The Grapes of Wrath: Novel Summary: Chapter 10

SummaryMa confesses her fears about going to California to Tom. Although she has heard the glowing reports of little white houses among orange groves and has seen the fancy handbills on yellow paper advertising for workers, she admits, “I aint got no faith. Im scared somepin aint so nice about it.” Tom, with words that echo those of Matthew 6:34, advises his mother to stop worrying and to take each day as it comes. Grampa, on the other hand, seems eager to go. He envisions a near-hedonistic future life for himself: “Im gonna pick me a wash tub full of grapes, an Im gonna set in em, an scrooge around, an let the juice run down my pants.” For his part, Casy reiterates his plans to give up preaching and baptizing, and simply to be with the people: “I aint gonna try to teach em nothin. Im gonna try to learn”-to learn how ordinary life is holy.
Uncle John and the rest of the family return. They report that they sold the familys goods for only eighteen dollars. The narrator comments: “And now they were weary and frightened because they had gone up against a system they did not understand and it had beaten them.” It is a system we readers have witnessed first-hand in the previous chapter; it is a system that is one more manifestation of “the monster” (see Chapter 5).
That evening, the family convenes in ritualistic fashion-for example, giving Grampa, as eldest patriarch, the place of honor and the right of first remarks, even though Pa has long since made most of the actual decisions-to discuss the next steps that must be taken. Al, participating in the family conference for the first time, reports on the condition of the truck. Tom tells the family that Casy would like to go to California with them. Pa worries that they might not be able to carry and feed an extra person. Ma tells him, “It aint kin we? Its will we? . . . . I never heerd tell of no Joads . . . ever refusin food an shelter or a lift on the road to anybody that asked.” And the matter is settled. Casy will come.
After some further debate, the family decides to leave for California by daybreak. Every member of the family has a role to play in the preparations, although Casy upsets the standard order by volunteering to salt the meat for Ma. When she protests that salting meat is “womens work,” Casy says, “Theys too much of it to split it up to mens or womens work”-a further insight into his new knowledge of true holiness. All are connected; all are one. And while the apostle Paul declared this unity was based “in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), Casy would declare that the unity is based, simply, in common humanity.
In the next days grey dawn, Muley Graves arrives to see the family off. Pa-perhaps still remembering Mas firm rebuke of the night before-offers for Muley to “squeeze in” and go with the Joads, but Muley refuses. “Time back I might of went,” he says. “But not now . . . . I aint never goin.” Grampa has apparently had a change of heart, and wants to stay behind like Muley. “This country aint no good,” he declares, “but its my country.” The family, however, does not give Grampa a choice: they lace his morning coffee with alcoholic “soothin sirup,” making him fall asleep so that they can bring him without further resistance. With a final farewell to Muley, the Joad family boards the truck and begins the long journey toward the promised land of California, “crawl[ing] slowly through the dust” just like the turtle of the novels early chapters.
This chapter shows how the Joad family deals with having three generations living together. Grampa is considered the “head” of the family even though he no longer has any influence. It is really Ma Joad who holds the family together and makes the final decisions.
It is Ma Joad who deals with Grampa when he refuses to go with them and wants to stay on the land where he lived all of his life. His actions demonstrate the strong ties that these people felt towards the land.