The Grapes of Wrath

By: Austin Kohls

Summary and Essential Questions.


The grapes of wrath is a drama by John Steinbeck. It follows Tom Joad is a convict just released from prison. Tom was convicted of manslaughter after he killed a man in a drunken fight and spent four years in prison. Tom is making his way back to his farm in Oklahoma when he meets Jim Casy, the preacher at Tom’s childhood church. The preacher tells Tom of how he lost his faith and stopped preaching. Tom, feeling sorry for Jim, tells him he can come with him back to his farm but when they arrive they find it deserted. A former neighbor, Muley Graves, tells Tom that a large company has come and bought all of the drought stricken land and that his family have gone to his Uncle John’s house to work and make the journey to California.

Tom is reunited with his family at his Uncle’s. His parents, grandparents and siblings are all getting ready to leave when Tom arrives. But the next day his grandfather no longer wants to go yelling that they can still live off the land, the only way to get him to come along was to lace his coffee with sleep medication. While on Route 66 it becomes clear that the salesmen who sold farmers cars and trucks have tampered with them and the families have to go service station to service station trying to keep their vehicles running. While in Oklahoma City Grandpa Joad becomes sick they try to stop and give him a rest but he soon dies of a stroke.

The Joads improvise a funeral even though it is illegal. After the funeral they meet up with the Wilsons another traveling family, both of them agree that traveling together would help them both a lot. People begin camping on the side of the road all along route 66 and people from the west are afraid that they may stage a revolt because of the poor conditions. The traveling families began making communities in these road camps with their own rules and conduct codes. While camping out the Joads meet a man who says that California has no jobs and that his family starved to death, while in New Mexico they meet a man and his son warning them of the same.

The Joads continue on despite the warnings and decide to finish the journey that night but Tom’s brother, Noah, decides to stay behind while Grandma Joad becomes sick. They also had to leave the Wilson family behind. While close to California the Joads truck is stopped and inspected. His mother pleads that their grandmother needs medical attention and to let them go, the officer does, only then does the family realize the grandmother has been dead the entire time and that Tom’s mom was lying. The family then begins staying in a Hooverville. A fight broke out one night and Casy was arrested. After Casy gets out he begins organizing labor which is against the law.

Tom reunites with Casy only to see him killed by local police, in retaliation Tom kills the sheriff. Tom goes into hiding fearing that his family will be harmed. With a flood coming in Tom’s mother tries to get his family away from the danger. The book ends with the family helping a boy who’s father is starving, showing the family even with so little and going through all that they’ve gone through still held onto there humanity.

Essential Questions

This book is an American classic because of the struggle it portrays. America is built on the ideal that every citizen should work hard. Even though this is an extreme circumstance Tom and his family continue to work hard and perceiver even after the death of both of the families grandparents, and having to live in the camp communities. It is not the exact idea of the American dream but Tom’s family are also trying to chase bigger and better things, there is a lot of symbolism in the book about the American dream and what it truly means to experience hardship. It also reflects American society because of the idea of family. Society is very family oriented in America and the Joads try to keep their family together the best that they can even though they faced hardship every single day. Yes Noah does leave the family but they continue through it knowing that he is just trying to make a better life for himself as well. Noah also doesn’t mean to hurt the family by leaving he actually kind of helps in his absence. The Joads have extra food since Noah is gone which can be used to feed the children of his sisters. This all goes back to the idea of the American dream the Joads are just trying to provide and make their lives better in the hard times of the dust bowl.