Ma Joad tells Tom about her hopes for California. She remembers seeing handbills advertising high wages and bountiful harvests. Tom warns her not to be too optimistic about the future.
Tom’s time in jail has likely made him somewhat cynical, and he is skeptical of the bounty California will offer. Ma, on the other hand, is driven by her faith that things will get better.
Casy asks Tom, Ma, and Grampa Joad if he can come along to California with them. Ma quickly answers that the family would be happy to have him, and they’ll decide if there’s room when Al, Pa, Uncle John, Ruthie, and Winfield get back from selling their possessions in town.
Even though she holds a great deal of power in the family, Ma Joad allows the men to be the nominal leaders of the clan. This is why she doesn’t answer Casy definitively off the bat, and instead defers to her husband.
The rest of the family comes back from town with Rosasharn and Connie in tow; the men are disappointed that they only managed to get eighteen dollars for every movable thing in their house. The family holds a conference to decide whether Casy can come with them. Ma Joad overrules her husband’s uncertainty and plays a crucial role in this decision, saying that the choice to include Casy isn’t a matter of “can we” but a matter of “will we.”
Ma Joad’s decisiveness shows that she really holds the power in the family. Her choice to take Casy is a testament to her determination, resilience, and generosity.
The family prepares for the journey. Casy offers to help Ma Joad salt down the meat. She is surprised, since the task is “women’s work,” but Casy convinces her that these trying circumstances make her concerns impractical. Ma Joad then gathers her most important jewelry and burns the rest of her possessions.
The meat salting exchange shows that times are desperate enough—Casy’s good intentions are strong enough— to overturn biases about male and female roles.
Muley comes by to pay his respects to the family before they leave. Pa offers Muley a chance to travel with them to California, but Muley refuses. Ma Joad asks him if he’ll ever leave Oklahoma, and Muley answers that he can’t bring himself to leave.
Muley represents the tenant farmers’ profound connection to the farmland. His desire to stay—his need to stay—overpowers every other self-interest.
Muley’s stubbornness makes Grampa determined to stay as well, and he resists his family’s efforts to talk him into going. The Joads ultimately resort to spiking Grampa coffee with Winfield’s sleeping medicine so that they can bring the old man with them.
Grandpa, like Muley, is overcome with his connection to the land. For the rest of the Joads, the bond of family is clearly stronger than that of land, since they are willing to take Grampa against his will.