The Grapes of Wrath: Novel Summary: Chapter 6

ummaryAt the abandoned Joad place, Tom and Casy encounter neighbor, friend, and fellow tenant farmer Muley Graves. Old Tom had asked Muley to keep an eye out for Tom; Muley agreed, stating his intention to remain on the land: “There aint nobody can run a guy name of Graves outa this country.” Muley tells Tom about the situation we readers have learned about in the previous chapter. He tells Tom that the Joad family and all their possessions are at his (that is, Toms) Uncle Johns home. The Joads have been chopping cotton, “even the kids an [Toms] Grampa,” in order to buy a car and head out west “where its easy livin.” Even Muleys family has set out for California. For his part, however, Muley is angry and determined to stay. He confesses, however, that he has been reduced to “wanderin aroun like a damn ol graveyard ghos.” The evocative phrase signals another way in which “the monster” (see Chapter 5) has dehumanized people.
Tom and Casy invite Muley to share the evening meal with them. Muley replies that he has no choice, but he does not mean his words to sound as ungrateful as they do. He clarifies, “[I]f a fellas got somepin to eat an another fellas hungry-why, the first fella aint got no choice.” Casy intuitively recognizes the wisdom in Muleys words, saying, “Muleys got a-holt of somepin, an its too big for him, an its too big for me.”
Muley and Tom discuss Toms crime and his sentence in McAlester. Tom admits that he would kill Herb Turnbull, his victim, again, for Herb had been threatening Toms sister, Rosasharn. As Muley discusses Will Feely-this chapters specific equivalent of the generic Joe Daviss boy in the preceding chapter-Casy has another moment of epiphany. In a speech that will foreshadow Toms speech to his mother near the novels close, Casy tells Tom, “Im goin with you. An when your folks start out on the road, Im goin with them. An where folks are on the road, Im gonna be with them.” Casys revelation was apparently provoked by Muleys report of Will Feelys words, “Fust an ony thing I got to think about is my own folks.” Apparently, Casy has realized (or has been led to realize, if one considers his comment about getting “a dose of the sperit”-not the Holy Spirit of traditional Christian theology, but the universal human spirit of which Casy spoke in Chapter 4) that his preaching on the road can help bind the wandering “Okies” together into a new, larger family.
When a spotlight-equipped car, presumably driven by deputized Will Feely, threatens to find the trio on what was formerly the Joads land, Muley asks if he should shoot at the car. Tom urges him to; Casy, in contrast, says, “It wont do no good . . . . We got to get thinkin about doin stuff that means somepin.” The car eventually leaves, and the three men sleep.
Analysis
Steinbeck is drawing readers attention to the question of overarching matters of morality, life, and death, implicitly asking: Will these larger forces enhance or destroy our humanity? The answer, it seems, hinges on how we respond to them. Joe Daviss boy (see Chapter 5) responds by focusing on his own-admittedly, legitimate-needs; Casy and Tom respond by focusing on Muleys-arguably, equally legitimate-needs. The latter share; the former does not.
When they have to hide from the law even though they are on Tom Joads land, they are legally trespassing and are made to feel like “hunted animals”.