The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 8 Summary

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will summarize Chapter 8 of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. In this chapter, Tom and Casy reunite with Tom's family, who are preparing to move to California after losing their farm.

Background Information

Have you ever been at a point in your life where you had no idea what your future would be like, but knew you had to drop everything and move in different direction? The Joad family has no idea whether they will find success in another place, but there is nothing left for them in Oklahoma. At this point in the novel, Tom Joad, the protagonist, has been paroled from prison after serving four years of a seven-year term for homicide. As he heads back to his family's farm, he happens upon Jim Casy, a former preacher, who left the church and has developed new ideas about religion based on the Oversoul, which is the collective spirit of all people. Casy and Tom proceed to the farm together to find that Tom's family has been driven off their land by the bank. According to a neighbor, the Joad family is staying with Tom's Uncle John while preparing to go to California to search for opportunity. Now, in Chapter 8, Tom and Casy reunite with the Joad family at Uncle John's house.

Walking to Uncle John's House

Tom and Casy walk all the next day and through the night to Uncle John's house. Along the way, Tom wonders, 'Damn' if I know how they're all sleepin' at Uncle John's. He on'y got one room an' a cookin' leanto, an' a little bit of a barn. Must be a mob there now.' John has always been kind of an unpredictable loner. Tom describes him as crazy and mean. He was once married, but his wife died within a few months of marriage of a burst appendix after John refused her medical treatment, thinking it was something she ate. After that, he never got close to people.

Surprising the Family

When they arrive at Uncle John's, Tom's father, who is referred to as 'old Tom,' is the first one they surprise. Tom's arrival is so unexpected that it takes old Tom a few minutes to process. 'It's Tommy come home. …you ain't busted out? You ain't got to hide?' Pa is relieved to hear that Tom is out on parole. He explains that they were going to write him a letter telling him they were leaving for California, but now he can come with them.

Ma had worried that Tom would not be able to find them after they moved, and is relieved when she sees that Tommy has come home in a lawful way. Concerned about what jail may have done to him, she asks, 'You ain't poisoned mad? You don't hate nobody? They didn' do nothin' in that jail to rot you out with crazy mad?' After looking into his eyes, she is reassured that he is still the same boy he was when he left.

Tom asks about the house. Ma explains that if all of the people who had been removed from their homes would join together to fight it, they would have a chance to turn things around, but people seem to be in a daze and no one can fight it alone.

Meeting the Other Family Members

Other family members are introduced as they all come together for the breakfast Ma has prepared. Granma and Granpa are full of mischief. Noah is quiet and slow. Pa worries that it is because he injured him during childbirth. Casy stays outside to keep from interfering with the family reunion, but Granma insists that he come in and say the prayer since he used to be a preacher. Casy uses the time to try to explain his new views on religion.

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