Grapes of Wrath Plot Summary
Tom Joad is released from the Oklahoma state penitentiary where he had served a sentence for killing a man in self-defense. On his trip home he meets Jim Casy, a former preacher. They travel together to Tom's home but find it deserted. Muley Graves, a tenant farmer, discovers Tom and Casy and tells them that all the families in the neighborhood have left for California or are leaving. Tom's folks have gone to a relative's place to prepare for the trip.
All over the Southern Midwest, farmers were moving west. Land banks, bad weather, and machine farming had made farming unprofitable. Junk dealers and used-car salesmen took advantage of these families.
Tom and Casy find the Joads at Uncle Tom's place. The family includes Pa and Ma Joad; Noah and Al their sons; Rose of Sharon, Tom's sister, and her husband; Ruthie and Winfield, the two youngest children; and Grandma and Grandpa Joad. Casy is invited to accompany the family on their trip west.
The trip is arduous, but the promise of agricultural work kept the Joads on their path. Grandpa Joad dies of a stroke at the first stop. Returning migrants tell the Joads there is no work in California. Noah, feeling he is a hindrance to the family, runs away from the party as they near the California line. Grandma dies during a night trip across the desert. After they bury her, the Joads move into a migrant camp, Hooverville, where they discover that work is almost impossible to find. A contractor offers fruit picking work in another county. The Joads ask him for his license and a fight ensues. Tom escapes and Casy gives himself up in Tom's place. Connie, Rose of Sharon's husband, leaves the group and his pregnant wife to fend for himself.
The Joads leave the Hooverville and move to a government camp for migrant workers. This camp is clean and has a local government made up of migrant workers. For the first time since arriving in California, the Joads find themselves treated as human beings. However, when the work runs out they must move on.
They look for work at another large farm and find agitators attempting to keep migrants from taking work as a protest against unfair wages. In desperation they take work picking peaches for five cents a box. Tom goes looking for the protesters that night and finds that Casy is their leader. While Tom and Casy talk, deputies who had been looking for Casy, find them. A chase and fight ensue. Casy is killed and Tom kills a deputy. The family hides Tom in their shack. Their wages drop and the Joads must look for better paying work. They join other migrant workers camping in abandoned boxcars and soon find work picking cotton. Tom hides near the camp, while he recovers from a wound he got in the fight. Ruthie discloses Tom's presence and Tom flees.
The rainy season begins and a nearby stream begins to fill the boxcars. Rose of Sharon gives birth to a dead baby boy, and the family is forced to move by the rising water. They walk in the rain to a barn, where they find a boy and his starving father. Rose of Sharon feeds the man with the milk from her breasts.