Grapes of Wrath

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Novel by Steinbeck, published in 1939 and awarded a Pulitzer Prize. The narrative chapters alternate with panoramic essays that show the social significance of the migrant labor problem.

The Joads, expropriated Oklahoma farmers from the Dust Bowl region, set out in a dilapidated automobile for California, which they believe is a land of plenty. The family includes Grampa, a lusty old man who was never “house broke”; Granma, weary and fanatically religious; lonely Uncle John; Pa, who has tacitly surrendered the rule of the family to his wife; Ma, brave, strong, and patient, who dreams and plans for the others; dull-witted Noah; Tom, just released from a jail term for killing a man in a fight; Al, a cocky youth who admires Tom's calm strength; Rose of Sharon, absorbed in love for her weak husband Connie, with her unborn child; and the children, Ruthie and Winfield. The caravan also includes Casy, an ex-preacher and rustic socialist. During the hard journey, Grampa and Granma die and Noah deserts, but the Joads drive on (“It don't take no nerve to do somepin when there ain't nothin' else you can do.”). In California they are hounded by sheriffs and labor contractors, Casy is jailed, and Connie runs away. Haunted by starvation, they spend some time in a government camp, but leave reluctantly to pick fruit at a blacklisted orchard. Tom meets Casy, who is leading the strikers, and during an attack by vigilantes Casy is killed, and Tom in turn kills his murderer. The Joads escape, and, while hiding Tom, work at picking cotton. Exhausted and fearful, Ma finally sends Tom away, and he plans to continue Casy's work as a labor organizer. During a storm, Rose of Sharon gives birth to a stillborn child. Jobless, the Joads face starvation, but Ma cries, “We ain' gonna die out. People is goin' on—changin' a little, maybe, but goin' right on.”

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »


John Steinbeck (1902—1968) American novelist

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.