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In Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 11, where he describes the man who understands and loves the land he is cultivating, there is a sentence:

The man who is more than his chemistry, walking on the earth, turning his point for a stone, dropping his hands to slide over an outcropping, kneeling in the earth to eat his lunch; that man who is more than his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis.

What does the "bold" part of the sentence mean? As a city dweller, I totally lack the cultural background of the early 20th century farming. Does the "point" refer to some tapered part of an agricultural instrument? Does the man just draw his attention to a stone that, if unnoticed, may get in the way of a plough or something?

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The correct quote is "turning his plow point for a stone". Steinbeck is describing a man operating a horse-drawn plow ('plough' in British English). He is walking on the land, and watching where the plow blade is going. If he sees a big stone in the soil, that would damage the point of the blade, he turns the blade slightly so that it misses the stone. Steinbeck contrasts this 'natural' man with the 'machine' man who drives a tractor and is not so close to the soil.

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The man who is more than his chemistry... (Quotable Quotes)

  • So that is why I couldn't google the exact phrase! My quotation is from a Soviet edition of The Grapes of Wrath (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1978). I wonder, why did the editors or typesetters remove "plow" and turn "handles" into "hands"? I've just checked the text of the whole 11th chapter (it's quite small) against the other edition, and the only wrong sentence was the one in question. Was it some kind of a typographic error? Are there other sentences like this one, or did I occasionally stumble upon the only incorrect phrase in the whole book? – voffch Oct 20 '19 at 19:15
  • I suspect that the method of production in 1978 involved manual re-typing without the aid of computers, and that the people doing it may have had less than perfect English. Errors in modern era unofficial transcriptions are not rare. – Michael Harvey Oct 20 '19 at 19:40

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