Summary and Analysis
After leaving the burned out squatter's camp, the Joads go to a government camp where community-elected officials make camp decisions, create laws, and hand out punishments. The next morning, the Joads' new neighbors, Timothy and Wilkie Wallace, invite Tom to work with them. The owner for whom they are working tells them he must lower their wage, or the bank will not renew his crop loan. He also warns the men that the Farmers Association will cause a fight at the government camp dance so that there will be a reason for deputies to close the camp.
The manager of the camp welcomes them, and at first Ma is suspicious. He is kind and respectful, though, and Ma relaxes with the realization that she is among her kind of people again. The men leave to look for work, while Ma and Rosasharn clean up in preparation for the Ladies' Committee visit. While Ma is washing up, an older woman from the camp, a religious fanatic, tells Rose of Sharon that sinful things are happening in camp, including dances and plays. She warns the girl that two other young women have lost their babies because of their sinful behavior. Rosasharn panics, but Ma reassures her. When the Ladies' Committee arrives at the Joad tent, they explain to Ma the rules of the camp and the workings of Sanitary Unit Number Four. The Joad men return unsuccessful in their search for work. Ma tells Pa that now that the family has stopped moving, she has time to remember the sad things, such as Granpa's death and Noah's leaving. She and Pa reminisce about Oklahoma, but stop themselves when they remember that it is no longer their home.
The respite experienced by the Joad family while at Weedpatch marks the high point of the narrative's parabola of action. Here, Steinbeck's vision comes together — humans governing themselves without an endless cycle of fear and domination. Not only does the government camp exemplify the ideal in humane group management, it stands in contrast to the camp the Joads have just left, the demoralizing and squalid "Hooverville." Ma is welcomed into the community with respect, and human dignity is momentarily restored as people are made to "feel like people" again.
Another instance of humanism is the pre-dawn breakfast to which Tom is invited. Not only do the Wallaces offer food, they also invite Tom to share their work. This invitation will shorten the length of their own employment, but it echoes the communal attitude of the camp. This attitude is also supported by the small owner, Mr. Hines, who warns the men of a plan by the Farmers Association to spark a riot at the camp's dance. He represents the small owners described in the preceding intercalary chapter. Indeed, forced to lower his wages by pressure from the Farmers Association, Mr. Hines will eventually be put out of business by the large farming corporations.
shirtwaist a woman's blouse or bodice tailored more or less like a shirt.
clout power or influence.
red agitators political radicals or revolutionaries, especially applied to Communists, who stir up people in support of a cause.
bandanna a large, colored handkerchief, usually with a figure or pattern.
pone cornbread in the form of small, oval loaves.
disconsolately so unhappy that nothing will comfort; inconsolable; dejected.
gingham a yarn-dyed cotton cloth, usually woven in stripes, checks, or plaids.
skitters slang term for diarrhea.
croquet an outdoor game in which the players use mallets to drive a wooden ball through a series of hoops placed in the ground.
mallet a long-handled hammer with a cylindrical wooden head, used in playing croquet.