The Grapes of Wrath: Novel Summary: Chapter 12

SummaryThis “big picture” chapter traces Highway 66-“the migrant road,” “the path of flight”-from the dusty lands to the promised land, California. The migrants on their exodus face real danger: “`F we on`y get to California where the oranges grow before this here ol` jug blows up.” They stop to make what repairs they can afford to their cars, but the workers at service stations tell them- sounding for all the world like Joe Davis`s boy from Chapter 5-“I can`t help what happens to you. I got to think what happens to me.” They add, “The whole United States . . . ain`t big enough. There ain`t room enough for you an` me, for your kind an` my kind, for rich and poor all together in one country, for thieves and honest men. For hunger and fat.”AnalysisSuch comments resonate with debates about the United States` capacity to welcome all people today. In the context of the novel, they function as the counter-argument to Jim Casy`s intuition that all people belong together, that holiness is found when people realize and act upon their connection and interdependence. The critical question is, in short: Can the United States be a holy nation? Is there indeed room for all-and, if not, who must go? A subtext of prophetic judgment runs beneath the surface of this chapter. The disparity between “your kind an` my kind,” between “hunger and fat,” is so great, and so galling, it cannot be allowed to stand. What will happen when it falls? (Compare the dispossessed people`s comments about justice in Chapter 9.)Steinbeck ends the chapter on a potentially hopeful note: a story-and, the narrator claims, a true one-of a man in a sedan who gave a family of twelve a ride to California, and fed them as well. Reasons for hope in humanity and courage in the face of trial may be few . . . but they do still exist.