The Grapes of Wrath Chapters 16 - 17 Summary

The Joads and Wilsons drive on through the country pursuing their quest for the dream life in California. Rosasharn has decided to tell her mother the plans she and her husband, Connie, have made for their future. They do not want to live in the country, but instead they want to live in town. Connie is going to take a correspondence course on radios, so he can get a good job. Rosaharn wants to live in a small house, have enough money to go to the movies, and buy new clothes for her coming baby. Ma Joad is not happy about this plan, because it would mean Rosasharn would be separated from the family. Rosasharn is hopeful that one day her husband would have his own store and her brother Al could work for him. Al is not pleased about her plans for him, instead he tells her Connie could work for him.

As all of this planning is going on, Al notices the car is making a rattling sound when he increases the speed of the car. This causes him enough concern that he pulls the car over to see what is wrong with it. He and Tom confer about the car and come to the conclusion the con-rod bearing needs replacing, which could cost not only a lot of time, but also money. The other problem is it is late in the day on Saturday and the junkyards are closed on Sundays.

Tom has the idea that the rest of the family and the Wilsons should go on ahead to California, while he and Casy stay behind and fix the car. This way the family could get a jump start on finding jobs and making some much needed money. Ma Joad is firmly against the idea, because she does not want to split up the family. She threatens to hit Pa Joad with a jack handle if he tries to make her leave her son behind. Tom explains to her he will catch up with the rest of the family, but she is still not agreeing to his plan. She becomes very determined about keeping the family together and eventually Pa agrees with her. They decide instead to find a place to park the truck where there is shade and water, because Granma had convulsions earlier due to sun exposure. Once they are settled, Al will bring the truck back to Tom and Casy at the car so they can go into town and get the needed parts.

Al brings back the truck and takes Tom to a local junkyard to find the correct parts. The owner of the junkyard is not in, but his worker, who hates his boss, is there. The man lets Tom and Al have the parts, a socket wrench, and a light for a lot less than the owner would have charged them. They manage to repair the car that same night and then go to the campground where their parents are parked.

They find out Granma is not in her right mind and the rest of the family is bone tired. The men at the campground are listening to the proprietor speak when Tom approaches his father. The owner tells Tom he will have to pay fifty cents to camp out or else risk being picked up as a vagrant. Tom decides to risk it and not stay at the campground. Before he leaves a man tells the group about his experience in California. He tells them the men who hire the fruit pickers take advantage of the workers and pays them very little. This man said he was paid so little that his wife and two children died from starvation. The proprietor tells the men the man made up his story just to cause trouble. But, the others start to doubt their decision to move to California.

The people winding their way west become a community with their own set of rules and social norms. They would always ask if they could stay the night, if a group of people was there before them. They went from being alone and scared during the daytime, to a close community during the evening. This was the time to receive news, exchange stories, and to give help to those who need it. The sick and pregnant are always taken care of first. These people who had been farmers became migrants, their worries went from how well their crops were doing, to how well their vehicle was running.

They established a routine in each car of whose job it was to find water, set up the tents and cook the food. They come together if there was a birth or a death amongst those in the camp. The people in these groups look out for each other and help one another, if help is sought. They dream together of what their life will be like once they reach California.

The Joads and Wilsons have car trouble, which leads to Ma Joad standing up to her husband. She will not allow the family to be separated as Pa and Tom had planned. This novel is not just about the plight of the farmers caught up in the dust bowl, but it is also about family. The need to keep the family together at all costs. The definition of family is also changed, it is not just the people you are biologically related to, but it is also those who come into your life and make a difference. They make a difference in how you see others and yourself.

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