Chapters 5 – 9
The repossession of the farms by the banks is normally a standard procedure.
Despite the farmers pleas that they have no place to go, or that the crops will be better next year, once the machine is in motion there is no stopping it, no reprieve. They are given Notice to Quit and on the appointed day, a giant tractor is sent to plough a line across the land often right through the farmhouse. A neighbor usually drives the tractor for a few dollars. The farmers are livid. They want to take revenge on anybody, but the banks are impersonal and they cannot find anyone to blame.
Tom notices that his farmhouse is strangely untouched although part has been
crushed, but there has been no looting which indicates that the surrounding farms must be deserted as well.
They meet Muley Graves who is rummaging about the farm looking for
food. He tells him that the Joad’s have all moved in with Tom’s Uncle John and they are currently picking cotton in order to earn enough money to buy a car so that they can to California.
Apparently a large Company has bought all the land in the area forcing the
tenant farmers out. Muley explains that his own family has already been forced off the land and he has decided to fend for himself and shares a rabbit with Tom and Casy.
The headlights of a police car approach and despite Tom’s reluctance about
trespassing on his own farm he is persuaded to move away to Muley’s cave where they sleep for the night. Tom sleeps in the open air rather than in the confined space of the cave.
Throughout the area farmers are trying to purchase cars from used car
salesmen so that they can migrate to California. They charge exorbitant prices for clapped-out cars imposing high rates of interest for those that can’t purchase them straight away.
Tom reaches his uncle's house, he sees Pa Joad working on their
‘new car’, Ma Joad in the kitchen, his grandparents, his slow-moving
brother Noah, and his younger brother Al. He learns that his
two youngest sisters, Ruthie and Winfield are in town with Uncle
John and that Rose of Sharon; another sister is married to Connie
and is expecting a child.
His parents worry that he has broken out of jail, but he explains that he
has been paroled. They tell him that they are about to leave for California. Ma Joad is worried that Tom has turned out cruel and insane due to his stay in prison, but he assures them that he is fine.
The tenant farmers prepare for the journey to California initiated by the
spread of handbills by California landowners promising work in the West.
In order to make the trip, the farmers are forced to pawn all their
belongings for a mere handful of change, but everything must be sold before the family can leave for California.
These chapters give more depth to the hopeless position that the farmers
find themselves in. Forced to migrate to California because the life they have known has been blown away with the crops and dust, their homes leveled and the land repossessed by the new owners via the bank.
A pack of vultures pick over the corpse that are the farmers of the Dustbowl, selling them clapped-out cars from used car lots for all of their money and giving them small change for their valued possessions.
The farmers are at the mercy of a vindictive world and they have no allies,
no choices and no hope.
Steinbeck goes into great detail concerning our hero Tom, now reunited with
his large, eccentric, jinxed but loveable family who are the main characters of the book. So that the reader can immediately relate and sympathize with the numerous players they all have specific
Grampa’s mischievousness, Granma’s devoutness, Ma Joad’s inner strength and
love, and Al’s boyishness and hero-worship of his older brother Tom.
The characters may be standard and found in many different walks of life,
but these live in a confusing, harsh world and Steinbeck does nothing to shield the reader from that fact.