The Grapes of Wrath Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


The Grapes of Wrath: Novel Summary: Chapter 6

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At the abandoned Joad place, Tom and Casy encounter neighbor, friend, and fellow tenant farmer Muley Graves. Old Tom had asked Muley to keep an eye out for Tom; Muley agreed, stating his intention to remain on the land: "There ain't nobody can run a guy name of Graves outa this country." Muley tells Tom about the situation we readers have learned about in the previous chapter. He tells Tom that the Joad family and all their possessions are at his (that is, Tom's) Uncle John's home. The Joads have been chopping cotton, "even the kids an' [Tom's] Grampa," in order to buy a car and head out west "where it's easy livin'." Even Muley's family has set out for California. For his part, however, Muley is angry and determined to stay. He confesses, however, that he has been reduced to "wanderin' aroun' like a damn ol' graveyard ghos'." The evocative phrase signals another way in which "the monster" (see Chapter 5) has dehumanized people.
Tom and Casy invite Muley to share the evening meal with them. Muley replies that he has no choice, but he does not mean his words to sound as ungrateful as they do. He clarifies, "[I]f a fella's got somepin to eat an' another fella's hungry-why, the first fella ain't got no choice." Casy intuitively recognizes the wisdom in Muley's words, saying, "Muley's got a-holt of somepin, an' it's too big for him, an' it's too big for me."
Muley and Tom discuss Tom's crime and his sentence in McAlester. Tom admits that he would kill Herb Turnbull, his victim, again, for Herb had been threatening Tom's sister, Rosasharn. As Muley discusses Will Feely-this chapter's specific equivalent of the generic Joe Davis's boy in the preceding chapter-Casy has another moment of epiphany. In a speech that will foreshadow Tom's speech to his mother near the novel's close, Casy tells Tom, "I'm goin' with you. An' when your folks start out on the road, I'm goin' with them. An' where folks are on the road, I'm gonna be with them." Casy's revelation was apparently provoked by Muley's report of Will Feely's words, "Fust an' on'y thing I got to think about is my own folks." Apparently, Casy has realized (or has been led to realize, if one considers his comment about getting "a dose of the sperit"-not the Holy Spirit of traditional Christian theology, but the universal human spirit of which Casy spoke in Chapter 4) that his preaching on the road can help bind the wandering "Okies" together into a new, larger family.
When a spotlight-equipped car, presumably driven by deputized Will Feely, threatens to find the trio on what was formerly the Joads' land, Muley asks if he should shoot at the car. Tom urges him to; Casy, in contrast, says, "It won't do no good . . . . We got to get thinkin' about doin' stuff that means somepin." The car eventually leaves, and the three men sleep.
Steinbeck is drawing readers' attention to the question of overarching matters of morality, life, and death, implicitly asking: Will these larger forces enhance or destroy our humanity? The answer, it seems, hinges on how we respond to them. Joe Davis's boy (see Chapter 5) responds by focusing on his own-admittedly, legitimate-needs; Casy and Tom respond by focusing on Muley's-arguably, equally legitimate-needs. The latter share; the former does not.
When they have to hide from the law even though they are on Tom Joad's land, they are legally trespassing and are made to feel like "hunted animals".


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