What seems to be the reason why the Wheatpatch Camp differs from the other camps in Grapes of Wrath?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wheatpatch Camp, called Weedpatch Camp in the book, is much nicer than the other camps the Joads have seen.  It is a government camp, and it is well run; Weedpatch is a place where Ma Joad knows that they will finally be "treated decent".  The camp is well-organized and neat, the tents set in neat rows, with no litter around them.  There are community "toilets and showers and wash tubs", and best of all, there is hot running water.  It costs a dollar a week to camp at Weedpatch, and if a family does not have the money, they can work off the fee by doing odd jobs to keep the camp clean and running well.

A huge reason why Weedpatch differs from other camps is because the residents govern themselves.  They "elect their own cops", and the often ruthless law enforcement of the surrounding areas is not allowed in the Camp without a warrant.  The people also elect representatives to a Central Committee, which "makes the laws...what they say goes".  Those who do not follow the rules of the Camp are warned by the Central Committee, and after a third infraction, are forced to leave.  When the Joads arrive at Weedpatch, there is relatively little crime in the community, in contrast to the other places in which they have stayed.  Tom Joad finds it hard to believe that "the fellas that runs the camp is jus' fellas - camping here".

The Joads are happy at the government camp, but after awhile, they realize that there is a major problem there.  There is no work to be had anywhere in the area, and as families run out of money and cannot buy food to sustain themselves, crime, especially theft born of desperation, increases.  Ma Joad sees that the health of each of them is suffering because of malnutrition, and forces the men to confront the problem and make an unwanted decision.  Although Weedpatch is the nicest place in which they have stayed since leaving home, the Joads are forced to leave in order to find work (Chapters 22-26).

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The Grapes of Wrath

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