The Grapes of Wrath


Plot Summary

Tom Joad, just released from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, catches a ride with a truck driver back toward the Joad family farm. He has been released on parole after serving four years for homicide; he killed a man in a fight, essentially in self-defense. On his walk down the dusty road leading to the Joad farm, he encounters Jim Casy, a former preacher who remembers baptizing Tom. Casy explains to Tom that he has given up preaching due to personal doubts about the true nature of sin. A thoughtful and talkative man, Casy has come to the conclusion that “there ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do.” Casy has also realized that his love is not so much for Jesus as it is for people themselves. Wanting to pay a visit to the Joads, Casy walks with Tom back to the sharecroppers’ farm, where they discover the house caved in and the family gone.

Because of the terrible drought, none of the Oklahoma sharecroppers have been able to fetch any profit for the landowners. Under pressure from the banks that own them, the landowners are therefore systematically displacing the sharecroppers from their homes. Tractors regularly come plowing through the land to plant cotton, knocking the farmers’ homes over if they have to. As Tom and Casy regard the broken Joad home, a neighbor named Muley Graves approaches. His family has also been tractored off their land and, like most of the other families, has left for California to find work. Muley couldn’t bring himself to go with them, however, and is sleeping outside, living on whatever food he can scavenge. Tom and Casy share Muley’s supper of jackrabbits and, the next morning, find the rest of the Joad clan at Tom’s Uncle John’s house. The family is preparing to head to California, having been told that there is plenty of work picking fruit there.

Even though Tom is not allowed to leave the state due to his parole, he doesn’t hesitate to join his family on their journey. Jim Casy, believing that his work is wherever “the folks...

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