The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Chapter 10
Summary

Ma Joad tells Tom that she is concerned about going to California, worried that it won't turn out well, for the only information the family has gleaned is from flyers. Despite these reservations, Casy asks to accompany the Joads to California. He wants to work in the fields, where he can listen to people rather than preach to them. Tom says that preaching is a tone of voice and a style, being good to people when they don't respond to it. Pa and Uncle John greet the rest of the family with the truck, and they all prepare to leave. The two young children, twelve-year old Ruthie and ten-year old Winfield, are there with their older sister, Rose of Sharon (Rosasharn) and her husband.

That night, the Joads hold a family conference and discuss a number of issues: they decide to allow Casy to come along with them, since it's the right thing for them to do. They also continue with their preparations, killing their pigs so that they will have food to take with them. While Casy is helping Ma Joad with food preparation, he remarks that she looks tired, perhaps sick. Ma Joad looks through her belongings, going through old letters and clippings she has saved; she burns these items before the family's departure. Before the Joads leave, Muley Graves stops in to say goodbye. Noah tells him that he's going to die out in the fields if he stays, but Muley accepts his fate. In another case of attachment to the land, Grampa refuses to leave; the other Joads decide to give him medicine that knocks him out and manage to take him with them.

Analysis

This chapter illustrates the Joad family dynamic. The presence of numerous relatives from across three generations makes maintaining order difficult, as the family meeting demonstrates. The Joad family has Grampa as its nominal head, yet he exerts no special influence. If any member of the family leads the others, it is Ma Joad, who dominates by moral force. It is she who issues the final verdict that allows Casy to go with them to California. While Tom Joad is the main character in The Grapes of Wrath, Ma Joad is the story's moral center, reminding everyone that they have greater concerns than just their own interests. As she indicates, it would be wrong of them to refuse food or shelter to anyone.

Yet Ma Joad appears to be the principal victim of the move to California. Casy notices that she looks ill from recent events, and she is the only one in the family who appears to have regrets. For the others, this is surely an unfortunate move, yet Ma Joad must leave behind the memories that she treasures. Even Grampa, when he refuses to leave, does so in a display of bitter energy. Ma Joad, in contrast, is overcome with a great weariness.

Grampa's refusal to leave highlights how important the land is for the Joads and for other people like them. For Grampa, leaving the area where he was born and raised is unimaginable. Yet he has no options. If he were to remain, he would essentially cease to exist, much like Muley Graves.

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