- The Grapes of Wrath
- Discussion starting Ap...
- Pages 51-100
- CHAPTER 6: To Fight or...
- comment by LennonR
Your connecting the fleeing the farm and the fleeling from the deputy is a really salient connection, one that I missed on first reading. Tom and Muley don't understand why everybody left town. They were hard-nosed people who didn't let anybody tell them what to do. But suddenly their little band is accosted by the sheriff. And at first their emotions get fired up and Tom says no, we're staying. They can't tell me what to do and I'm not doing any harm. But gradually as the danger comes closer and the anger gets stale, they realize that there isn't much they can do except hide or suffer big consequences. The upside to staying and fighting this particular fight just isn't worth it.
And in this episode of decision making condensed into a half hour or so, we get to see a microcosm of what the townspeople and Joad's family went through over the course of a few days.
I found this to be a pretty masterful literary strategy to not have to show the townspeople's finally coming to terms and leaving town and instead imply it via this chapter while at the same time making Tom go through the same thing.
Are the Joads likeable or admirable people? At least when we first encounter them, the answer must be no. They are tenacious, yes. They are tough, yes. IF (and it's a big IF), the Depression and Dust Bowl hadn't come along, wouldn't we be talking about a clan of roughneck rednecks: mean and racist? The book's arc will be how they face the challenges now imposed on them. They are suddenly rootless after generations of being rooted. I see them EARLY in the novel as naturalistic creatures. As long as there is food on the table, familiar dirt to scrunch their bare feet in, and a roof over their heads, life works Now all that's gone.
Mike, you ask if the Joads are likeable or admirable when we first encounter them. Although tenacious and tough, to you the answer is no. I agree with you that their mean and racist qualities support the no verdict, but Steinbeck very quickly gives us some qualities that we can dig. Tom's clever psychological request to the truck driver makes him at least interesting. The Uncle who lost his wife and feels guilty about it connects all human beings to him as we all have some guilt we are harboring deep within our soul. The desire to be playful about Tom coming home and surprising Mom is something we can also relate to. We connect with the feeling they have about being pushed off of a place that has come to be home. To the degree that we can relate to them, they perhaps have some likeable qualities if we like ourselves to a certain degree. At the same time, you are right that they have qualities that we would not like.