixing the truck. When he sees Tom, he assumes that he broke out of
jail. They go in the house and see Ma Joad, a heavy woman thick with child-
bearing and work. Her face was controlled and kindly. She worries that Tom
went mad in prison. This chapter also introduces Grampa and Granma Joad.
She is as tough as he is, once shooting her husband while she was speaking
in tongues. Noah Joad, Tom's older brother, is a strange man, slow and
withdrawn, with little pride and few urges. He may have been brain damaged
at childbirth. The family has dinner, and Casy says grace. He talks about
how Jesus went off into the wilderness alone, and how he did the same. Yet
what Casy concluded was that mankind was holy. Pa tells Tom about Al, his
sixteen-year old brother, who is concerned with little more than girls and
cars. He hasn't been at home at night for a week. His sister Rosasharn has
married Connie Rivers, and is several months pregnant. They have two
hundred dollars for their journey.
Chapter Nine: This chapter describes the process of selling belongings. The
items pile up in the yard, selling for ridiculously low prices. Whatever is
not sold must be burned, even items of sentimental value that simply cannot
be taken on the journey for lack of space.
Chapter Ten: Ma Joad tells Tom that she is concerned about going to
California, worried that it won't turn out well, for the only information
they have is from flyers they read. Casy asks to accompany them to
California. He wants to work in the fields, where he can listen to people
rather than preach to them. Tom says that preaching is a tone of voice and
a style, being good to people when they don't respond to it. Pa and Uncle
John return with the truck, and prepare to leave. The two children, twelve-
year old Ruthie and ten-year old Winfield are there with their older
sister, Rose of Sharon (Rosasharn) and her husband. They discuss how Tom
can't leave the state because of his parole. They have a family conference
that night and discuss a number of issues: they decide to allow Casy to go
with them, since it's the only right thing for them to do. They continue
with preparations, killing the pigs to have food to take with them. While
Casy helps out Ma Joad with food preparation, he remarks to Tom that she
looks tired, as if she is sick. Ma Joad looks through her belongings, going
through old letters and clippings she had saved. She has to place them in
the fire. Before they leave, Muley Graves stops to say goodbye. Noah tells
him that he's going to die out in the field if he stays, but Muley accepts
his fate. Grampa refuses to leave, so they decide to give him medicine that
will knock him out and take him with them.
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.
Chapter Twelve: Highway 66 is the main migrant road stretching from the
Mississippi to Bakersfield, California. It is a road of flight for refugees
from the dust and shrinking land. The people streamed out on 66, possibly
breaking down in their undependable cars on the way. Yet the travelers face
obstacles. California is a big state, but not big enough to support all of
the workers who are coming. The border patrol can turn people back. The
high wages that are promised may be false.
Chapter Thirteen: The Joads continue on their travels. Al remarks that they
may have trouble getting over mountains in their car, which can barely
support its weight. Grampa Joad wakes up and insists that he's not going
with them. They stop at a gas station where the owner automatically assumes
they are broke, and tells them that people often stop, begging for gas. The
owner claims that fifty cars per day go west, but wonders what they expect
when they reach their destination. He tells how one family traded their
daughter's doll for some gas. Casy wonders what the nation is coming to,
since people seem unable to make a decent living. Casy says that he used to
use his energy to fight against the devil, believing that the devil was the
enemy. However, now he believes that there's something worse. The Joad's
dog wanders from the car and is run over in the road. They continue on
their journey and begin to worry when they reach the state line. However,
Tom reassures them that he is only in danger if he commits a crime.
Otherwise, nobody will know that he has broken his parole by leaving the
state. On their next stop for the night, the Joads meet the Wilsons, a
family from Kansas that is going to California. Grampa complains of
illness, and weeps. The family thinks that he may suffer a stroke. Granma
tells Casy to pray for Grampa, even if he is no longer a preacher. Suddenly
Grampa starts twitching and slumps. He dies. The Joads face a choice: they
can pay fifty dollars for a proper burial for him or have him buried a
pauper. They decide to bury Grampa themselves and leave a note so that
people don't assume he was murdered. The Wilsons help them bury Grampa.
They write a verse from scripture on the note on his grave. After burying
Grampa, they have Casy say a few words. The reactions to the death are
varied. Rose of Sharon comforts Granma, while Uncle John is curiously
unmoved by the turn of events. Casy admits that he knew Grampa was dying,
but didn't say anything because he couldn't have helped. He blames the
separation from the land for Grampa's death. The Joads and the Sairy Wilson
decide to help each other on the journey by spreading out the load between
their two cars so that both families will make it to California.
Chapter Fourteen: The Western States are nervous about the impending
changes, including the widening government, growing labor unity, and
strikes. However, they do not realize that these are results of change and
not causes of it. The cause is the hunger of the multitude. The danger that
they face is that the people's problems have moved from "I" to "we."
Chapter Fifteen: This chapter begins with a description of the hamburger
stands and diners on Route 66. The typical diner is run by a usually
irritated woman who nevertheless becomes friendly when truck drivers
consistent customers who can always pay enter. The more wealthy travelers
drop names and buy vanity products. The owners of the diners complain about
the migrating workers, who can't pay and often steal. A family comes in,
wanting to buy a loaf of bread. The one owner, Mae, tells them that they're
not a grocery store, but Al, the other, tells them to just sell the bread.
Mae sells the family candy for reduced prices. Mae and Al wonder what such
families will do once they reach California.
Chapter Sixteen: The Joads and the Wilsons continue on their travels. Rose
of Sharon discusses with her mother what they will do when they reach
California. She and Connie want to live in a town, where he can get a job
in a store or a factory. He wants to study at home, possibly taking a radio
correspondence course. There is a rattling in the Wilson's car, so Al is
forced to pull over. There are problems with the motor. Sairy Wilson tells
them that they should go on ahead without them, but Ma Joad refuses,
telling them that they are like family now and they won't desert them. Tom
says that he and Casy will stay with the truck if everyone goes on ahead.
They'll fix the car and then move on. Only Ma objects. She refuses to go,
for the only thing that they have left is each other and she will not break
up the family even momentarily. When everyone else objects to her, she even
picks up a jack handle and threatens them. Tom and Casy try to fix the car,
and Casy remarks about how he has seen so many cars moving west, but no
cars going east. Casy predicts that all of the movement and collection of
people in California will change the country. The two of them stay with the
car while the family goes ahead. Before they leave, Al tells Tom that Ma is
worried that he will do something that might break his parole. Granma has
been going crazy, yelling and talking to herself.
Al asks Tom about what he felt when he killed a man. Tom admits that prison
has a tendency to drive a man insane. Tom and Al find a junkyard where they
find a part to replace the broken con-rod in the Wilson's car. The one-eyed
man working at the junkyard complains about his boss, and says that he
might kill him. Tom tells off the one-eyed man for blaming all of his
problems on his eye, and then criticizes Al for his constant worry that
people will blame him for the car breaking down. Tom, Casy and Al rejoin
the rest of the family at a campground not far away. To stay at the
campground, the three would have to pay an additional charge, for they
would be charged with vagrancy if they slept out in the open. Tom, Casy and
Uncle John eventually decide to go on ahead and meet up with everyone else
in the morning. A ragged man at the camp, when he hears that the Joads are
going to pick oranges in California, laughs. The man, who is returning from
California, tells how the handbills are a fraud. They ask for eight hundred
people, but get several thousand people who want to work. This drives down
wages. The proprietor of the campground suspects that the ragged man is
trying to stir up trouble for labor.
Chapter Seventeen: A strange thing happened for the migrant laborers.
During the day, as they traveled, the cars were separate and lonely, yet in
the evening a strange thing happened: at the campgrounds where they stayed
the twenty or so families became one. Their losses and their concerns
became communal. The families were at first timid, but they gradually built
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