The Grapes of Wrath By John Steinbeck Summary and Analysis Chapter 10

Summary

Ma shares with Tom her worries that the stories about California sound too good to be true. Granpa, however, can't wait to get to California where he will pick fruit and let the juice run down his body. Casy asks Ma and Tom if he can go west with them. Ma says she'd welcome him, but the menfolk have to decide.

The truck returns from Sallisaw later that afternoon. Ruthie and Winfield stand in the back of the truck with the pregnant Rose of Sharon and her husband, Connie. Pa and Uncle John are in the front seat, and Al, full of responsibility, is driving. They tumble out of the truck, tired and discouraged, having only gotten 18 dollars for all their household items, including the wagon.

That evening, the family meets by the truck for a family council where they decide that they will take along the preacher. Following the meeting, they all pitch in to slaughter the pigs, salt-pack the pork into barrels, and pack the rest of their possessions in the truck. With everyone working, the truck is loaded by daylight.

With Muley Graves to see them off, the Joads pile into the truck. At the final moment, Granpa refuses to leave. Ma puts some sleeping syrup in his coffee, and he is soon fast asleep. The men load him into the back of the truck, and the Joads start off. Ma tries to look back as they leave, but her view is blocked. The others in the back of the truck watch the house and barn until both are cut off from their sight, as the truck crawls westward.

Analysis

Chapter 10 marks the last time in the novel that the family unit will function as a traditional whole. Once the Joads leave Oklahoma, the family as a smaller unit will deteriorate and be replaced by a larger vision of community.

The Joads have a patriarchal family structure in which positions of leadership and control are determined by masculinity and age. Uncle John must sit in the front of the truck although he is uncomfortable and would rather give up his seat to the pregnant Rose of Sharon. However, "that would be impossible, because she was young and a woman." At the family meeting, Granpa is given the first chance to speak, which is his right as titular head of the family, even if his mind is no longer sharp. Once they leave the farm, a shifting in the family structure will weaken the power of these traditional gender roles. The tearing of the family from its agrarian roots is primarily responsible for this change in the structure of the family. Without the inherent responsibilities dictated by their farm-bound roles (the agricultural productivity of the men and the child-care and domestic duties of the women, for example), the Joads will lose their familial stability. Casy begins this process when he offers to help salt the pork, telling Ma, "It's all work. They's too much of it to split it up to men's or women's work."

The truck-side family conference illustrates the workings of family government, which will later be expanded into community government. Recalling the image of huddled men from Chapter 1, the Joad men take their well-scripted places in the family circle. For the first time, Al has graduated to a place among the squatting men. The women and children hover around the outside of the circle, although Ma is consulted on all decisions. Casy, not yet accepted into the family, maintains his distance from the gathering. The reader should note that the truck has become the center of the family and will symbolize its structure: Moments of mechanical failure will parallel the moments of loss and upheaval in the family.

The acceptance of Casy into the family marks the first time the lines defining the family are blurred. As a preacher, he has always been regarded as separate from the community he longs to be part of. His joining with the Joads is the first step for Casy in his desire to "be near to folks," and is indicative of the creation of a community that will take the place of the familial unit.

Granpa is the character most associated with the references to the "grapes" of the novel's title. Grapes in the novel are a symbol of both plenty and bitterness. At this point in the narrative, grapes represent the hope of plenty, the dream of a greater life. Even as Granpa is rejoicing in these possibilities, however, the seeds of bitterness are being sown. Stripped of their homes and personal effects, people are also stripped of their dignity. The frustration, loss, and fear felt by these people will turn to anger when they begin to collect together.

Glossary

handbill a small printed notice or advertisement to be passed out by hand.

single-action Colt a type of revolver invented by American Samuel Colt (1814-1862) — the hammer must be cocked by hand before each shot.

Salvation Army an international organization for religious and philanthropic purposes among the very poor.

muslin any of various strong, often sheer cotton cloths of plain weave; especially, a heavy variety used for sheets, pillowcases, and so on.

tappet a sliding rod in an engine or machine moved by intermittent contact with a cam and used to move another part, as a valve.

stereopticon a kind of slide projector designed to allow one view to fade out while the next is fading in.

singletree a wooden bar swung at the center from a hitch on a plow, wagon, and so on, and hooked at either end to the traces of a horse's harness.

signet ring a finger ring containing a seal, often in the form of an initial or monogram.

tarpaulin a waterproof sheet spread over something to protect it from getting wet.

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