45 pages 1 hour read

John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1939

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Chapters 18-21Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 18 Summary

After travelling through New Mexico, the Joads and Wilsons reach the outskirts of California. They stop at a river to wash and seek rest before crossing the desert that will take them into the inhabited, cultivated part of California. By the river they meet a father and child on their way back from there. The father explains that while California is beautiful, it is impossible to make a living there. Therefore, he is returning home to “starve to death with folks we know” rather than “a bunch a fellas that hates us” (214). He tells Pa how the locals despise the migrant workers and refer to them by the derogatory term “Okies”.

While alone in some shade, Noah tells Tom that he is going to stay in this place. He feels that his parents are not interested in him and walks away down the river. Meanwhile, under a tent they pitched, Ma attends to a sick and delusional Granma, who is continuing to have conversations with her dead husband. Noticing Granma, a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a nearby tent offer to come and have a prayer meeting over her, an offer Ma rejects. Later in the afternoon, Ma is harassed by a policeman who tells her that they will have to be gone by morning.