The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 22 Summary

Instructor: Joseph Altnether

Joe has taught college English courses for several years, has a Bachelor's degree in Russian Studies and a Master's degree in English literature.

In the twenty-second chapter of 'The Grapes of Wrath', John Steinbeck provides the Joad family with a moment to catch their breath as they arrive at a government camp. Life in the camp is similar to a commune, but it restores dignity to the downtrodden.

Sanitary Unit Number Four

The Joad family arrives in Weedpatch, California, late in the evening. When Tom reaches the gate, he has an extended discussion with the guard regarding the camp and regulations. The camp is a place for those displaced, unemployed and homeless due to the Great Depression. He learns that deputies and police are not permitted inside the camp without a warrant. He is much relieved, even more so when they are given Number Four Sanitary Unit. Unfamiliar with the guard's meaning, the guard explains to Tom that this means 'toilets and showers and wash tubs.' This place seems too good to be true!

There are the usual formalities that need to be completed, such as getting Tom's name and filling out paperwork. Tom learns that the fee for staying is one dollar a week, and if they don't have the money, they can work various jobs around the compound to earn their keep. While Tom takes care of this, the rest of the family unloads the truck, sets up their tent, and gets some much deserved sleep. Tomorrow is a new beginning.

Tom Finds Work

Tom wakes up early, and smells bacon frying. He heads in that direction and meets up with Timothy and Wilkie Wallace. They invite him to share their breakfast, and when Tom mentions he is looking for work, they invite him to join them. Tom questions this since bringing him along will speed things up and put them all out of work sooner. It is an act of kindness that Tom hasn't seen in quite some time.

The work involves digging a ditch and laying some pipe for a Mr. Thomas. When the three men arrive to start work, Mr. Thomas informs them that the pay rate has dropped to twenty-five cents an hour. This comes from the bank, which insinuates that Mr. Thomas' loan will not be renewed if he doesn't cooperate.

In addition, the three men learn that the Farmers Association is preparing to instigate a situation within the government camp during the Saturday night dance. If there was a fight, the authorities would be allowed to enter the camp without a warrant and shut the camp down. The Association does not like that 'the people make their own laws.' The Association is unable to exert its influence on the camp, so it seeks an alternate method, such as creating an incident that will lead to the camp being shut down.

A Religious Scare

Big organizations aren't the only ones unhappy with the government camp. A particular religious fanatic within the camp meets Rose and warns her of all the sins that are taking place in the camp. She believes that the dances on Saturday night are especially sinful, and tells of two women who have lost their babies because of their sin. This frightens Rose who is now afraid she is going to lose her baby. Both Rose's mother and the camp manager assure her that this woman is crazy, and Rose has nothing to worry about. These words do not alleviate her fear.

Ma finds the camp manager, Mr. Rawley, to be very pleasant, perhaps because of his kindness and appreciation for her coffee. He also treats her as a person, with dignity and respect. Mr. Rawley tells Ma that the Women's Committee will be coming by a little later to show her around and help her acclimate to the camp. Upon hearing this, Ma rushes to get everyone washed and in clean clothes. Ma wants to make a good impression on these women.

While Ma worries about her meeting, Pa, Al and John to decide to look for work, especially since Tom found a job. They take the truck, but have no success. They return later in the day dejected and disappointed over the inability to secure any type of employment. Shame crosses over Pa as he continues to struggle to find work.

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