The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Chapter 24
Summary

The rumors that the police are going to break up the dance reach the camp. According to Ezra Huston, the chairman of the Central Committee, this is a frequent tactic that the police use. Huston tells Willie Eaton, the head of the Entertainment Committee, that if he must hit a deputy, he should hit the deputy in a way that doesn't draw blood. The camp members say that the Californians hate them because the migrants might draw relief without paying income taxes, but the migrants themselves quickly refute this idea, claiming that they pay sales a tax and a tobacco tax.

At the dance, Willie Eaton approaches Tom and tells him where to watch for intruders. Tom in fact locates the intruders at the dance, but the intruders begin a fight; the police enter the camp immediately. Huston confronts the police about the intruders, asking who paid them, yet the officers only admit that they have to make money somehow. Once the problem is defused, the dance goes on without any further altercations.

Analysis

This chapter continues to illustrate how society within Weedpatch functions, showing how information goes from the elected leaders to the camp residents and how the residents maintain order. The interaction between the residents is fair and systematic; the hierarchy that has emerged among the various heads of committees and the residents with fewer responsibilities is one based on mutual respect. The committee leaders do not issue orders; at most, they offer advice and counsel to the less influential residents.

The orderly workings of Weedpatch society are reflected in how the residents react to the intruders during the dance. There is no outbreak of violence, as Steinbeck had earlier foreshadowed. Instead, the committee members deal with the situation calmly, defusing the uproar and refusing to allow the deputies and the intruders at the dance to incite a violent riot.

The rationale that the intruders give for their behavior is one that Steinbeck has frequently rejected as a justification for action. These police officials claim that they accepted the bribes given to start the riot simply in order to support themselves. This motive of self-interest has frequently been rejected by Steinbeck as untenable, whether used by a tractor driver or a small business owner. Individualistic concerns are characterized as selfish and detrimental to the public good, in clear contrast to selfless collective behavior. The intruders are the most extreme example of this selfish attitude.

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