The Grapes of Wrath Essential Quotes by Character: Tom Joad
by John Steinbeck

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Essential Quotes 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 spiritual talks that Casy, the preacher, always came up with. Casy was killed in the fight, but still his words linger in Tom’s mind. Tom reflects that, as Casy said, each person is part of a bigger soul, rather than an individual. A man isolated, whether by choice or by force, is no good. People belong with other people.

Essential Passage 3: Chapter 28

Tom laughed uneasily, “Well, maybe like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big one—an’then—.”

“Then what, Tom?”

“Then it don’ matter. Then I’ll be aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where—wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be...

(The entire section is 1,437 words.)