The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 24 Summary

Instructor: Catherine Smith

Catherine has taught History, Literature, and Latin at the university level and holds a PhD in Education.

Chapter 24 of 'The Grapes of Wrath' concerns a dance held at the government camp, including an attempt by the Farmers Association to start a fight and get the migrant workers in trouble with the police.

Preparing for the Dance

This chapter opens with a description of women washing dresses for the evening's dance. The day continues as more and more preparations take place for the dance, leading up to a meeting among the Central Committee, consisting of five men, in Ezra Huston's tent. At the Central Committee meeting, the men make plans for what to do if the Farmers Association tries to cause problems at the dance, which they have heard is the plan. One of the committee members suggests 'squashing' them, but Huston replies, 'That's what they want. No, sir, if they can git a fight goin', then they can run in the cops an' say we ain't orderly. They tried it before -- other places.' (We know from previous chapters that the Farmers Association has been causing problems for the migrants out of fear that they will eventually organize and become more powerful.) The Central Committee approves a plan that involves several of the migrants, led by Willie, simply surrounding any troublemakers and escorting them out of the dance without any violence.

Government Camps

The men continue their conversation, discussing the difference between government camps -- where they are living now -- and the other unregulated camps, where many of them used to live. One of the men describes remarks that he heard from a deputy at one of the non-government camps: 'Give people hot water, an' they gonna want hot water. Give 'em flush toilets, an' they gonna want 'em...They hol' red meetin's in them gov'ment camps. All figgerin' how to git on relief.' The large farmers are worried that the decent accommodations at government camps will give the migrant workers a sense of dignity and an opportunity to work with one another to become better organised, which would pose a threat to the large farmers and their current monopoly on power.

The Dance

All goes very well at the dance, and the people from the government camp and their guests all enjoy a lovely evening in the midst of their otherwise difficult lives. Tom stays near the door with some others, keeping an eye open for people who don't belong there. Finally, a few strangers try to start a confrontation with some of the people on the dance floor; Willie and the men he has prepared do exactly what they'd planned, and form a human wall that leads the instigators out of the dance area and out of the camp. As they are leaving, however, a car drives up to the entrance, and deputy sheriffs demand to be allowed in, claiming they were told there was a riot inside. There was no riot, of course, so they weren't allowed entry -- their presence demonstrates, however, that the plan had been exactly what the migrants had been worried about.

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