The Grapes of Wrath Chapters 27-30 Summary and Analysis
by John Steinbeck

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Chapters 27-30 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mr. and Mrs. Wainwright: migrants who have little left but their pride who share living space in a boxcar with the Joads

Aggie Wainwright: their daughter who will marry Al Joad

Chapter 27
There was cotton to be picked and willing hands to pick it. The wages weren’t bad and they knew cotton, having picked it back home. They bought a collecting bag and paid for it with the first part of their labor. It was hard, tiring work. They dragged the big bag and filled it. Even the kids helped fill it. And they talked and sang as they worked. The bag got heavy. They got paid by the weight. The boss said they put rocks in it, and they said his scale was crooked. Each was right at times. It was good work, with money and meat at the end of each day. But there were thousands arriving to do the work of hundreds and the fields were picked clean rapidly. And winter was coming fast and there would be no work then.

Chapter 28
Being among the first to reach the cotton field, the Joads get to live in one-half of a boxcar rather than a tent. With the money they earn, they are able to buy new clothes and eat meat every night. But when Ma buys some Cracker Jacks as a special treat for Ruthie and Winfield, Ruthie gets into a fight over them with another girl. She threatens the girl by telling her about Tom killing two men and hiding nearby.

When Ma learns of this, she immediately goes to meet Tom. He takes her to the cave where he has been hiding. Ma tells him he has to leave and asks what he will do. Tom says that hiding had given him a lot of time to think. He has been thinking about Casy’s idea about everyone being part of one big soul and one man’s little piece of the soul wasn’t so good unless the rest was whole.

Tom feels he has to finish the work Casy started, so he will try to organize the people. When Ma reminds him Casy was killed, Tom says he will duck faster than Casy did. When Ma wonders if she will ever see him again, Tom tells her she will see him everywhere around her, anywhere people are in need or trouble or fighting for a better life.

On her way back to the boxcar Ma meets a man who says he needs people to pick the cotton on his small 20 acres the next day. He tells her of his problems with The Association setting wages. When she gets back, the Wainwrights, who share the boxcar, tell the Joads they are worried about Al getting Aggie, their daughter, pregnant and possibly bringing shame on them. Ma says Pa or she will speak to Al. Later Pa tells Ma he isn’t any good anymore. All he can do is think about the home he’ll never see again. He says, “We got nothin’ now,” and “Seems like our life’s over and done.” But Ma refuses to believe this and says they will go on.

Al tells them he and Aggie are going to get married and live in a town where he will get a job working on cars. The two families celebrate together and decide to go pick the cotton together. They get there early but so do many other people and the field is picked clean before noon. By the time they get back to the boxcar, rain is pouring down and Rose of Sharon is having chills.

Chapter 29
Grey clouds formed over the mountains and the rains began slowly and then increased. Water collected in puddles, then ponds, and then lakes in low places. Rivers and streams flowed over their banks. The flood engulfed the tent homes and the cars. The people sought higher ground and crowded there in despair. Men and boys went out and begged or stole food, not even running if shot at. The women watched the men for signs of a break again. They saw fear turning to anger. They knew that, as long as this turn from fear to wrath continued, the break would never come.

Chapter 30
Al covers the motor of the truck as the rains continue. The Joads and Wainwrights, now one family, wonder if they should leave but since they are still dry and Rose of Sharon is getting sicker, Pa decides to build an embankment to hold back the flood waters and goes to get other men to help.


(The entire section is 1,803 words.)