Study Guide

The Grapes of Wrath Chapter 22

By John Steinbeck

Chapter 22

  • The Joads arrive at the government camp, lovingly known as Weedpatch, and there's room for them. Yippee. They are about due for some good news.
  • The night guard is really nice to them, and tells Tom about how the camp thing works. There's a committee of elected leaders who run the camp and who decide the rules. There are dances on Saturday nights. This place is a slice of heaven.
  • The Joads are tuckered out, and they go to sleep in their new campground.
  • Tom wakes up at the crack of dawn and sees that someone has a breakfast fire going a few campsites over. He investigates.
  • A lady nursing a baby is cooking breakfast, and it smells good. She's making bacon, biscuits, and bacon gravy.
  • An older man and a younger man emerge from the tent wearing new clothes; they are father and son.
  • The men invite Tom to eat breakfast with them.
  • Tom hears about how the men have had twelve days of work and are living large. They offer to help Tom get a job with them, laying pipe. (Yes, actually laying pipe.)
  • Tom practically spits jellybeans, he's so happy, and he leaves with the men to find work.
  • The men's names are Timothy and Wilkie Wallace. They are Tom's new BFFs.
  • Tom, Timothy, and Wilkie walk to Mr. Thomas' house, but Mr. Thomas has some bad news. He can't pay them thirty cents an hour anymore. He has to pay them twenty-five cents an hour. The Farmers Association (which is run by the Bank of the West) has just mandated that minimum wage will be twnety-five cents an hour.
  • Mr. Thomas is livid about this new wage cut, but he can't help it. If he continues to pay his employees thirty cents an hour, it will send ripples through the community and will cause unrest. The banks may not give him his annual loan as a result, and he needs the loan. He's just a smalltime farmer with sixty-five acres.
  • One more thing, Mr. Thomas says: the Farmer's Association is going to send some rabble-rousers to the Weedpatch dance this Saturday night. The police can't come into the camp without a warrant, and so they're going to be all covert and will try to shake things up and make it so they can get a warrant.
  • You see, the government camp is getting too comfortable and too happy. The Farmers Association doesn't want the migrant workers to organize—it would be too dangerous for the landowners if the hungry, angry migrant workers developed an organized community. They might revolt. So just watch out for rabble-rousers, Mr. Thomas says.
  • The men dig a ditch, and Tom really likes his shovel.
  • Tom finally learns what a "red" is: "a red is any son-of-a-b**** that wants thirty cents-an-hour when we're paying twenty-five!" (22.202).
  • Meanwhile, back at the camp, Ruthie and Winfield play with the flushing toilets.
  • The camp manager visits with Ma Joad, and he's a really nice guy. He tells her the Ladies Committee of the camp will be paying her a visit soon.
  • Ma goes to wash up in the sanitary unit (a.k.a. bathroom), but she accidentally uses the Men's room instead of the Women's room. A nice man helps her out.
  • Ma is in a frenzy to get the Joad campsite cleaned up for the Ladies Committee. She tells everyone to go clean up.
  • Rose of Sharon reports back that there are real, live showers with hot water in the sanitary unit. She has taken a shower, and it was awesome.
  • Ma Joad runs to take a shower, too.
  • Rose of Sharon is feeling better about herself, until a strange woman comes by and warns her not to sin by dancing too close with anyone or by acting in any plays. The strange woman tells Rose of Sharon that two young women in the camp delivered stillborn babies because they sinned too much. She tells Rose of Sharon that the camp manager is the devil.
  • What a charming lady.
  • Fortunately, the camp manager is close by, and, when the woman leaves, he tells Rose of Sharon that she's just a batty old woman who likes to make people miserable.
  • Rose of Sharon is freaked out.
  • Ma returns from her shower and tells Rose of Sharon to snap out of it.
  • The Ladies Committee visits the campsite, and they show Ma Joad how to use the sanitary unit.
  • The old creepy woman returns to visit the Joad camp and talks about the stillborn babies again. Ma chases her away with a stick, and the woman starts to howl and pray, her eyes roll back, and she falls on the ground.
  • Uncle John, Al, and Pa Joad return home, but they have not found any work. Every farm has signs that say there's no work to be had.
  • Uncle John wonders whether Tom might have left the family for good, but Ma knows in her heart that he's found work and will return soon.