Why does a novel from 1939 about a migrant family in search of work during the Great Depression still resonate with readers in the 21st century? The answer is simple: look around. After the recession of 2008, this story maintains its relevance, especially with many students whose parents lost their jobs and/or careers as a result of the 2008 crash. The universal themes of the pursuit of the American Dream, perseverance, and the struggle against injustice, are still found in many aspects of American life today. As a result, The Grapes of Wrath has been hailed as one of the defining novels of American literature.
This Grapes of Wrath summary & plot diagram activity will help students keep track of major plot points while reading, and makes a great review piece for tests, quizzes, or papers!
It ain't the same. Looka that house. Somepin's happened. They ain't nobody there.
Tommy Joad has been paroled from prison early for good behavior. He finds his family’s farm deserted; they moved to his Uncle John’s after the bank took the land. He resolves to go to Uncle John’s the following morning.
Tommy technically can't leave the state, but his family plans to move to the San Joaquin Valley, where a government program promises a future for displaced farmers. The family fits into a small jalopy Hudson Super-Six truck to travel 2,000 miles.
The Joads set off on Highway 66. Grandpa Joad has a stroke the night they leave and dies. As the Joads drive on, they hear rumblings that there aren’t enough jobs in California, after all. As they continue, Noah leaves the group, Sairy Wilson is too sick to continue traveling, and Grandma dies.
At the Hooverville camp, the Joads find corrupt police officers and hostile locals. Casy takes the blame for striking a deputy and is ends up in prison. The Joads move to Weedpatch, which is run by the migrants. They are offered a job picking peaches because the regular workers are on strike. Casy is hit and killed by a police officer, and Tommy explodes, killing the officer.
The Joads move to a cotton field where Tommy hides until his injuries are healed. The Joads share a boxcar with the Wainwrights. After another disappointing job opportunity, Rose of Sharon gives birth to a stillborn baby. Tom decides to continue Casy’s and stays behind to help the migrant workers. The boxcar is overtaken by floodwaters, so the Joads flee.
The Joads come to a farm with a barn. Inside, they find a young boy and his very ill father, who is starving and unable to eat solid foods without getting sick. Rose of Sharon gives the dying man her breast, which has milk from her recent birth, and covers him with a blanket. She is strangely at peace.