Chapters 26 – 30
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
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
The Joad's are fortunate that they make enough money to keep the
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
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'.