The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Chapter 22

The Joads reach the government camp, where they are surprised to find that there are toilets and showers and running water. The watchman at the camp explains some of the other appealing features: there is a central committee elected by the camp residents that keeps order and makes rules, and the camp even holds dance nights. The next morning, two camp residents (Timothy and Wilkie Wallace) give Tom breakfast and tell him about a chance for work. When the men reach the fields where they are to work, Mr. Thomas, the contractor, tells them that he is reducing wages from thirty to twenty-five cents per hour. It is not his choice, but a decision dictated by the Farmers' Association, which is owned by the Bank of the West. Mr. Thomas also shows them a newspaper, which has a story about a band of citizens who burned a squatters' camp, infuriated by presumed communist agitation; he warns Tom and the other laborers about the dance at the government camp on Saturday night. According to Mr. Thomas, there will be a fight staged at the camp so that the deputies can go in. The Farmers' Association dislikes the government camps because the people in the camps become used to being treated humanely and are thus harder to handle. Tom and the Wallaces vow to make sure that there won't be a fight.

While the men work, Wilkie tells Tom that the complaints about agitators are false. According to the rich owners, any person who wants thirty cents an hour instead of twenty-five is a red. Back at the camp, Ruthie and Winfield are exploring the premises, and are fascinated by the toilets; however, ­ they are frightened by the flushing sound. Ma Joad makes the rest of the family clean themselves up before the Ladies Committee comes to visit her. Jim Rawley, the camp manager, also introduces himself to the Joads and tells them about some of the additional features of the camp. Rose of Sharon goes to take a bath, and learns that a nurse visits the camp every week and can help her deliver the baby when the time comes. Ma remarks that she no longer feels ashamed, as she did when the Joads were constantly being harassed by the police.

Yet there are still sources of contention in the camp. Lisbeth Sandry, a religious zealot, speaks with Rose of Sharon about the alleged sin that goes on during the dances, and complains about people putting on stage plays, which she calls "sin and delusion and devil stuff." The woman even blames playacting for a mother dropping her child. Rose of Sharon becomes frightened upon hearing this, fearing that she will drop her own child. In addition, Jessie Bullitt, the head of the Ladies Committee, gives Ma Joad a tour of the camp and explains some of the problems. Jessie bickers with Ella Summers, the previous committee head.

Elsewhere, Pa comforts Uncle John, who still wants to leave and remains convinced that he will bring the family punishment. Ma Joad confronts Lisbeth Sandry for frightening Rose and for preaching that every action is sinful. Despite some of the positive developments, Ma becomes depressed about all of her losses --­ Granma and Grampa, Noah and Connie ­-- since she now has leisure time to think about such things.


The government camp proves a sharp interruption to the consistent maladies and hardships that have plagued the Joad family throughout the novel. At this site, the people are polite and well-mannered toward the Joads. Ma Joad is even shocked to hear Jim Rawley call her "Mrs." The few problems in Weedpatch, such as the theft of toilet paper, are handled in a fair and organized manner. The camp represents a communal society in which everyone has an equal share and an equal voice. While not a perfect place, as shown by the unwelcome proselytizing of Lisbeth Sandry, the government camp nevertheless is a comfortable community where the Joads can live respectably.

The degree of comfort that Weedpatch affords is reflected in the return to a normal rhythm that occurs among the Joads. Ruthie and Winfield can play like small children once again. Uncle John settles into a fairly manageable routine of depression. The impressionable Rose of Sharon begins to fret about her child; without Connie, she no longer dreams of a middle-class life, but instead focuses on the immediate fate of her soon-to-be-born child. Ma Joad even realizes how great an interruption the journey to California was. For the first time, she can comprehend the losses that the family has suffered and mourn the two deaths and two desertions. Before reaching the camp, her only concern was necessarily her own survival; the most important luxury that Ma Joad discovers at the camp is introspection.

The degree of poverty to which the Joads and other migrant workers have been subjected is further underscored by the amazement that the characters show when they see the simple amenities in the camp. Ruthie and Winfield have never used toilets before, while Jessie Bullitt tells Ma Joad that some camp residents have trouble utilizing some of the camp's appliances.

Once again, the banking elite causes needless hardship for the migrant workers. The Farmers' Association that the banks control dictates that wages be reduced. It becomes clear that the Farmers' Association is responsible for most of the hardship and oppression. This organization controls the state deputies who intimidate the migrant farmers. The Farmers' Association is opposed to treating the migrant workers fairly, for if the workers expect to be treated well they will demand better work and better living conditions. The workers' enemies even plan underhanded tactics to subvert the government camps, for when the workers are secure in government camps they are actually more difficult to control. This chapter explicitly lays out the plan formed by the authorities: to sabotage the government camp, they will instigate a fight that will allow the deputies to enter and disrupt Weedpatch.

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