The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 12-16 Summary and Analysis
by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download The Grapes of Wrath Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 12-16 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Ivy Wilson: a farmer from Kansas, headed west, whose car has broken down along the highway

Sarah Wilson: his wife, who shows the strain of travel

Chapter 12
Highway 66 was the main cross-country road running through Oklahoma and on west. On its long way it crossed mountains, dusty plains, more mountains, the arid southwestern desert, and one final range of mountains before reaching the fertile green valleys of California. The migrants streamed from their former homes to the north and south of it and turned westward, forming small caravans of whatever vehicles they had been able to obtain.

When they needed parts to keep the vehicles moving, people along the way tried to take advantage of their plight and raised the price of the parts. If they charged much more than the four dollars a tire was worth, they considered it business. If the migrant took it for nothing, however, he was a thief. So the migrants would go on and try to make an old tire do until they could get a fairer price. Many times they had to walk long distances to get a needed part.

Chapter 13
After driving awhile, the Joads have to stop so Granma can go to the bathroom. They realize they have not brought any water with them, and Al says the truck needs gas also so they will stop at the next station and get both. The first thing the station attendant wants to know is if they have any money. This angers Al, but the man explains too many people are begging for gas or trading their meager possessions, even their shoes, for the gas to keep their vehicles moving west. He is bewildered by the number of people going west and asks what is happening to the country. Angrily Tom tells the attendant that although he asks that question, he, like many others, doesn’t really want to know. Tom warns him that he too will be affected and driven out by the big company gas stations. The man admits he has been considering leaving, and the family drives on.

Ma is worried that if Tom crosses the state line he will be in trouble because of his parole. He replies that he knows the chance he is taking, but it is better than staying where he is and starving.

After they turn onto Highway 66 Ma says they should stop before sunset so she can prepare food for them. Tom spots a good place to stop. There is a car there already and Tom asks the man by it if it is all right to stop there. The man replies he doesn’t own the place, but only stopped there because his car couldn’t go any further. He and his wife welcome the Joads to stop and share the place. They are Ivy and Sarah Wilson who have left their farm in Kansas to go west.

As Noah helps Grampa down off the truck, it is apparent that Grampa is not well. Mrs. Wilson offers to let him lie down in the tent they have put up. Once inside the tent Grampa has a stroke and dies. At a family council the Joads decide they will bury Grampa themselves, right there, according to their “own law,” because they can’t afford a regular funeral and don’t want the authorities to put him in a pauper’s grave. Mrs. Wilson helps Ma prepare the body in one of her quilts, which Ma offers to replace. All the men of the family dig a grave and ask Jim Casy to say a few words. Instead of praying over Grampa, Casy talks about the hard road ahead for the living. He says Grampa died when he was taken away from his farm and much need not be said about him because his life, whatever it had been, was done, but that the living were important.

The Wilsons tell of all the delays they have suffered caused by constant trouble with their car, with which Mr. Wilson does not know how to deal. Tom and Al promise to fix it. After looking at the car they suggest the two families distribute the people and baggage between the two vehicles and travel together. The Wilsons are happy to do so, although Mrs. Wilson is afraid it will be a burden on the Joads. Ma says it won’t be a burden, that they will help each other.

Chapter 14
The great owners in the Western states did...

(The entire section is 2,432 words.)