At the disheveled Joad’s house, Tom Joad and Jim Casy meet a familiar face, Muley Graves, who informs the two that Tom’s family was tractored off the land and they’re at Uncle John’s shack. The three decide to set up camp at the house, cook up some rabbits that Muley caught, and head to Uncle John’s in the morning. A car’s headlights illuminate the road which set the men into action as they dive into the fields of cotton, avoiding the accusation of them being trespassers.
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“ ‘Hell, I forgot the turtle. I ain’t gonna pack it all over hell.’ He unwrapped the land turtle and pushed it under the house. But in a moment it was out, headed southwest as it had been from the first. The cat leaped at it and struck at its straining head and slashed at its moving feet. The old, hard, humorous head was pulled in, and the thick tail slapped in under the shell, and when the cat grew tired of waiting for it and walked off, the turtle headed on southwest again.” (Steinbeck 44) The symbolism of the tortoise constantly carrying on southwest through any condition is similar to the path of the Joad family throughout the course of the book.
Tom is analytical, has his priorities in check, and states, “Think we better eat her now,”(Steinbeck 52) during a very deep conversation with Muley and Casy. With Tom recently leaving prison, the solo wolf mentality seems to have stuck. Tom plays the driving force in this chapter. He keeps the other characters moving and ignores the possible obstacles in others’ ways.
The clashing symbols of Muley Graves attached to his hometown and the tortoise constantly moving southwest reflect the minds of the Joad family, attached to home, yet forced to move on.
The Joad family pulls over at the nearest service station to quench their thirst and refuel. Without the family’s dog on their minds, he is run over and left behind. The car continues on 66 until dusk sets in and the family sets up camp next to the Wilsons, who allow the sickly Grampa to rest in their tent, the tent being his final destination due to a stroke. The Wilsons assistance with Grampa’s body secure their bond, influencing the Joads and Wilsons becoming one.
“Ma said, ‘You won’t be no burden. Each’ll help each, an’ we’ll all get to california. Sairy Wilson he’ped lay Grampa out,’ and she stopped. The relationship was plain.”(Steinbeck 148) The Wilsons being welcomed into family establishes the theme of social unity. The families stick together to get through sickness, death, and the hardships of the journey to California.
Tom seems to have issues controlling his temper, considering the fact that he murdered a man. “Well, you ain’t never gonna know. Casy tries to tell ya an’ you jest ast the same thing over. I seen fellas like you before. You ain’t askin’ nothin’; you’re jus’ singin’ a kinda song. ‘What we comin’ to?’ You don’ wanta know. Country’s movin’ aroun’, goin’ places. They’s folks dyin’ all aroun’. Maybe you’ll die pretty soon, but you won’t know nothin’. I seen too many fellas like you. You don’t want to know nothin’. Just sing yourself to sleep with the song- ‘What we comin’ to?’ ”(Steinbeck 128) This represents his irritability towards a certain type of people and his methodical approach to problems and questions. Tom plays the cold voice of reason in this chapter.
The dog suddenly dying symbolizes the unforeseen death of Grampa and Granma.
Due to the lack of work, the Joads leave the government camp in Weedpatch early in the morning and meet a man who tells them of a job picking peaches. After a days’ work picking peaches, Tom is attracted to the yelling outside the gate where he reunites with Casy who soon dies from a pick handle. Tom, being the irritable character he is, grabs the pick handle from the killer, and beats him, most likely killing him, forcing the Joad family to move camps yet again.
“‘Well, they was nice fellas, ya see. What made ‘em bad was they needed stuff. An’ I begin to see, then. It’s need that makes all the trouble…’”(Steinbeck 382) This passage is heavily based around sacrifice, such as Casy sacrificing himself for Tom. This furthers the character development between Tom and Casy. However it required Casy’s death for Tom to accept his teaching.
Tom’s extremely defensive nature has caused problems yet again. He’s asked if he killed the man and Tom responds, “ ‘I-don’t know. I was nuts. Tried to.’ ” (Steinbeck 390) There is a recurring theme of Tom doing “what he has to do,” but he seems to have only escalated situations far past what is necessary. Tom plays the role of an avenger and is mainly a problem in this chapter.
Casy’s last words, “You fellas don’ know what you’re doin’,” reference one of the seven statements of Christ on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. Casy, as a previous religious figure, symbolizes Christ sacrificing himself for our sins by sacrificing himself for Tom.
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