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THE GRAPES OF WRATH: FREE BOOKNOTES
The family becomes a unit again, and they hold a meeting. Since the Joads cannot afford money for Grampa's burial, they must bury him themselves even though it is against the law. Casy tells them, "You got the right to do what you got to do." Ma lays out Grampa and is helped by Granma and Sairy Wilson. The men dig a grave and put in a bottle with a slip of paper stating Grampa's name and the manner of his death. In his funeral service, Casy says that it does not matter whether Grampa was good or bad. What is important is that he lived, and all that lives is holy. Casy says that rather than praying for Grampa, he should pray people who do not know which way to turn.
The Joads and the Wilsons share their supper. Over dinner, Casy remarks that
Grampa really died spiritually the moment they left home. The Wilsons
say that they have been traveling for three weeks now and have been plagued
by constant car trouble. The Joads and the Wilsons have the same handbills
advertising for fruit pickers, and Wilson wonders whether there will be
enough work for everybody. Al and Tom repair the Wilsons' car and suggest
that the two families travel together. The Joads are overcrowded, and
the Wilsons do not know how to repair their car. Everybody agrees happily.
Grampa physically dies from a stroke in this chapter, but his real death occurs earlier. As Casy explains, Grampa died spiritually "the minute you took 'im off that place." The farming land in Oklahoma was an indispensable part of Grampa's life, and when he was forced to leave it, he had no identity and no will to live. It is appropriate and not surprising that he dies on the first day of the journey to California.
Some critics see Grampa's death as symbolizing the rupturing of the family as a unit. While undoubtedly Grampa's death marks the first upheaval of the Joad family unit, it is also the occasion of a positive and affirmative event, the adoption of the Wilsons by the Joads. The creation of the relationship between the Wilsons and the Joads follows the ideas of mutual help as propounded by Casy. Both the families realize the advantages of traveling together and helping each other. Thus, the Joad family diminishes in size only to be assumed into a larger universal family. This also foreshadows the later awakening of the Joads to the need of helping not only themselves but also everybody. The willingness to help expressed by Sairy Wilson, "People needs to help," also contrasts with the selfishness of the Californian fruit growers who want to pay the lowest possible wages and show no compunction of guilt in cheating the migrants.
This chapter deals with the ideas of birth and death. The dog that the Joads brought along with them gets run over by a speeding car and dies. This is technically the first disruption of the Joad family. The dog's ghastly death worries Rose of Sharon, and she fears the event may have an adverse impact on her unborn baby. Her baby, as revealed in a later chapter, is indeed stillborn, due to the motherís condition of starvation and extreme physical exhaustion. The chapter anticipates later events in other ways as well. When Al grumbles about bringing Casy along when they are already overcrowded, Ma prophesies that before long the preacher will prove his usefulness and will help the family in some way. The truth of Ma's statement is borne out very soon when Casy is prevailed upon to say a few words after Pa is buried. Casy also helps the family when he surrenders himself to the deputies so that Tom may escape.
Casy's character shows development in this chapter. He reveals discerning
thoughts, which demand the attention of the Joads. He has great insight
in his appraisal of the migrants' situation. Although the gas station
attendant is too self-absorbed to recognize the validity of Casy's viewpoint,
it leaves a lasting impression on Tom. Casy also shows intuitive insight
when he says that Grampa died spiritually the moment he was separated
from the land. In his funeral speech, Casy exhibits his sympathy and concern
for the living rather than the dead. He says that it does not matter whether
Grampa was good or bad, but that he truly lived. Casy's philosophy, with
its emphasis on the living, shows an Emersonian bent of mind.
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