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The Grapes of Wrath


The Author
Chapters 1-4
Chapters 5-9
Chapters 10-15
Chapters 21-25
Chapters 26-30



Chapters 26 – 30


Food is starting to run low and there is very little work to be had. Ma decides that their best option is to move on again.

They find a peach orchard that needs harvesting so they go to work there. At night, Tom sneaks out of the orchard and finds Casy who is with some other people on strike to raise wages. Some people come by to break up the strike calling the strikers reds (people who want higher pay). One person hits Casy alongside the head crushing his skull and killing him. Tom gets furious and kills the person that killed Casy but in the struggle, he too gets hit and is bruised and bleeding. Eventually he evades his pursuers and makes it back to the camp. The Joad's decide that it's too dangerous for Tom since he killed another person, so they decide to leave the orchard and find another place to work while Tom is in hiding until his face heals.

They hear of some work picking cotton nearby, so they leave the camp and Tom hides in a cave close to the cotton plantation.

In order to do the work in the cotton field, cotton sacks are required and workers that do not have these have to buy them from the landowner on credit. Many of the workers are unable to do enough work to pay for their sacks. Also, the workers suspect that the weighing machines are rigged.

The Joad's are fortunate that they make enough money to keep the family fed.

They and the Wainwrights live in a boxcar near the cotton fields. Ma Joad is able to buy some crackerjacks for Ruthie and Winfield, but a big girl bullies Ruthie to get some and Ruthie responds by boasting that her brother has killed two men and is now hiding. Ma goes to warn Tom that the secret is out and with great sorrow urges him to leave.

Tom has been pondering about what Jim Casy told him before he died - that every man's soul is part of the greater soul. Tom sees his vocation is to unify his soul with the greater soul by working to organize people in a fight against oppression.

Ma warns Tom that Casy died for his efforts and Tom promises that he will watch out for himself.

Ma meets a man who owns a small farm and finds out that he needs pickers for his 20 acres the next day. However, so many people hear about this that the work is done in ' a day and they all receive a small amount - hardly enough to buy a meal.

Al tells his family that he wants to marry Agnes Wainwright, the daughter of the family that shares the boxcar, and there is a celebration of the two families.

The weather changes for the worse and the rain pours down. Rivers overflow and the boxcar is in danger of being engulfed. The men make a dam to try and divert the water, but when a tree falls into the dam, water pours into the boxcar.

Rose of Sharon starts her labor, but she gives birth to a stillborn child, shriveled and blue.

Uncle John goes out to bury the baby. He places it in a box and the stream washes it away.

The rains continue and Pa spends the remainder of their money on food. It is clear that the floodwater will overtake the boxcar so Ma decides that they must leave.

Al decides to go with the Wainwrights.

The Joad's find a barn that is at least dry, but inside is a man lying on his back, sick and dying. A small boy, his son, is watching over him saying that he has no eaten is six days, and when he did find some bread he vomited it out - he needs soup or milk.

Ma tells the boy not to worry and Rose of Sharon realizing what her mother's intentions are lies down beside the starving man and breast-feeds him.



We see the final phase of Tom's moral development brought about by the death of Jim Casy. Before his death Jim had given details of his life in jail that had strengthened him in his resolve to represent the oppressed migrant workers. It is probably at this time that Tom decided that he would continue the work that Jim had begun.

We see Pa's final decline and Ma's assumption of the leadership role within the Joad family. Pa has lost his human dignity because he is unable to obtain work in the new land. All that he knows is back in Oklahoma, but that has been blown away by the wind.

Throughout the novel, Ma has been the driving force forcing the others in the family to confront their situation, and it is she that decides when to stay and when to move on.

When they obtain work picking cotton their spirits are lifted and compared to what they have been through previously, times are good, and at least they are able to put some meat on the table.

They suspect that more misfortunes are around the corner, so they make the most of these good times. It is necessary for the family to hide Tom when he has plenty time to consider the recent events. He, therefore, reflects on the words of Jim Casy and experiences a rebirth when he decides to carry on Jim's work. The concept that all people share the one soul and cannot exist in solitude, but require human love for survival makes Tom convinced that this is the path he must take. With this understanding he realizes that he has a responsibility to help all those in need.

You will recall that Tom refused to share the cave with Muley at the start of the novel, preferring to sleep in the open. Now he is confined in a cave, which Steinbeck uses as a symbolic womb from which Tom emerges spiritually reborn, leaving the Joad family in order to embrace the greater family of man.

At the start of the book, the landscape was gripped by drought where the wind had blown away the crops and topsoil. Now the Joad's are faced with floods and rising water preventing them from working in the cotton fields. Steinbeck uses the continuing theme that people's lives are ruled by forces that they cannot control, but despite these seemingly unstoppable forces, life will find a way. In Chapter 3 the turtle managed to cross the road despite the forces trying to stop it, and finally Rose of Sharon is able to provide the gift of life-saving milk to the starving man. In giving this chance of life to a stranger she experiences a spiritual sensation beyond herself, which unifies her not only with this man, but also with the whole of humanity.

We can sum up Steinbeck's main theme by the words that Ma said 'It used to be the family that was first. It isn't so now. It's everybody. The worse off that we get, the more we got to do'.



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