33 pages 1 hour read

John Steinbeck

The Harvest Gypsies: On the Road to the Grapes of Wrath

Nonfiction | Essay Collection | Adult | Published in 1936

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Article 5Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Article 5 Summary

In this article, Steinbeck depicted the lack of adequate medical care and how it aggravated the migrants’ existing illnesses and malnutrition. Migrant workers were ineligible for subsidized medical care or unemployment welfare because these benefits were reserved for residents of a specific state county; because migrants traveled all over the nation in search of work, they were unable to establish residence and secure aid. Therefore, when a family member fell ill, the doctors’ bills would often deplete the family’s small reserve of savings.


Steinbeck told of one family, whose medical bills—a child in the family acquired the measles—along with car repairs, food, and other basic necessities left them with no money left over for any emergency funds. The father sprained his ankle, and his 15-year-old son became the sole provider for the family. The father applied for aid but was denied because he was not officially a resident of the county. The 15-year-old had stomach pain and was taken to the hospital, but the doctors dismissed the child’s concerns. The boy later died of a burst appendix. The father sold his car to pay for food and tried to work in the fields, but he was unable to make enough money due to his weak ankle.