The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath Summary and Analysis of Chapters 6-9

Chapter Six:

Casy and Tom approach the Joad home. The house has been mashed in at one corner and is apparently deserted. Casy says that it looks like the arm of the Lord has struck. Tom can tell that Ma isn't there, for she would have never left the gate in its present, unhooked state. The two men only see one resident (the cat), but Tom wonders why the cat hasn't gone to find another family if his family has moved and wonders further why the neighbors haven't taken the belongings that remain in the house.

Muley Graves -- a short, lean old man with the truculent look of an ornery child -- approaches Tom and Casy. Muley tells Tom that his family was evicted and had to move in with his Uncle John. The Joads were forced to chop cotton to make enough money to go west in search of better conditions. Muley also tells Tom and Casy that the loss of the farmland broke up his own family: Muley's wife and kids went off to California, yet Muley chose to stay. In his present state of deprivation, he has been forced to eat wild game. He muses about how angry he was when he was told he had to get off the land. First he wanted to kill people, but then his family set off and Muley was left alone to wander. He realizes that he has become accustomed to his new lifestyle, even if he must roam the land like a ghost.

Tom tells Muley and Casy that he can't go to California, as many of the tenants have, for it would mean breaking his parole. Prison has not changed Tom significantly, in Tom's own opinion. He thinks that if he saw Herb Turnbull, the man he killed, coming after him with a knife again, he would still hit him with the shovel. Tom tells his companions that there was a man in McAlester who read a great deal about prisons and who told him that they started a long time ago and now cannot be stopped, despite the fact that they do not actually rehabilitate people. As the conversation winds down, Muley tells his companions that they have to hide, for they are trespassing on the land. The three hide in a cave for the night.


When Tom and Casy return to the Joad home, it appears foreign and unfriendly. The house is empty, but for Tom the situation is unnatural. There are signs that the family has left, but suspiciously everyone else seems to have left as well.

Muley Graves echoes the previous chapter's idea that no matter whom a man might kill, the banks cannot be stopped. Eventually, Muley enters a state of resignation, forced to accept his fate. The character is essentially a ghost, living on the outskirts of society and wandering the land, bereft of his wife and children. His fate demonstrates the dehumanizing quality of the banks' intrusions: he is a man without any impetus to participate in life.

In telling Muley and Casy that he has not been rehabilitated by his jail term, Tom effectively issues a warning that, despite his calm demeanor, he is still a man capable of violence. This foreshadows later developments; if Tom is provoked, there is still the possibility that he could react viciously. Neither Tom nor Muley believes in the rehabilitating power of prisons. According to Muley, the only type of government force that can manipulate human behavior is the capitalist system, the idea of the Œsafe "margin of profit." Muley's belief reinforces Steinbeck's depiction of the corporate system as the real controlling force in society, more powerful than any citizen or group of citizens yet without concern for them.

Even spending the night on abandoned property places Tom, Casy, and Muley in danger. They are trespassing, and must hide in a cave in order to protect themselves from patrolling deputies. Muley makes an apt comparison between the men and hunted animals, forced into subterfuge and unable to even show themselves in the open.

Chapter Seven: The car dealership owners look at their customers. They watch for weak and easily manipulated visitors, such as a woman who wants an expensive car and can push her husband to buy one. They attempt to make the customers feel obliged. Yet the true profits come from selling jalopies, not from selling new and dependable cars. There are no guarantees, only hidden costs and obvious flaws.


This chapter critiques yet another part of the business system. The owners of the car dealerships mean solely to exploit impoverished buyers. They do not profit from selling cars that will last, but rather from finding the most ill-used vehicle, giving it the appearance of reliability, and selling it off to desperate farmers who want to get to California. There is no compassion in the market for cars, just a perpetual cycle of exploitation. This chapter indicates what the Joad family must certainly have experienced to obtain a car before going west, yet places the family's experiences in a larger context.

Chapter Eight: Tom and Casy reach Uncle John's farm. They remark that Muley's lonely and furtive lifestyle has obviously driven him insane. According to Tom, the Joads' Uncle John is equally crazy; this relative wasn't expected to live long yet is older than Tom's father. Still, Uncle John is astonishingly tough and mean, hardened by losing his young wife years ago. Tom and Casy see Pa Joad fixing the family's truck. When Pa sees Tom, he assumes that Tom broke out of jail. The men go into the house and see Ma Joad, a heavy woman thick with child-bearing and constant work. Her face is controlled and kindly.

This chapter also introduces Grampa and Granma Joad, as well as a few other Joad relatives. Granma is as tough as Grampa is, and once shot her husband while she was speaking in tongues. Noah Joad, Tom's older brother, is a strange man, slow and withdrawn, with little pride and few urges. (He may have experienced brain damage during his infancy.) The family has dinner and Casy says grace. He talks about how Jesus went off into the wilderness alone, and how he did the same, ultimately arriving at the conclusion that mankind is holy. Pa tells Tom about Al, Tom's sixteen-year old brother, who is concerned with little more than girls and cars. He hasn't been at home at night for a week. Furthermore, Tom's sister Rosasharn has married Connie Rivers and is several months pregnant. In terms of resources, the family has two hundred dollars at its disposal for the coming journey west.


The members of the Joad family are tough and unrefined people, hardened by their experiences. Uncle John has gone nearly mad from losing his wife to illness, Pa Joad is sullen and withdrawn, and Grampa is too angry and bitter to even stay in the house. Only Ma Joad retains some level of warmth and compassion. She worries that Tom might have gone insane in prison. However, even she has changed, as Tom remarks, for until recently she had never had her house pushed over and had never had to sell everything she owned. Even Granma Joad is a mean, weathered woman.

Despite some of these unappealing family traits, Casy's speech at dinner is yet another example of Steinbeck's glorification of the common person. For Casy and Steinbeck alike, the population as a whole exemplifies what is holy. It is only when people diverge from the common good that they become unholy. This theme is also evident in Ma Joad's musings that there might be hope if everybody became angry enough to rise up against the moneyed powers. Steinbeck takes a largely socialistic viewpoint here, championing the common good over individual interests.

Chapter Nine: This chapter describes the process of selling belongings. The items pile up in yards, selling for ridiculously low prices. Whatever is not sold must be burned, even items of sentimental value that simply cannot be taken on the journey for lack of space.


The sale of the items is a demeaning process, for the farmers must accept ridiculously low prices for their now-useless possessions. Steinbeck is explicit about the meaning of the sales: he states that "you're not buying only junk, you're buying junked lives." This is yet another example of the dehumanizing effects of the Depression foreclosures. The situation is hopeless: there is no possibility of starting over, because the people who are leaving are now imbued with bitterness and loss. They must even give up out of simple necessity those objects that have sentimental value -- yet another example of the loss of human individuality and personal attachment.