The Grapes of Wrath: Novel Summary: Chapter 28

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Summary

In the camp of twelve boxcars, the Joads befriend the Wainwright family. (In fact, we learn later in the chapter that Al is courting the Wainwrights' daughter, Aggie.) One evening, the families' conversation is interrupted by Winfield's announcement that Ruthie has told about Tom. In the course of a squabble over her Cracker Jack with another child, Ruthie bragged, "[O]ur brother's a-hiding right now from killin' a fella . . . ." Ma goes to the creek to warn Tom. She has now conceded that Tom must go away. Tom tells Ma that he has been thinking a lot about Casy. It seems that Tom has come to a similar realization: "I know now a fella ain't no good alone." He remembers how Casy once quoted Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, verses which support Tom's conclusion. He wonders why the "Okies" and all who are like them cannot do for themselves as they did in the Weedpatch camp: "All work together for our own thing-all farm our own lan.'" Tom announces his intention to lead strikes and worker organization as Casy did. He urges Ma not to worry about him as an individual because, as Casy realized, he is but one small part of a larger, collective soul. Wherever people are fighting for justice, Tom will be present. He and Ma say their good-byes. Readers will neither see nor hear of Tom again.
Ma returns to the camp, where Al announces that he and Aggie intend to get married and strike out on their own. Ma persuades him to stay until the spring: "Who'd drive the truck?" The Joads and Wainwrights pool their meager resources to have an honest-to-goodness engagement party. Rose cannot fully enjoy the festivities, however, for she feels "the weight of the baby inside of her."
The next morning, the families arrive at the remaining twenty acres of cotton as early as they can. They do not arrive early enough; the remaining work won't last until noon.
Analysis
Tom's character has slowly evolved throughout the novel from thinking only of himself to thinking of others. At this point he has reached the highest level when he announces to Ma Joad that he plans to follow in Casey's footsteps and wants to organize the workers to help them gain a better life.
Even though it is very difficult for Ma Joad to say good-bye, she too realizes that what Tom is planning to do will in the long run be the best thing for him as well.
The Joads experience a temporary relief as they are able to provide enough food for the table, however, they all know that the season is slowly drawing to a close and the growing and picking season will be over. The heavy rains at the end of the chapter are a foreshadowing of their forthcoming fate.

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