The Grapes of Wrath


Chapters 1 - 5

Chapter 1 Summary

          It is the 1930s Dust Bowl era. The cornfields of Oklahoma are dry and unproductive because of drought. The earth and the air are filled with dust, and the farming families cover their faces with scarves to keep the dust out. The women watch their men anxiously, as the men sit and draw in the dust with sticks, “figuring”—trying to figure out what to do. The women “stud[y] the men’s faces secretly, for the corn could go, as long as something else remained.” According to the narrator, “women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole.”

Chapter 2 Summary

          Tom Joad, wearing a new suit and just released from prison, hitches a ride back toward the Joad family farm with a truck driver. Initially, the driver refuses to give Tom a ride, pointing to the company’s “No Riders” sign. Tom says he saw the sign, but figured he’d ask anyway since “sometimes a guy’ll be a good guy even if some rich bastard makes him carry a sticker.” Tom’s comment works like magic. Since the driver wants to be a “good guy,” he agrees to give Tom a ride. During the drive, Tom easily senses the truck driver sizing him up. He bluntly critiques the man’s nosy personality but, just before disembarking, reveals that he has just served four years for homicide. He was sentenced to seven, but has been released on parole due to good behavior. He thanks the driver for the ride and sets off down the dusty road leading to the Joad farm.    

Chapter 3 Summary

          A turtle arduously crawls across a difficult terrain to the highway in the pounding sun. On its determined way across the hot pavement, it is nearly hit twice. The first car swerves to avoid the turtle. Soon...

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Essays About The Grapes of Wrath