The Struggle in The Grapes of Wrath


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The Struggle in The Grapes of Wrath

 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is a story about life in the great depression.  Steinbeck tells the story through the Joad family and how they struggle to survive.  Also he has short chapters about the background and what was going on outside of the Joads.

 

            In the beginning of the book Tom, the second eldest son, is hitch hiking back home from McAlester, the prison.  He was just paroled from a murder sentence after spending about four years in jail.  When he gets off of the truck he runs into the preacher, Casy.  The only thing different is that Casy is no longer a preacher and has not been around for a long time either.  He left because of conflicts he had with his belief in God.  After they sit and talk for quite a while they decide to walk to the Joads house together.  Although Tom's parents have no idea that he has been paroled.  But as they reach the house the two of them notice that it is unusually banged up and empty.  When they step inside, the house is vacant except for a couple of things that were left behind.  Some of them were important to the family. 

 

            Then they see a person coming towards them.  It turns out to be Muley Graves, an old friend.  The three of them start to talk for a long time about what is going on in the area.  The banks and land companies had driven many of the farmers, including the Joads and Muleys family, of the land, and that tractors now plowed the earth instead of men.  Then Muley tells Tom that his family is staying with his Uncle John.  The next morning Tom and the preacher set out to Uncle John's house.  When they get there Tom surprises his dad and whole family with his sudden arrival.  Soon after Tom learns that the entire family is going to go west, to California.  After little debate they decide to go the next day and bring Tom and the preacher.  Also coming were grandpa and grandma, pa and ma, Toms older brother Noah, Toms younger siblings Al, Rose of Sharon (who is pregnant) and her husband Connie, Ruthie and Windfield, as well as Uncle Tom.

 

            Early the next morning they started for California, their spirits extremely high.

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  But soon after they left Oklahoma things started to turn for the worse.  The first night they pulled along side the road to spend the night.  There was another car there already.  But soon that night grandpa had a stroke and passed away.  So they and the other couple buried him since they did not have enough money to burry him right.  Then the two families decided to continue on their way toward California together.  The next day they continued on.  Their journey continued on smoothly until one day a part of the car and a bearing went out.  Tom and Casy stayed with the car and every body else went on in the Joad truck until they saw a good spot to stop.  Al then drove back in the truck.  Then Tom and Al drove back a few miles to a town to get the part.  They ran into a nice man with one eye.  The man hated his boss, who had left for the day, and gave them the two parts and some copper wire for a great price.  He also gave them a flashlight and a wrench too.  As soon as they got back the two of them and Casy put in the parts and drove up to where the families were camped.  The next morning they headed west again fully aware of their good fortune.  After that things did not go quite as well.  Grandma started to get sick, even more than her depression over grandpa's death. 

 

Their money situation was starting to get grim as well.  But soon they crossed the border into California.  When they got across they stopped near a river to relax.  They set up camp and the men went down to the river to swim and relax.  When they were done Tom went on the bank to take a nap when Noah came up to him and told him that he was going to leave.  After a little argument Noah turned and walked down the river, never returning.  Later a cop came up to the camp and argued with ma and told her that she would have to get out.  When Tom walk up she was distressed about being pushed around by the cop.  Then Tom told them what Noah had done.  Late that afternoon the Joad family left their friends behind, because the woman was sick, to cross the desert at night.  When they crossed the desert they were stopped by the border control to check the cars for food.  But ma swore there was none and that they needed to get grandma to a hospital quick.  When the guard saw the old woman he let them through.  But grandma had died on the trip over the desert.  Then they stopped at a camp and unpacked.  Soon the police came and told the people there that they had to leave by nightfall.  Then there was an altercation in which the cop shot his gun at a man. The man was running away for talking back.  A woman's fingers were shot off.  Tom hit the cop and knocked him unconscious.  When the police came, Casy took the blame for Tom and they hauled him off to jail.  Then Rose of Sharon's husband Connie took off.  That night everyone left the camp and the Joads went south to a government camp.  They got there late, and by good luck there was an open spot.  At the government camp there was hot water, toilets, and showers.  The camp was clean and orderly and they had there own government. The police couldn't come in with out a warrant too.  The very next morning after arriving Tom got a job at a man's farm.  But no one else could get a job.  While they were there the police tried to stage a fight so they could get in a clean it out, but it failed. 

 

            After a little while the Joads had to leave.  They went north to pick fruit.  When the arrived they got assigned a shack and immediately began to work.  That afternoon they made a dollar and went to the store to get some food.  Ma got lots of it but the prices were high.  That night Tom snuck out to take a walk.  He ran into a camp outside of the farm.  In it was Casy.  He was leading the strike on the farm, the reason for so many cops when the Joads came into the farm.  But while they were talking a bunch of people snuck up on them and killed Casy, then Tom took a stick and killed the man who had murdered Casy.   The next day lots of people were looking for Tom so the family left and went to pick cotton.  The family was again lucky and got a boxcar to live in at the cotton farm.  There they picked cotton and made decent money.  But Tom could not help, he had to go off and hide a little ways from the farm.  Soon the cotton was almost all picked.  But they talked to a man with a small farm that needed picking.  The next morning they got up early but tons of people were already there.  By noon the whole field was picked.  The Joads made ninety cents.  Then suspicion arouse about Tom and he was forced to leave the family and go off some where. 

 

That night it began to rain and Rose of Sharon went into labor.  Also the camp was in danger of being flooded.  So during the night the men tried to build a wall to keep the water out, while some women helped deliver the baby.  The leave failed in the early morning and the baby was born a still birth.  But the water kept rising until it flooded the car and the boxcar, so they were stuck.  Then what was left of the family, except for Al, left to find a dry place.  They came to a barn and went inside.  In the barn was a boy and his father who was starving to death.  Then Rose of Sharon agrees to feed the man.  She asks everyone to leave, opens her shirt and begins to feed the starving man.


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