"The Grapes of Wrath," Vocabulary from Chapters 25-30

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 wrath and woe.

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. ferment
    a process in which an organic substance is broken down
    The yellow-jackets dig into the soft meat, and there is a smell of ferment and rot.
    The example sentence describes pears that are left to rot because small farms can't afford to pick, pack, and ship the fruit to canneries; it also emphasizes that this situation will ferment the starving farmers into "a state of agitation or turbulent change or development."
  2. sorrow
    sadness associated with some wrong done or disappointment
    And the failure hangs over the State like a great sorrow.
  3. denunciation
    a public act of denouncing
    There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation.
    "Denounce" comes from the Latin "nuntiare" which means "to announce or report" and "nuntius" which means "messenger" but neither the roots nor the definitions "to accuse or condemn openly as disgraceful" and "to speak out against" is enough to address the crime of burning and wasting food that children could eat to avoid starving to death.
  4. putrefy
    decay with an offensive smell
    And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath.
  5. wrath
    belligerence aroused by a real or supposed wrong
    In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.
  6. tread
    crush as if by stepping on
    Tom laughed. “You jus’ a-treadin’ him on?”
    When Tom asks Ma whether she is deliberately making Pa angry, she reveals, "Take a man, he can get worried an’ worried, an’ it eats out his liver, an’ purty soon he’ll jus’ lay down and die with his heart et out. But if you can take an’ make ’im mad, why, he’ll be awright."
  7. outraged
    angered at something unjust or wrong
    “That kid says we was Okies,” he said in an outraged voice. “He says he wasn’t no Okie ’cause he come from Oregon. Says we was goddamn Okies. I socked him.”
  8. pall
    a sudden numbing dread
    The pall had fallen on Ruthie and Winfield. They did not dash away to inspect the place. They stayed close to the truck, close to the family.
    As a verb, "pall" can mean "become less interesting or attractive"--after life in a clean and cooperative government camp, moving to a dusty place palls for Ruthie and Winfield. The use of the noun "pall" could foreshadow misfortune, not only because of its connection to "numbing dread" but also to a "burial garment in which a corpse is wrapped."
  9. furious
    marked by extreme anger
    Tom saw a line of men standing in the ditch beside the road, saw their mouths open as though they were yelling, saw their shaking fists and their furious faces.
  10. belligerently
    in the manner of someone eager to fight
    “A fella got to eat,” he began; and then, belligerently, “A fella got a right to eat.”
  11. prostrate
    stretched out and lying at full length along the ground
    Tom stood over the prostrate man. And then a club reached his head, a glancing blow.
  12. bleakly
    without hope
    “They killed ’im. Busted his head. I was standin’ there. I went nuts. Grabbed the pick handle.” He looked bleakly back at the night, the darkness, the flashlights, as he spoke.
  13. resentment
    a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will
    Her eyes were blazing with resentment.
  14. tragedy
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
    Ruthie came near, in her hands two large boxes of Cracker Jack, in her eyes a brooding question, which on a nod or a shake of Ma’s head might become tragedy or joyous excitement.
  15. effluvium
    a foul-smelling outflow or vapor
    A skunk padded heavily and unself-consciously down the trail, carrying a faint effluvium with him.
  16. stern
    severe and unremitting in making demands
    “Tom,” she said sternly. “You take this money. You hear me? You got no right to cause me pain.”
  17. woe
    misery resulting from affliction
    ‘Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lif’ up his fellow, but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up.’
  18. disconsolate
    sad beyond comforting; incapable of being consoled
    The pickers clustered disconsolately back to the barnyard and stood in line to be paid off.
  19. lusterless
    lacking brilliance or vitality
    The girl’s eyes were lusterless again.
  20. sodden
    wet through and through; thoroughly wet
    Then from the tents, from the crowded barns, groups of sodden men went out, their clothes slopping rags, their shoes muddy pulp.
  21. smolder
    burn slowly and without a flame
    They splashed out through the water, to the towns, to the country stores, to the relief offices, to beg for food, to cringe and beg for food, to beg for relief, to try to steal, to lie. And under the begging, and under the cringing, a hopeless anger began to smolder.
  22. eddy
    flow in a circular current, of liquids
    The stream eddied and boiled against the bank.
    An eddy is "a miniature whirlpool"--this definition and the verb "boiled" make the movement of the stream sound more violent, which is more evident in the following description: "the streams thundered under the churning freshets." While the rain and streams actually create conflicts, they also represent the overall sorrowful and turbulent nature of the characters' current lives (similar to the dust and heat at the beginning of the novel).
  23. flounder
    walk with great difficulty
    They floundered in the mud and dug their wheels down until finally the drivers cut off the motors and sat still, looking into the headlight beams.
  24. fetid
    offensively malodorous
    The air was fetid and close with the smell of the birth.
  25. shriveled
    lean and wrinkled by shrinkage as from age or illness
    On a newspaper lay a blue shriveled little mummy.
  26. plead
    appeal or request earnestly
    “Did we slip up?” he pleaded. “Is they anything we could of did?”
  27. fretful
    nervous and unable to relax
    The family huddled on the platforms, silent and fretful.
  28. squall
    sudden violent winds, often accompanied by precipitation
    The rain had become intermittent now—little wet squalls and quiet times.
  29. savagely
    in a vicious manner
    “We’re a-gettin’ outa here,” she said savagely, “gettin’ to higher groun’.
  30. gaunt
    very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
    He was about fifty, his whiskery face gaunt, and his open eyes were vague and staring.

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