The Joads become fairly comfortable in their boxcar on the plantation, which they share with another family, the Wainwrights. These families are fortunate; later arrivals have been forced to camp in tents nearby, which gives the boxcar occupants a higher social status.
The Joads’ ability to adapt to their circumstances is impressive. The social status conferred to boxcar occupants reveals that even between the Okies, arbitrary social differences can develop.
With the entire family working, the Joads are making decent money, and can afford good food. Ruthie and Winfield are even treated to a box of Cracker Jack.
Living conditions for the Joads seem to be improving, as they can even afford special treats.
Winfield tells Ma that Ruthie has told on Tom. Another girl bullied Ruthie and took her Cracker Jack. In response, Ruthie boasted that her brother is on the lam after killing someone, and threatened to have Tom retaliate for her. Ma doesn’t discipline Ruthie, but sneaks away to bring Tom food and warn him of what has happened.
Ruthie’s childish insecurity is so strong that it endangers her brother’s well-being.
Ma advises Tom to travel far away, and offers him seven dollars to take with him. Tom reveals that in his time alone in the wilderness, he has been thinking about Casy and the preacher’s philosophy. Tom tells Ma that he feels a calling to unite his soul with everyone else’s soul, and wants to help his people by continuing the organizing work that Casy did.
On her way back from visiting Tom, a farm owner approaches Ma and offers her work on his cotton plantation. Ma agrees to pick for 90¢, and the farm owner laments that his wages are set by the Association.
Like Mr. Thomas, the small-time farm owners are depicted as neutral characters whose hands are forced by the self-interested people in power.
Back at the boxcar, Al declares to the family that he and the Wainwrights’ sixteen-year-old daughter, Agnes, are going to get married. The families rejoice together. Rosasharn is discomforted by the news, and is determined to try and pick cotton the next day.
Rosasharn is reminded of her failed marriage by Al’s news. Feeling upstaged and seeking validation, she is compelled to show her independence and prove her worth.
At the cotton-picking job the next day, the fields are swarmed with workers, and are picked clean by eleven in the morning. As the family drives back to their boxcar, a heavy rain begins. Rosasharn shivers violently and complains of feeling ill, and the family rushes to make her comfortable.
The rains ominously reaffirm that things have taken a turn for the worse. Rosasharn’s well-intentioned exercise of independence has, ironically, harmed her more severely than any of the activities she avoids superstitiously.