Friday, September 25, 2015

The Grapes Of Wrath

Title: The Grapes Of Wrath

Author: John Steinbeck

Main Characters: Ma, Pa, Rose Of Sharon, Tom Joad, Jim Casy, Al Joad, Uncle John, Connie, Noah Joad, Grandma, Grandpa

Set in the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma and the bright city of California, ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck goes back to the dirty thirties period.

‘You’ll have to go.’
But it’s our land, the tenant men cried. We-
‘No. The bank, the monster owns it. You’ll have to go.’
We’ll get our guns. What then?
‘You’ll be stealing if you try to stay, you’ll be murderers if you kill to stay.’
But if we go, where’ll we go? How’ll we go? We got no money.
‘We’re sorry,’ the owner men said. ‘The bank, the fifty-thousand acre owner can’t be responsible. You are on land that isn’t yours. Maybe you can go on relief. Why don’t you go west to California? There’s work there, and it never gets cold. Why, you can reach out anywhere and pick an orange. Why, there’s always some kind of crop to work in. Why don’t you go there?’ And the owner men started their cars and rolled away.

The corns had wilted under the dust storms and had become unfit. The tenants, the farmers, were displaced, almost without any notice. They asked the owners, “Where can we go?”, but the reply came to them just as fast as their questions: “That isn’t our problem.” 

So, all the farmers of Dust Bowl Oklahoma clear their land and move away.

Tom Joad, comes back to Sallisaw, Oklahoma, after getting a parole from McAlester. He had been put in prison, and had served a sentence of four years, for killing a man. He comes back to his town, in the hope of reuniting with his family. On the way he meets the ex- town- preacher, Rev. Jim Casy. They walk together over to Sallisaw. To their shock, they find the place empty, all huts and houses broken or destroyed, cotton plants cultivated, and the town deserted. They come across their friend, who enlightens them on the bad situation of the people. He tells Tom and Casy about how the owners asked the tenants to clear the land and get lost. And how everybody was planning to leave for the west.

Tom immediately inquires about his family, and the friend tells him how his family was huddled up at Uncle John’s place. So, Tom and Casy hurry to Uncle John’s house. There, a sweet family reunion takes place. They discuss plans to get packing and go to the west. To California, the land where they can extend a hand a pick an orange. Pa gets a handbill stating that 800 men are needed for work to pick peaches in California. So, they all load their truck with all they need, and start off on their journey. They all go- Ma, Pa, Al, Tom, Ruthie, Winfield, Rose Of Sharon, Connie, Grandma and Grandpa- the whole Joad family, and the ex-preacher Jim Casy.

They encounter lots of troubles. There isn’t enough money. The truck has just too much load for it to take. They run out of gas. Grandpa dies. And, then Grandma dies. Many migrant families mix up. They all become one big family because of their common sufferings. The poorer they become, the more they help each other. Also, a new problem arose, on top of all this- Tom wasn’t supposed to cross states since he is on parole.

Finally they reach California, crossing all hurdles. There they get down beside a river to refresh themselves. Noah Joad runs away, from there. The family is reduced by three members from when they started. They cross the desert, and reach the beautiful town of California. Just as they had heard, the town was full of apples and peaches and oranges. But unlike what they had been falsely promised, they couldn’t extend their hand and pluck them. Anybody, calling himself the owner, could shoot them, fixing them as trespassers. The situation for migrants in California was pathetic!

The handbill that Pa recieved- five thousand other men had also received it. It was a trick for cost-cutting used by the owners. The owners whose fruits had to be plucked called two thousand men where the job was for eight hundred, so that the work would get done faster and the wages will be cheaper. Every minute, more and more migrants piled into California from all over the Dust Bowl affected areas- Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New-Mexico and Nevada- and the wages of the workers went lower and lower.

So, the Joad family decides to pack and leave from California city, somewhere up north. Casy gets arrested when he kicks a cop for supporting the illegal contractors. At this juncture, Connie runs away from them. Now, the rest of family, continue on  their journey. The situation gets worse and worse. They struggle. Finally they go to a peach orchard and join as pickers. Here, Tom Joad finds that Casy has escaped and was leading a revolt. He gets excited to meet Casy again. But one of the cops kill Casy for revolting, and in a moment when anger grips him, Tom smashes the cop’s head and kills him. Now, he is deep trouble. So, he informs the family. They immediately hide him in the truck and they leave the place. They had to go away from one good work that they got.

They next go to a place to pick cotton. There, Tom goes into hiding away from the family, with the knowledge of the family members, so that he doesn’t bring them any trouble. But, Ruthie, his kid sister, in a fight with another kid, boasts that her brother would not spare anybody who hits her, and that he had already killed two people and was in hiding. Then, she realizes the mistake she had done. So, she admits it to Ma, who goes to Tom’s hideout with seven dollars, and asks him to run away with it. Tom is happy, and he says to his Ma, that he will always be there where there is revolt against the injustice. He goes off.

Now, the Joad family have only Pa, Ma, Ruthie, Winfield, Al, Uncle John and Rose Of Sharon. They continue picking cotton, and they earn a little. But the rains come down pouring, for many days together, and the crops are destroyed. Also, the place gets flooded. The men try to build a bank and keep off the water. They partially succeed. When the rain stops a little, the Joad family, except Al, go over to a dry barn that they see. There is no owner there. So, they decide to stay there. In the barn, they meet a young boy. The boy’s father is sick as he had given all his food to his boy, and had not eaten anything himself. The boy tells the Joads that his father needs milk. The family helps.

And the book ends there. The struggle continues.

It’s a very touching book. The character I liked best was Ma. She is such a  strong lady. She tries to hold the family together even when the situations are pathetic outside. She takes care of all the aspects of the family. She is bold and strong. She is very clever, and knows the practicalities. She is an amazing character- the best in the book. I also like Tom Joad and Jim Casy very much.  It was really nice. I liked it.

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