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Grapes of Wrath

Essay by review  •  September 1, 2010  •  Essay  •  810 Words (4 Pages)  •  854 Views

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Released from an Oklahoma state prison after serving four years of a manslaughter conviction, Tom Joad makes his way back to his family's farm amid the desolation of the Dust Bowl. He meets Jim Casy, a former preacher who gave up his calling out of a belief that all life is holy, and that simply being among the people as an equal is a sacred endeavor. Jim accompanies Tom to his home; when they find it deserted, fronted by withered crops, they travel to Tom's Uncle John's house, where they find the Joads preparing for a long trip to California in search of work. Large California landowners have poster announcement for employment throughout western Oklahoma, and Ma and Pa Joad have decided to move their family their; evicted from their farm by the bank that owned it, they feel as though they have no choice.

The journey to California in a rickety used truck is long and arduous, and results in the deaths of both Tom's grandparents. Traveling along Highway 66, which is clogged with cars making the same trip to California for the same reasons, the Joads meet the Wilsons, a couple plagued with car trouble whom Ma Joad invites to travel with the family. Sairy Wilson is sick with cancer, and, near the California border, is unable to continue on the journey.

As the Joads near California, they hear ominous rumors of overcrowded camps and an overflowing labor market; one migrant tells Pa Joad that twenty thousand people show up for every eight hundred jobs, and that his own children starved to death in California. But the Joads press on, and eventually reach their destination. They move from camp to camp to squalid camp, looking in vain for work, struggling to find food, and struggling to hold the family together. Tom's younger sister Rose of Sharon is pregnant and fearful that her child will be born deformed or even dead; eventually, her husband Connie abandons the family.

The environment in California is hostile in the extreme: the camps are overcrowded and full of starving migrants, the locals are fearful and angry at the flood of newcomers, whom they derisively label "Oakies," prices are skyrocketing and work is almost impossible to find; when there is work, it never pays enough to keep food on the table. The large landowners do everything in their power to keep the migrants as poor and dependent as they can. Jim Casy is arrested in Tom's place as a result of an argument over whether the worker should organize into a union, which the landowners want to prevent at all costs. At last, the Joads find a hospitable camp run by the government, where they make many friends and find

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