First Signs of Humanity

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"Al said snarlingly, 'Goddamn it, Mae.  Give 'em the loaf.'" (Steinbeck 218)

It seemed almost like the point of this chapter and this event were to let the reader know that even amid all of the people taking advantage of the Okies, there were still some decent people who tried to help others.  The first half of this book constantly paints this picture of inhumanity towards others, but this event renews the reader's sense of hope.  One thing that I found very interesting about this passage was how the kindness of one person seemed to cause another person to perform a kind action.  Al told Mae to give the man the loaf of bread for only a dime.  Then Mae sold the two little boys two pieces of nickel candy for only a penny.  After that Big Bill left Mae a big tip which caused the other driver to also leave her a large tip.  This series of kind actions reminded me of a commercial.  Sadly I do not remember what the commercial was for, but in the commercial one person did something kind for another person, as little as holding a door.  Later the person who had been helped would see someone else in need and help them.  The series continued.  Like the commercial, I think with this section Steinbeck is showing that just one kind action can make other people do some kindness to the people they encounter. 

There was one thing about this seciton that confused me a little.  Mae tells Big Bill he has change and he responds, "You go to hell!" (Steinbeck 219).  I wonder if he says that because after watching her treat the traveler and his sons with kindness he now feels guilty and like he was obligated to do something nice for her.  It seems almost like Steinbeck is saying that yes there is still people who treat others with kindness, but sometimes people treat others kindly because they feel forced rather than just wanting to be nice to another person.  I was wondering if anyone else had any thoughts on why he might have said this.

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Nikita McClellan said:

You bring up quite an interesting point. This same section had me thinking a lot also. I couldn't figure out why Big Bill reacted that way either. I think that you bring one good reason as to why. I never thought of it that way.
I thought maybe it was possibly his way of saying "Look lady you just shorted yourself out of a bit of money but now that you have a big tip its all covered for and plus some." But since he has has a kind of tough outer exterior that her portrays, he felt the need to not come off sentimental.

Jennifer Prex said:

It is possible. I had never thought about that before. In addition to his possibly feeling forced to do so, it seemed earlier in that scene that neither he nor Mae were overly fond of the people on the road like the family that came in--that she charitably gave discounts to, however reluctantly she did so in the beginning. It could be that the exchange caused a change in his attitude as it seemed to do for Mae as well, but that he was reluctant to change himself and upset that the change was caused.

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