The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 16 Summary

Instructor: Rachel Hanson
While fleeing Oklahoma, moving across one state border to another, the Joads and Wilsons are faced with repairing their broken down car seventy-five miles from the nearest town in chapter 16 of ''The Grapes of Wrath.''

Fleeing Oklahoma

The chapter opens with the Joads and Wilsons driving towards the west, crossing the Oklahoma border into Texas, and then heading into New Mexico. The heat and the dust leave the travelers weary, and Granma struggles the most, her body convulsing in the heat, leaving her weak at the end of the day's travel. There is very little food to be eaten among the families, and often they are so tired at night that they fall asleep in their clothes.

Rose of Sharon's American Dream

Al drives the touring car behind the truck, and Ma and Rose of Sharon ride with him. The latter asks her mother if she plans to live in the country when they get to California, making it clear that she and Connie will not be joining her, as they intend to live in town: 'She went on excitedly, ''Connie gonna get a job in a story or maybe a fact'ry. An's he's gonna study at home, maybe radio, so he can git to be an expert an' maybe later have his own store… An' we'll have a nice car, little car… An we'll live in town, and go to the pictures whenever, an--well, I'm gonna have a 'lectric iron, and the baby will have new stuff…' (164-165). As Ma listens to Rose of Sharon, she understands that the girl's future plans are a dream that will not come true, but she says nothing of it. Instead, she changes the subject to her own mother, wondering aloud how Granma is handling the day's travel.

The Touring Car Breaks Down

The touring car begins to rattle. The families pull over in the shade of a billboard so that Tom and Al can repair the engine, though Tom takes the lead on the repair as he's most knowledgeable. The families gather around the touring car and listen as Tom explains that it's at least a day's worth of work to fix the car. Now in New Mexico, they will have to drive seventy-five miles back towards Santa Fe for a replacement car part. Mr. Wilson, who owns the car, says the rest should go on ahead; he and Sairy will stay and figure something out. Pa refuses this idea, saying they have all become like family to one another and will not be abandoned. Tom offers an alternative plan to unload some of the truck and have everyone but him and Casy keep on moving toward California. He and Casy will fix the car and then drive all day and night to catch up with the rest of them once the car is repaired. Pa, John, and Mr. Wilson agree with Tom's plan. However, Ma insists the plan is not a good one because splitting up the family would be breaking up the only thing they have left, regardless of the money they could start making in California. So Al takes the rest of the group to camp as Tom begins working on the car with Casy by his side, who confesses he's worried that too many families are heading to California and there won't be enough jobs to go around.

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