Grapes of Wrath Chapter 20
Pa, Ma, and Uncle John come out of the coroner's office where they have left Granma's body. Ma is upset because she knows Granma wanted a proper burial. Pa says they could not afford it. They look for a place to camp and come upon a collection of shacks and tents. Pa asks one man if they can camp on the land, and the man responds nonsensically. Pa gets angry and stalks off. Another young man tells them they have just met the Mayor of Hooverville, which is what the campsite is called. He says the mayor is "bull simple," which means that too many cops have been pushing him around. The man says people are scared that the migrants might get organized against them. Tom says he is looking for work. The man responds "So you're lookin' for work. What ya think ever'body else is lookin' for? Di'monds? What you think I wore my ass down to a nub lookin' for? Chapter 20, pg. 312 He says there is no work nearby, and that he is heading north. Pa mentions the handbills he read, and the man explains that there are so many workers drawn by advertising that the owners can pay them fifteen cents an hour. There is only work during harvest time, and afterwards there is no work.
Tom wonders why the migrants do not organize. "Well, s'pose them people got together an' says , 'Let 'em rot.' Wouldn' be long 'fore the price went up, by God!" Chapter 20, pg. 315 The man says any migrant who is suspected of attempting to lead other migrants is put in jail or the owners are warned not to hire him. Either way his family starves. Tom says he is not going to take it. The man warns him not to make trouble, and invites him to a meeting that night.
Tom goes off to talk to Casy. Casy says he see and army of migrants without a leader. He says he has noticed this all the way over from Oklahoma. People ask him to say a pray for them, and he used to think that might help their troubles, but now he does not think so. Casy says he wants to leave, so that maybe he can do some good. Tom tells him to wait till tomorrow, and he agrees.
Rose of Sharon is sick. Connie says maybe they should have stayed in Oklahoma where he could have learned to drive a tractor. Rose of Sharon eyed him critically, and asks if he is loosing hope. She demands that she have a house before the baby is born. Connie leaves the tent and walks down the road.
A crowd of children a drawn around the Joads tent by the smell of Ma's cooking. One girl offers to keep up the fire. She wants to be invited to dinner. The girl tells ma about a government camp with nice toilets and Saturday night dances.
Al visits the young man who is now working on his car. He offers to help, and the man introduces himself as Floyd Knowles. Al tells him about a time he got to drive an expensive car. Floyd says he better get used to jalopies. A car of men drives by and tells Floyd they have just come from looking for work and cannot find any.
Ma serves dinner, but Uncle John cannot eat in front of the circle of hungry children. There is not enough food for them. Ma tells the family to eat inside, and tells the kids they can have what is left. They scrape the pot clean. Later one of their mothers comes over and tells Ma not to give her children any more food.
Al tells Tom to come talk to Floyd who tells them there is work 200 miles north. He gave them the tip because Al helped him out with his car. Tom is reluctant to agree to drive that far for work. Al suggests that he might go alone and come back. Tom says Ma will not like that. A nice car drives up, and a man gets out. He asks the men if they want work in Tulare county. They ask the contractor what he is paying, but he will not state a wage or sign them up to work. Floyd demands that he produce a contractor's license and state a wage. The man signals for the deputy he brought in his car to help him. The contractor asks the deputy if he recognizes Floyd. He gives him a look and decides he is the man who broke into a used car lot the week before. He tells him to get in the car. Tom protests, but they threaten to take him to jail, too. The deputy tells all the people that if they do not leave to go to Tulare, he is going to burn the campsite that night. Then, Floyd tries to escape. The deputy fires his gun and hits a woman's hand. Tom trips the deputy, and when he gets up Casy kicks him in the neck, knocking him unconscious. The contractor drives away in his car. Casy tells Tom to hide because he is wanted for breaking parole. When the police arrive, Casy takes all the blame. The contractor says he is not the right man, but they arrest him anyway.
The family is surprised by Casy's action. Rose of Sharon comes out of the tent complaining about Connie. She thinks he should not have left her while she was sick. Ma tells her to get to work to calm herself. Uncle John tells Pa he has sinned and he has to confess. He pulls out a five-dollar bill. He says he has been saving it to get drunk, and he has to get drunk tonight. He says he cannot get through the night thinking about what Casy had just done. He gives Pa his five-dollar bill and asks for two, so he will not spend it all in one night. They let him go.
Al gets Tom and they talk to Floyd about leaving the camp. Floyd assures them that the deputy will get his friends to burn the camp down this night. They head back to tell the family. Rose of Sharon asks if Tom has seen Connie. Al says he saw him heading south down the river. Pa says Connie was no good. Rose of Sharon starts crying. Tom says they have to leave the camp that night. Tom goes out looking for Uncle John. He finds him in a ditch and has to knock him out and drag him back.
They leave a message for Connie, and drive away. Tom tells Ma he is getting mad. He says " If it was the law they was workin' with , why we could take it. But it ain't the law. They're a-workin' away at out spirits...they're workin' away at our decency." Chapter 20, pg. 357 Ma tells him to stay calm, not to break up the family any more than it is. They come to a blockade where they are kept from entering a town that does not want any "goddamn Okies." Tom chokes back sobs as he drives away having taken the insults without fighting back. Ma tells Tom to have patience. She says, " Why, Tom - us people will go on livin' when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we're the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people - we go on." Chapter 20, pg. 359 He tells Ma he is going to look for the government camp and he drives through the town using another route.