Essential Passages by Character: Tom Joad
Essential Passage 1: Chapter 2
The hitch-hiker stood up and looked across through the windows. “Could ya give me a lift, mister?”
The driver looked quickly back at the restaurant for a second. “Didn’ you see the No Riders sticker on the win’shield?”
“Sure—I seen it. But sometimes a guy’ll be a good guy even if some rich bastard makes him carry a sticker.”
The driver, getting slowly into the truck, considered the parts of this answer. If he refused now, not only was he not a good guy, but he was forced to carry a sticker, was not allowed to have company. If he took in the hitch-hiker he was automatically a good guy and also he was not one whom any rich bastard could kick around. He knew he was being trapped, but he couldn’t see a way out. And he wanted to be a good guy. He glanced again at the restaurant. “Scrunch down on the running board till we get around the bend,” he said.
Tom Joad has recently been released from prison after serving a term for manslaughter (killing another man in fight). He earned early release for good behavior, and now he is hitchhiking his way home. His family, not one for letter writing, is unaware of his return. As Tom travels the hot and dusty road, his feet become sore and blistered from the new shoes that were given to him on his release from prison. He is anxious to get home, to see how much has changed in the four years he has been imprisoned. Seeing the truck at the truck stop, Tom hopes to get a ride. However, company policy prevents the truck driver from carrying passengers, as the sticker placed on the driver's windshield clearly states. Tom, however, appeals to the man’s inner decency as well as to his spirit of independence. He points out that some men are not so easily controlled as to force them to forsake common decency and kindness in providing a tired traveler with a ride. The truck driver, forced into either conceding that he is not only compassionless but a tool of the truck company, agrees to give Tom a ride. Tom thus manipulates the driver into choosing sides—either the business bureaucracy or the common people.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 28
“...I been all day an’ all night hidin’ alone. Guess who I been thinkin’ about? Casy! He talked a lot. Used ta bother me. But now I been thinkin’ what he said, an’ I can remember—all of it. Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul, an’ he found’ he didn’ have no soul that was his’n. Says he foun’ he jus’ got a little piece of a great big soul. Says a wilderness ain’t no good, ‘cause his little piece of a soul wasn’t no good ‘less it was with the rest, an’ was whole. Funny how I remember. Didn’ think I was even listenin’. But I know now a fella ain’t no good alone.”
Tom, having hit one of the cops who came out to the camp, is in hiding. If he is taken in for questioning, he will be discovered to be breaking parole, and thus forced to return to prison. Unable and unwilling yet to escape, he has waited. Now, however, he knows he must leave his family, to keep from dragging them into his troubles. He comes to say good-bye to Ma, who has known that he will eventually have to leave. Tom tells her of his thoughts as he was in hiding. He remembers one of the many rambling...
(The entire section is 1437 words.)
Essential Passages by Theme: Hope
Essential Passage 1: Chapter 4
The preacher nodded his head slowly. “Every kid got a turtle some time or other. Nobody can’t keep a turtle though. They work at it and work at it, and at last one day they get out and away they go—off somewhere. It’s like me. I wouldn’ take the good ol’ gospel that was just layin’ there to my hand. I got to be pickin’ at it an’ workin’ at it until I got it all tore down. Here I got the sperit sometimes an’ nothin’ to preach about. I got the call to lead the people, an’ no place to lead ‘em.”
“Lead ‘em around and around,” said Joad. “Sling ‘em in the irrigation ditch. Tell ‘em they’ll burn in hell if they don’t think like you. What the hell you want to lead ‘em someplace for? Jus’ lead ‘em.” The straight trunk shade had stretched out along the ground. Joad moved gratefully into it and squatted on his hams and made a new smooth place on which to draw his thoughts with a stick.
While going home after serving time in prison, Tom Joad encounters Casy, the preacher that had ministered to the community during Tom’s youth. The two keep each other company and catch up on the passage of time. Tom shares his liquor with Casy, and the men talk about Casy’s preaching days. Although Casy has decided to give up preaching, that has not stopped him from sermonizing. His mind still works out the great truths of the universe, but he has no way to utilize what he has learned. He feels he still has some kind of spiritual call, but he has no place to lead his followers since he has given up his commitment to organized religion in the form of traditional Christianity. Tom, however, encourages him to just lead the people, which is what they really want after all. They want to be pointed in the direction of hope.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 20
Ma asked timidly, “Where we goin’, Tom?”
“Goin’ south,” he said. “We couldn’ let them bastards push us aroun’. We couldn’. Try to get aroun’ the town ‘thout goin’ through it.”
“Yeah, but where we goin’?” Pa spoke for the first time. “That what I want ta know.”
“Gonna look for that gov’ment camp,” Tom said. “A fella said they don’ let no deputies in there. Ma—I got to get away from ‘em. I’m scairt I’ll kill one.”
“Easy, Tom.” Ma soothed him. “Easy, Tommy. You done good once. You can do it again.”
“Yeah, an’ after a while I won’t have no decency lef’.”
“Easy,” she said. “You got to have patience. Why, Tom—us people will go on livin’ when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we’re the people that live. They ain’t gonna wipe us out. Why, we’re the people—we go on.”
“We take a beatin’ all the time.”
“I know.” Ma chuckled. “May that makes us tough. Rich fellas come up an’ they die, an’ their kids ain’t no good, an’ they die out. But, Tom, we keep a-comin’. Don’ you fret none, Tom. A different time’s comin’."
The Joad family has arrived in California, but Granma dies before she can see the beauty, and they are forced to leave her to be buried in a pauper’s grave. Finally finding a camp for migrants, the Joads take possession of one of the tents and settle in. However, it is clear that the migrants are not welcomed by the local people, and Tom fears for his safety if confronted by a deputy. His anger is such against authority that he is afraid that he will kill a policeman. Ma pleads with him to take it easy. She points out that he had been a good man once, and he can be again. She urges him to have patience, because those in authority cannot wipe them out. She says that they are “the people,” and they will survive no matter what. The constant battle only serves to strengthen them. The...
(The entire section is 1666 words.)