The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Chapter 13
Summary

The Joads continue on their travels. Al remarks that they may have trouble getting over mountains in their car, which can barely support the weight of the family and its belongings. Grampa Joad wakes up and insists that he's not going with the rest of the Joads. They stop at a gas station where the owner automatically assumes they are broke and tells them that people often stop, begging for gas.

The owner claims that fifty cars per day go west, but wonders what the Joads expect to find when they reach their destination. He tells that one family traded their daughter's doll for some gas. Casy wonders what the nation is coming to, since people seem unable to make a decent living; he says that he once had used his energy to fight the devil, believing that the devil was the enemy. However, now he believes that there's something worse.

The Joad's dog wanders away from the car and is run over in the road. The family members continue on their journey and begin to worry when they reach the state line. However, Tom reassures them that he is only in danger if he commits a crime. Otherwise, nobody will know that he has broken his parole by leaving his home state. On their next stop for the night, the Joads meet the Wilsons, a family from Kansas that is going to California. Grampa complains of illness and weeps, causing the rest of the family to fear that he will suffer a stroke. Granma tells Casy to pray for Grampa, even if he is no longer a preacher. Suddenly Grampa starts twitching and slumps; he dies abruptly. The Joads now face a choice: they can pay fifty dollars for a proper burial for Grampa or have him buried as a pauper. They decide to bury Grampa themselves and leave a note so that people don't assume that he was murdered. In a show of solidarity, the Wilsons help the Joads to bury Grampa. A verse from scripture is included in the note on his grave.

After burying Grampa, the Joads have Casy say a few words. Overall, the reactions to the death are varied. Rose of Sharon comforts Granma, while Uncle John is curiously unmoved by the turn of events. Casy admits that he knew Grampa was dying, but didn't say anything because he couldn't have helped. He blames separation from the land for Grampa's death. Yet the Joads are given assistance during this difficult time: the Joads and the Wilsons decide to help each other by distributing weight between their two cars so that both families will make it to California.

Analysis

The first stop that the Joads make reinforces the idea that they may not find work when they reach California because of a glutted labor market. But even when confronted with a dire situation, the Joads are nevertheless better off than some travelers; at the very least, the Joads are able to pay for gas.

Casy reiterates the idea that the nation faces a nearly unconquerable enemy. Although he does not explicitly identify this enemy, its characteristics indicate that it is the capitalist system that was vilified earlier in the novel. Casy depicts the enemy as a system that prevents normal people from making a decent living. For Casy, this ?evil is too powerful to effectively combat -- more daunting and more difficult to oppose than even the devil.

Early in the journey the Joads suffer a fateful loss, if one less significant than the loss of an actual family member -- the death of the family dog. Its early demise, which occurs before the Joads even reach the Oklahoma border, foreshadows the further losses that the family may suffer. Steinbeck further anticipates the problems that the Joads may face when Tom mentions parole violations. He is only in danger if he commits another crime, yet his difficult temperament keeps that danger alive.

The death of the dog is followed by the death of an actual family member. Despite his tough veneer of anger and bitterness, Grampa is in fact sensitive to the family's uprooting. Since he was the one family member most adamantly opposed to leaving home, it is likely the separation that hastened his demise. Casy makes a direct correlation between Grampa's death and the Joads' journey, reinforcing the idea that these people have a significant personal connection the the land they farmed.

Throughout the novel, Casy frequently must perform the duties of a preacher. Although he maintains that he no longer believes in preaching, he is forced to perform his old role, whether praying for Grampa during the stroke or saying a few parting words after Grampa's burial. This seems to indicate that Casy is ideally suited for the role of preacher, despite his disenchantment with religion. In his parting words for Grampa Joad, Casy does reiterate his belief that people are the source of holiness.

The agreement between the Joads and the Wilsons to aid each other on the way to California is a significant plot development, for it is in collective action that these families find their strength. This cooperation is the first building block in a collectivist scheme that Steinbeck seems to support -- a scheme in which working class people come together to improve their mutual lot in life.

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