The Grapes of Wrath


Chapters 18 - 21

Chapter 18 Summary

The Joad and Wilson families pass through New Mexico and Arizona, finally arriving at the California border. Before they reach the fertile valley lands, however, they must pass through the desert. The families decide to rest at a temporary camp on the river in Needles. While bathing in the cool, refreshing river, the Joad men and Casy converse with a man and his son who are leaving California. The man tells them that he is heading back the other way because there is no work to be found. He also tells them that the migrants are despised by the local people, who derogatorily refer to them as “Okies.” Meanwhile, some wealthy millionaires own acres and acres of land that they do not need or use properly. Casy marvels at the wastefulness of this and suggests that such men must need so many acres because they feel poor inside themselves.

Feeling less and less confident of the future but unable to turn back, the Joads are determined to continue on to California. Noah, however, takes his leave of the family. He tells Tom that he is just going to walk down the river and fend for himself somehow. Noah asks Tom to convey his decision to Ma, knowing that she will be upset if he tells her himself. In spite of Tom’s protests, Noah walks away down the river.

In the Joad tent, Ma and Rose of Sharon tend to Granma, who has been ill and delirious ever since Grampa’s death. A Jehovah’s Witness woman comes by the tent and wants to pray over Granma since she is obviously dying, but Ma insists that Granma simply needs rest. After the woman has gone, Ma and Rose of Sharon can hear her praying nearby with her own people. Ma confesses that she is not comfortable with the Jehovah Witness’ intense style of worship, but the sounds of the prayer meeting seem to be of some comfort to Granma. A policeman comes to the tent and tells Ma that everyone needs to clear off the land by morning, since the locals don’t want “Okies” settling down in their country. Ma brandishes an iron skillet at him and...

Sign up to continue reading Chapters 18 - 21 >

Essays About The Grapes of Wrath