"The Grapes of Wrath," Vocabulary from Chapters 20-24

Desperation and poverty drive the Joad family from the home they have always known in "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. Seeking new jobs in California, the book follows the family as they journey not just physically, but emotionally, to what they hope is a new beginning. Learn this word list that focuses on camp.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1-8, Chapters 9-15, Chapters 16-19, Chapters 20-24, Chapters 25-30

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. slovenly
    negligent of neatness especially in dress and person
    A Model T Ford sedan and a two-wheel trailer were parked beside the shack, and about the camp there hung a slovenly despair.
  2. sturdy
    substantially made or constructed
    The camp was neat and sturdy. A Model A roadster and a little home-made bed trailer stood beside the tent.
  3. habitation
    housing that someone is living in
    There were forty tents and shacks, and beside each habitation some kind of automobile.
  4. vagrant
    a wanderer with no established residence or means of support
    “They’ll pick you right off. You got no name, no property. They’ll find you in a ditch, with the blood dried on your mouth an’ your nose. Be one little line in the paper—know what it’ll say? ‘ Vagrant foun’ dead.’ An’ that’s all. You’ll see a lot of them little lines, ‘ Vagrant foun’ dead.’ ”
  5. comport
    behave in a certain manner
    Ruthie and Winfield stood inside the circle, comporting themselves with proper frigidity and dignity.
  6. prominent
    having a quality that thrusts itself into attention
    Between his guards Casy sat proudly, his head up and the stringy muscles of his neck prominent.
    "Prominent" also means "conspicuous in position or importance"--compare this definition and example sentence to "eminent" (both come from the Latin word "minari" which means "to project"). Here, "prominent" refers to Casy's neck muscles; between two guards, he's more eminent here than when he sat between Pa and Uncle John, because he'd stuck out his neck to save Tom and the family.
  7. abasement
    a low or downcast state
    In front of the screen door he took off his hat, dropped it into the dust, and ground it with his heel in self- abasement.
  8. servile
    submissive or fawning in attitude or behavior
    Tom said, “Well—” and then his voice took on a servile whine.
  9. rove
    move about aimlessly or without any destination
    Those families which had lived on a little piece of land, who had lived and died on forty acres, had eaten or starved on the produce of forty acres, had now the whole West to rove in.
  10. hostility
    a state of deep-seated ill-will
    And the hostility changed them, welded them, united them— hostility that made the little towns group and arm as though to repel an invader, squads with pick handles, clerks and storekeepers with shotguns, guarding the world against their own people.
  11. ravenous
    extremely hungry
    And the roads were crowded with men ravenous for work, murderous for work.
  12. destitute
    poor enough to need help from others
    “You ain’t destitute?”
  13. deft
    skillful in physical movements; especially of the hands
    And the girl moved about, poking the fire, shifting the rusty stove lids to make a better draft, opening the oven door; and all the time the baby sucked, and the mother shifted it deftly from arm to arm.
  14. agitation
    disturbance usually in protest
    Last night a band of citizens, infuriated at the agitation going on in a local squatters’ camp, burned the tents to the ground and warned agitators to get out of the county.
    "Agitation" also means "a mental state of extreme emotional disturbance" (which could describe how the migrants feel about the lack of work and food) and "a state of turbulent change or development" (which is what the agitators want to happen), but in the eyes of the citizens, the agitation going on in the camp is so disturbing that they feel justified in burning down the tents.
  15. gleaming
    bright with a steady but subdued shining
    The porcelain was gleaming white.
  16. contrite
    feeling or expressing pain or sorrow for sins or offenses
    He looked up at Ruthie and his eyes filled with tears. His chin quivered. And Ruthie was instantly contrite.
  17. treacherously
    in a disloyal and faithless manner
    “Me an’ Winfiel’,” she said; and then, treacherously, “Winfiel’, he bust a toilet.”
    This treacherous tattling emphasizes the conflicted relationship between the youngest Joad siblings. It also foreshadows a later scene: here, Ruthie is intentionally acting like a traitor, yet the consequence is Ma's laughter; later, she unintentionally betrays the family's trust in her, and the consequence is that Ma has to let Tom go (which actually helps Tom and the union movement).
  18. scandalous
    giving offense to moral sensibilities
    “They’s scandalous things goes on in this here camp,” she said darkly.
  19. rampage
    act violently, recklessly, or destructively
    I says, ‘I knowed the devil was rampagin’ in this here camp. Now I know who the devil is. Git back, Satan,’ I says.
  20. stout
    having rugged physical strength
    There could be no doubt that it was the committee; three ladies, washed, dressed in their best clothes: a lean woman with stringy hair and steel-rimmed glasses, a small stout lady with curly gray hair and a small sweet mouth, and a mammoth lady, big of hock and buttock, big of breast, muscled like a dray-horse, powerful and sure.
    "Stout" also means "fat" (although this adjective is paired with "small" the same woman is later described as "plump"). Another definition of "stout" is "dependable"--this doesn't fit the physical descriptions, but it describes an expectation for the women serving on the Ladies' Committee at the government camp.
  21. fluster
    cause to be nervous or upset
    Ma flustered, “We ain’t in very good shape yet. I’d be proud to have you ladies come an’ set while I make up some coffee.”
  22. unanimous
    in complete agreement
    Jessie smiled with pride. “ ’Lected unanimous,” she said. “Well, Mis’ Joad, I guess it’s time we tol’ you ’bout how the camp runs.”
  23. reverential
    feeling or manifesting veneration
    Jessie’s voice became almost reverential. “You ever used this here kind?” she asked, and pointed to the toilets.
    "Veneration" means "a feeling of profound respect for someone or something"--especially compared to Al's veneration of Tom for killing a man, Jesse's almost reverential tone for a flushing toilet is comical. Both characters' attitudes reveal their lack of experience and wealth.
  24. gawk
    look with amazement
    They strolled down the line of tents, peering into each one, gawking self-consciously.
  25. defiantly
    in a rebellious manner
    Winfield had joined the watching children, and he too looked at her with expressionless eyes. Defiantly she hit the ball again.
  26. requisition
    demand and take for use or service
    Every bit of electric wire had been requisitioned.
  27. contemptuous
    expressing extreme scorn
    In front of their tents the Jesus-lovers sat and watched, their faces hard and contemptuous.
  28. nonchalantly
    in a composed and unconcerned manner
    And he said nonchalantly, “I can waltz.”
  29. frenzy
    state of violent mental agitation
    The caller, in a frenzy, tapped his feet, strutted back and forth, went through the figures as he called them.
  30. bristle
    a stiff hair
    Black Hat raised his head, and his bristled chin showed in the light, and his stringy neck where the whiskers lay flat like fur. “Yeah!” he said bitterly. “You’ll do that. An’ I’m a two-bit man. You’ll take my job for twenty cents. An’ then I’ll git hungry an’ I’ll take my job back for fifteen. Yeah! You go right on an’ do her.”
    "Bristle" also means "react in an offended or angry manner" and "rise up as in fear"--the example sentence uses the word as an adjective to physically describe Black Hat's chin, but the verb definitions could describe how Black Hat is reacting to Pa's declaration that he can't feed his family with no money, so he plans to take the job for 20 cents an hour.

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