Grapes Of Wrath By SteinbeckAs Tom Joad hitchhiked his way home after a four-year stay in prison for killinga man in a fight, he met up with Jim Casy, a former preacher who was returningfrom a sojourn in the “wilderness,” where he had been soul-searching. Tom invited Jim to walk with him on the dusty road to the Joad family farm, andto stay for dinner. Arriving there, he saw that “the small unpainted housewas mashed at one corner, and it had been pushed off its foundations so that itslumped at an angle. ” The farm was deserted. Muley Graves, a near-by tenantfarmer, told Tom that his family had moved to their Uncle john’s house: “.Order now
. . They was going to stick it out when the bank come to tractorin’ off theplace. ” A long drought was making barren ground out of what had once beenfertile farmland.
Early the following morning Tom and Casy walked the eightmiles to Uncle John’s farm. As they approached, Tom saw his Pa working on atruck in the yard. Pa’s “eyes looked at Tom’s face, and then gradually hisbrain became aware of what he saw. ” With Tom’s homecoming, the Joad familyunit was complete.
Now Ma and Pa, the pregnant oldest daughter Rose of Sharon,and her husband Connie, Grampa, Gramma, and all the rest started packing: theywere all “goin’ to California” to start over as fruit pickers. Likethousands of other displaced tenant farmers, the Joads, spurred on by thepromise of good wages and sunshine, sold what they could, bought a used car andheaded out on Highway 66, “a people in flight, refugees from dust andshrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership. “After the supplies and tools were loaded into the old Hudson, which teen-aged Alload had converted into a truck, the Joad family and Casy (twelve people in all)squeezed into what little space was left and started west. During the firstovernight stop, Gramma suddenly was hit by a stroke and died. They buried him onthe roadside. Soon the loads met up with the Wilsons, a married couple with abroken-down car.
After Al had fixed the vehicle, Ma and Pa joad invited theWilsons to travel with them. “You won’t be no burden. Each’Il help each,an’ we’ll all git to California,” Ma said. The two groups “crawledwestward as a unit”, suffering along the way from too little money, notenough food, dilapidated vehicles, profiteering junk dealers and overpricedreplacement parts. Eastward-bound migrants warned the travelers that workingconditions in California were bad; but they still pressed on toward the”promised land. ” Crossing the border into California, the familycamped next to a river that ran parallel to the town of Needles.
They’d waituntil nightfall to cross the desert. As Tom, Noah and Pa sat down in the shallowriver water to wash off the road grime, they were joined by an itinerant fatherand his son who aprised them of the treatment they could expect in California:”Okie use’ta mean you was from Oklahoma. Now it means you’re a dirty sonof-a-bitch. Okie means you’re scum. ” Later that day, Tom’s aloof and backward brotherNoah notified him that he was staying to live by the river, and then wanderedaway. That evening, after saying good-bye to the Wilsons, the Joads began thelast leg of their journey.
Early during the desert crossing, Gramma quietlydied, but Ma waited until they reached Bakersfield before she told anyone. Afteranother roadside burial, the family drove on into a “Hooverville” -one of many designated migrant camps opened during the Depression. Like otherHoovervilles, it was a haotic community; “little gray tents, shacks, and ccars were scattered about at random. ” But the Joads elected to stay. Ontheir first evening in the camp, two men in a shiny sedan drove up, a laborcontractor and a local sheriff. The contractor had come out to offer jobs to themigrants, but when he declined to reveal the actual wage he was prepared to pay,a fight ensued.
Tom and Casy got in the middle of things and managed to knockthe sheriff out cold. since Tom was on parole and couldn’t afford any moretrouble, Casy ordered him to hide while he stayed behind to give himself up inTom’s place. That night, before the family drove away, 1″ose of Sharon’shusband sneaked off, abandoning his wife and soon-to-be-born child. From theHooverville, sounds of shouts and screams could be heard as the clattering oldHudson crept away in the night.
The loads headed south toward Weedpatch, wherethey had heard a government camp was located. Once there, they were immediatelystruck by how different this camp was from the Hooverville. Clean showers withhot water greeted them; indoor toilets, and the best Saturday night dances inthe county. The camp’s inhabitants had the right to make their own rules andelect their own leaders.
Unfortunately, though, there was no work in any of thesurrounding areas. The children began having dizzy spells from hunger, and withRose of Sharon near to giving birth, they had to make a decision: they left thecamp on their last tank of gas. As the worn-out vehicle beaded north, the loadsmet a man who pointed them to possible work on the Hooper ranch near Pixley. When they finally reached the ranch, however, they found themselves in themiddle of a heated dispute. A row of policemen held back picketing strikers, whoshouted and cursed at the “scab” peach pickers crossing their lines. But the Joads didn’t care they were hungry.
Everyone except Ma and Rose ofSharon, who stayed behind to clean their filthy new home, straightway went towork. Before nightfall, the men and children had earned one dollar among them,and Ma took their note of credit to the company store, where she was able to buya little hamburger, bread, potatoes and coffee’ After eating his scanty dinner,Tom ambled down through the brush along the highway to investigate what all thecommotion was about. He came upon a tent. To his surprise, he discovered thatCasy the preacher was one of the main agitators.
Casy gave Tom the lowdown:”We come to work there. They says it’s gonna be fi’ cents . . . .
We got therean’they says they’re payin’two an’a half cents . . . . Now they’re payin’you five.
When they bust this here strike – ya think they’ll pay you five?” Tom wasabout to return to the ranch when suddenly he beard “guys comin’ from ever’which way. ” Everyone scattered for cover, but Tom and Casy were interceptedby two deputies. “You fel]as don’know what you’re doin’,” protestedCasy. “You’re helpin’to starve kids. ” The nearest deputy snatched up apick handle and cracked Casy’s skull, killing him. in a fit of passion, Tomwrenched the club free and clubbed the deputy to the ground.
As he bolted fromthe confusion, he received a deep gash on his face but managed to make it backto the ranch, where he hid out. As the family worked on, the strike was broken,and just as Casy had predicted, the pay for peaches dropped to two-and-a-halfcents a box. Soon, all the peaches were picked, and once again the loads setout. Luckily, they happened on some work picking cotton.
While they camped withother migrants in abandoned boxcars along a stream, Tom, still hunted by thelaw, stayed a few miles down the road in a clump of trees. At last the joadswere making enough money to eat properly. Then the littlest girl, Ruthie, made amistake: during a fight with another girl, she threatened to get her bigbrother, who had “already kil’t two fellas. .
. ” That evening, Matook Tom his dinner, told him about Ruthie’s words, slipped him seven dollarsthat she had saved, and urged him to leave – for his own and the family’s sake. Tom hugged Ma and promised he would carry on Casy’s work of improving theworker’s plight.