Grapes of Wrath Chapter 18
When they reach Arizona, a border guard stops the Joads. He asks them where they are going and lets them pass. They continue through the mountains of Arizona in flight from the sun and drought, and finally reach the eastern edge California. They pull off the road near the Colorado river. Ruthie and Winfield play in the river, and the rest talk about how they are going to cross the desert. They decide to rest before attempting it. The men go down and bathe in the river. Pa reminds them that they only have forty dollars left.
A father and son come down to bathe in the river, and tell the Joads that they are heading back east to starve with folks that do not hate them. Pa wants to hear more. The man says when you get to the California valley it is as beautiful as you imagine but the first thing you'll see is a bunch of good land owned by the Land and Cattle company that is lying fallow. You will get arrested if you try to plant on it. What is worse is that you can see that people hate you by the look on their faces. "They hate you 'cause they're scairt. They know a hungry fella gonna get food even if he got to take it. They know that fallow lan' s a sin an' somebody' gonna take it." Chapter 18, pg. 262 They will call you Okie, which used to mean someone from Oklahoma, but they mean it as an insult. There is no steady work, and the work you can get is degrading. The owners watch your every move and cheat you out of your pay.
The father tells them about a man who owns a million acres, and drives around in an armored car. He says he looks scared and unhappy. Casy says, "If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it 'cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he's poor in hisself, there ain't no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an' maybe he's disappointed that nothin' he can do 'll make him feel rich." Chapter 18, pg. 264 Pa asks Uncle John what he thinks about their situation, and he says talk isn't going to keep them from going at this point, so they decide to cross the desert that night
Tom lay down under the shade of some willow trees to sleep, but Noah came in and abruptly announced that he was parting with the family. He tells Tom to tell Ma. He will not leave the river. He explains that he can survive by fishing, and that no one will really miss him. Tom argues with him but then lets him leave.
Inside the tent, Ma fans Granma, who is restless and talking to Grampa again. Rose of Sharon is concerned that Granma may die. Ma says that when you are young you experience things alone. You suffer alone, but when you get older death and childbirth become part of a larger experience. "They's a time of change, an' when that comes, dyin' is a piece of all dyin', and bearin' is a piece of all bearin', an' bearin' an' dyin' is two pieces of the same thing. An' then things ain't so lonely anymore. An' then a hurt don't hurt so bad." Chapter 18, pg. 268 A woman looks into the tent and says she heard they had a soul ready to go to heaven. Ma denies this. She says Granma is only tired. The woman says she will bring some people to hold a meeting in their tent. Ma will not let her. The woman forgives Ma for her hard heart, and says they will hold the meeting in their own tent. They hear the wild sounds of the meeting, and Granma appears to settle down. Ma and Rose of Sharon lay down to sleep, but are wakened by a policeman who demands to know who they are and tells them they better be gone by the next day. He does not want any Okies settling down. Ma threatens him with an iron skillet, and he moves on to the next tent.
Later Ma tells Tom about it, and he says he would have hit the cop. Then Tom tells her that Noah is not coming with them. She lament that the "family's fallin' apart." Chapter 18, pg. 276 Tom calls the family together to get ready to leave. When Pa learns of Noah's desertion, he says it is his fault. Then Mr. Wilson says he and his wife cannot go because she is too weak to cross the desert. He rebuffs the proposal that everyone stay. He asks Casy to see his wife before he leaves. She asks him to pray for her. She confesses that she is dying and just wants to be close to another person before she goes. He says a silent prayer, and she thanks him. The family boils potatoes for dinner and fills barrels of water for the trip. They offer two dollars and some pork and potatoes to the Wilsons. Mr. Wilson refuses them, but the Joads leave their gift in front of the tent and leave.
The stop at a service station before the long trip across, and the attendant tells them they have nerve to cross in such a jalopy. They say it does not take nerve when you have got no choice. Everyone settles down for the long drive. Connie and Rose of Sharon wait for everyone to fall asleep so they can make love. Uncle John asks Casy if he is bringing bad luck to the family because he sinned when he did not get a doctor for his wife. Casy says he can't tell him what is a sin and is not a sin. He tells him to decide for himself. Ma is lying with Granma and comforting her. They come to an inspecting station, and the officer tells them that he needs to inspect the truck. Ma tells the man they cannot wait because they have a sick woman who needs to get to a doctor. The man shines a light on Granma's face and lets them go. When they get going, Ma tells them Granma is actually all right. They are confused by her actions.
In the morning, they reach the other side of the desert. The valley is beautiful. Ma gets out of the truck looking very sick and tired. She tells the family that Granma died in the night, before the inspection station. She says she explained to Granma that the family had to get across, and that she could be buried in California. They are all awed by Ma's great strength and love.