Pastures of Heaven - Short Answer Questions

  1. What impact do you think the opening tale about the Spanish corporal is intended to have on readers' perception of the rest of the stories in the text?

  2. Why does Bert Munroe think the rural country is a good place for him to start his life over again?

  3. Explain the generation gap between Bert Munroe and his family.  Why do his children choose not to stay in the valley?

  4. Why is Shark Wicks obsessed with his daughter's purity?  What does her purity seem to symbolize for him?

  5. Why do you think Steinbeck repeatedly emphasizes Alice's dullness and stupidity?

  6. Do you pity Shark Wicks' or do you think he got his just deserts at the end of his story?

  7. Why do you suppose Franklin Gomez chooses to adopt and shelter Tularecito?  Why does he send him to school against his own better judgment?

  8. What role does Miss Morgan play in Tularecito's institutionalization?  Is she at fault, or do you think his institutionalization was inevitable?

  9. One could argue that Helen Van Deventer is as mentally unstable as her daughter Hilda.  What evidence do you find in the text to support that position?

  10. How does Steinbeck characterize poverty as a desirable state of being in Junius Maltby's story? 

  11. Why can't the townspeople recognize any value in how the Maltby's live?

  12. Do you think Junius Maltby will be able to find success in the city?  Why or why not?

  13. Describe Steinbeck's attitude toward prostitution in the story of Rosa and Maria Lopez.

  14. Explain how Molly Morgan's unresolved relationship with her father continues to impact her life.

  15. Why do you suppose Molly Morgan chooses to abandon her seemingly satisfying life in the Pastures of Heaven rather than discovering whether or not Bert Munroe's drunken farmhand is actually her father?

  16. How does Raymond Banks' farm symbolize his life?

  17. How does Steinbeck reconcile Raymond's calculated killing of livestock with his love and kindness towards children?

  18. Ultimately, why can't Bert Munroe attend the execution with Raymond?

  19. How does Bert Munroe's refusal to attend the execution cause Raymond to question his own values?

  20. How does Pat Humbert manage to avoid his parents' sitting room for so long?

  21. Does Pat Humbert actually take in pleasure in socializing and human companionship?

  22. Why does Pat wait so long to invite Mae Munroe over to see the remodeled parlor?

  23. Why is family lineage so important to Richard Whiteside?

  24. How does the Whiteside home symbolize Richard's dream?

  25. Do you think Richard Whiteside is ultimately glad his home burned to the ground?  Why or why not?

  26. Explain the great irony of the Epilogue.