The Grapes of Wrath

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The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After watching the truck depart, Tom walks down the road barefoot, with his shoes wrapped in his coat. He comes across a turtle and turns it on its back. After watching the turtle flail and wet itself in fear, Tom picks it up and carries it off wrapped in his coat.
Tom’s treatment of the defenseless turtle gives a glimpse into his character at this point. He is neither kind nor cruel, just observant; he doesn’t use his power to hurt or to help.
Themes
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Tom finds a man sitting in the shade of a tree, singing a hymn. The man recognizes Tom, and gives his name as Jim Casy. Casy is a former preacher, and claims to remember baptizing Tom, back when Tom was a young boy fixated on pulling girls’ pigtails. The two share a drink of whisky from Tom’s flask.
This encounter shows how close-knit Tom’s community is. Even after years apart, Tom and Casy remember one another, and are immediately comfortable together.
Themes
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Casy goes on to explain why he has given up being a preacher. He tells Tom that he was plagued by guilt for having sex with girls from his congregations, but found himself unable to stop. After agonizing about seducing the young women he felt responsible for, Casy concluded that he doesn’t really believe in the Christian concept of sin. Rather, he “loves people” and doesn’t feel comfortable judging their actions. For Casy, the Holy Spirit is the “one big soul ever’body’s a part of.” Casy is relieved to hear that Tom remembers his baptism experience with indifference, because Casy’s guilt makes him worry about having done one of his congregants harm during his time preaching.
Casy occupies somewhat of a moral gray area. He abused the trust of women in his congregation, but he seems to be genuinely remorseful for his actions. Casy’s guilt stems from the black-and-white teachings of sin and virtue that he believed while he was preaching. His re-evaluation of his faith shows less of a focus on absolute judgments like good and evil, and instead emphasizes common humanity.
Themes
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Casy asks Tom about his father, Ol’ Tom Joad, and Tom confesses that he hasn’t heard anything from him in four years. Tom explains that he served time for killing a man with a shovel in self-defense, after he was assaulted with a knife at a dance. Tom remarks that his jail time wasn’t all that unpleasant, since he was kept clean and fed.
Tom’s explanation of his crime to Casy includes a new detail: the murder was in self-defense. This makes Tom’s moral situation less clear—he isn’t a stone-cold murderer, as he led the trucker to believe, but he isn’t perfectly innocent, either. His comment about jail reveals how bad things are for the poor during the Depression; jail’s pretty good compared to that poverty.
Themes
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
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The two men head off in the direction of Tom’s homestead. Tom reveals that he and his family are squatters, saying that he expects his house to be in the same place as he left it, “’less somebody stole it, like Pa [Joad] stole it.” Tom explains that the Joads first got their land when Tom’s father, along with his father, Grampa Joad, and son, Noah Joad, used a team of horses to drag another family’s abandoned house onto the land. As Tom and Casy crest the hill above the house, they see that it’s been deserted.
Tom’s glib description of house-stealing illustrates a different conception of property. For the Joads, it’s perfectly normal to make use of something that others have left behind. To Tom, “stealing” the abandoned house isn’t a dishonorable act, and since the house was abandoned it calling it “stealing” isn’t exactly accurate either.
Themes
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon