The owners of the land came to the land, or more often a spokesman for the owners came. ... The owner
men sat in the cars and explained. You know the land is poor. You've scrabbed at it long enough, God
The squatting tenant men nodded and wondered and drew fingers in the dust, and yes, they knew, God
konws. If the dust only wouldn't fly. If the top would only stay on the soil, it might not be so bad.
The owner men went on leading to their point: You know the land's getting poorer. You know what cotton
does to the land: robs it, sucks all the blood out of it.
The squatters nodded - they knew, God knew. If they could only rotate the crop they might pump blood
back into the land.
Well, it's not too late. And the owner men explained the workings and the thinkings of the monster that was
stronger than they were. A man can hold land if he can just eat and pay taxes; he can do that.
Yes, he can do that until his crop fails one day and he has to borrow money from the bank. But -
you see, a bank or a company can't do that, because those creatures don't breathe air, don't eat
side-meat. They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don't get it, they die the
way you die without air, without side-meat. It is a sad thing, but it is so. It is just so.
The squatting men raised their eyes to understand. Can't we just hang on ? Maybe the next year will be a
good year. God knows how much cotton next year. And with all the wars - God knows what price cotton
will bring. Don't they make explosives out of cotton? And uniforms?
Get enough wars and cotton'll hit the ceiling. Next year, maybe. They looked up questioningly.
We can't depend on it. The bank - the monster has to have profits all the time. It can't wait. It'll die.
No, taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can't stay one size. Soft fingers began
to tap the sill of the car window, and hard fingers tightened on the restless drawing sticks. In
the doorways of the sun-beaten tenant houses women sighed and shifted feet so that the one that
had been down was now on top, and the toes working. Dogs came sniffing near the owner cars
and wetted all four tyres one after another. And chickens lay in the sunny dust and fluffed their
feathers to get the cleansing dust down to the skin. In the little sties the pigs grunted inquiringly
over the muddy remnants of the slops.
The squatting men looked down again. What do you want us to do? We can't take less share of
the crop - we're half-starved now. The kids are hungry all the time. We got no clothes, torn an'
ragged. If all the neighbors weren't the same, we'd be ashamed to go to meeting.
And at last the owner men came to the point. The tenant system won't work any more. One man on a tractor
can take the place of twelve or fourteen families. Pay him a wage and take all the crop. We have to do it.
We don't like to do it. But the monster's sick. Something's happened to the monster.
But you'll kill the land with the cotton.
We know. We've got to take cotton quick before the land dies. Then we'll sell the land. Lots of families in
the East would like to own a piece of land.
The tenant men looked alarmed. But what'll happen to us? How'll we eat?
You'll have to get off the land. ... 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.
Sure, cried the tenant men, but it's our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it,
and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it's no good, it's still ours. That's what makes it ours -
being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not paper with numbers on it.
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' the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it. The tenants cried:
Gramdpa killed Indians, Pa killed snakes for the land. Maybe we can kill banks - they're worse
than Indians and snakes. Maybe we got to fight to keep our land, like Pa and Grampa did.
And now the owner men grew angry. You'' have to go.
But it's ours, the tenant men cried. We ---
No, the bank, the monster owns it. You'll have to go.
We'll get our guns, like Grampa when the Indians came. What then ?
Well - first the sheriff, and then the troops. You'll be stealing if you try to stay, you'll be murderers if
you kill to stay. The monster isn't men, but it can make men do what it wants. But if we go, where'll
we go ? How'll we go ? We got no money.
We're sorry, said the owner men. The bank, the fifty-thousand-acre owner can't be responsible.
You're on land that isn't yours ... Why don't you go on west to California ? ... And the owner men
started their cars and rolled away.
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Penguin 1961 (1939), pp. 30-33
1. Describe the situation of the tenants, emphasizing the main problems.
2. Analyse the way the story is told and the way the language is used; relate your analysis
to the historical background and refer to the structure of the text.
3. Comment on this text on the basis of your background knowledge concerning the American
Discuss the concept of the monster.
Einheitliche Prüfungsanforderungen in der Abiturprüfung Englisch
(Beschluss der Kultusministerkonferenz vom 01.12.1989 i.d.F. vom 24.05.2002)