Grapes of Wrath Chapter 16
The Joads and the Wilsons crawled westward together through the Panhandle of Texas. They began to settle into life on the road. Al drove the Wilson's car and Ma and Rose of Sharon sat beside him. Rose of Sharon braced her body against the movements of the car in an effort to protect her fetus. She tells Ma that she and Connie have decided to live in a city when they get to California. They plan to have a doctor for the baby, and take courses, and see movies. Ma does not think it is a good idea to separate the family.
Al hears a rattle in the engine of the car, and the caravan stops. Tom. and Al decided a con-rod bearing has to be torn out. Tom figures it will take a day to fix, and they have to buy a new bearing. They cannot buy it on a Sunday, so the delay is lengthened. The Wilsons offer to stay behind, but Tom has a better idea. He suggests that he and Casy stay behind and fix the car. They can try to catch up with the truck. He says the closer they get to California and paying work the better. Everyone agrees, except Ma, whom threatens to fight Pa with a jack handle if he tries to make her separate her family. "All we got is the family unbroke." Chapter 16, pg. 217 Ma is determined, and everyone gives in. Tom sends them on to the next campsite in the truck. He and Casy start removing the broken bearing, while waiting for the truck to return to take them to town. It is Saturday night, and they hope they can find a shop still open. Casy says he has counted hundreds cars full of migrants going west. He is uneasy about the job prospects for so many people. Tom says he is just putting one foot in front of the other, and not worrying about the future.
Al comes back, and he and Tom head for the next town. Al tells Tom that they had to pay fifty cents for the camping ground, and that Granma is acting crazy, crying and talking to Grampa. Al tries to get Tom to talk about prison, but Tom says he prefers to forget about that part of his life. They arrive at a service station with a lot of wrecked cars and talk to a one-eyed attendant. He says they can look around the place for the part they need, a '25 Dodge con rod. They find the part they need. The attendant hates his boss and complains about how hard it is having one eye. Tom has no sympathy for him. "Now look-a-here, fella. You got that eye wide open. An' ya dirty, ya stink. Ya jus' askin' for it. Ya like it. Lets ya feel sorry for yaself. 'Course ya can't get no woman with that empty eye flappin' aroun'. Put somepin over it an' wash ya face." Chapter 16, pg. 229 Tom advises him to fix up one of the wrecked cars and leave his boss. The man gives Tom and Al the part a buck and a flashlight and socket wrench for a quarter. They head back and fix the car that night.
When they drive into the campground that night, the proprietor and his men ask them to pay another fifty cents to camp. Tom argues with them and says he is not going to pay. . The proprietor calls Tom a bum. He says he has to make a living. Tom says, "On'y I wisht they was some way to make her 'thout takin' her away from somebody else." Chapter 16, pg. 239 The proprietor does not back down Tom decides to camp down the road and meet up with the family in the morning. He stays a while to talk with the family. They start talking about their plans with another scraggly camper. When he discovers they are going to California, he starts giggling madly. When he recovers, he tells them that he is returning from California to starve at home. He says there is no work. Pa says he has a handbill advertising lots of work. The camper says that landowners who need eight hundred hands print up thousands of handbills and thousands of workers show up. There is so much competition that they work for less than they need to survive. The camper tells them to find out in advance how what the pay is. It took him a long time to find out these things, and his wife and two children died from starvation in the process. After relating this story, the man walks away into the darkness.
Tom reassures the group that what is true for one man is not true for all men. Ma expresses excitement about getting to California. Tom gets ready to leave. As he walks out to the car he picks up a clod of earth and throws it at the proprietor's house.