October 30, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath The End: "And gradually the greatest terror of all came along."

It's been a month since we started The Grapes of Wrath readalong and sadly, today, it comes to an end. I'm not so much sad that the book is over, I'm really more sad that the readalong is over. And I'm really glad that I read this book with an awesome group of people, because it allows you to talk about all the WTF moments and depressing moments and the feeling sad moments. Really, if you haven't done a readalong before you, you really should.  Oh ya, and spoilers ahead. Obviously, because it's the end of the book! And WE MUST talk about the end of the book.

ANYWAY. The Grapes of Wrath has now been read in its entirety. And let me just get it out there - I DID NOT see that ending coming. But first, let's talk about the last 1/4 of the book!

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When we last left off, the Joad's were still living in the government camp, enjoying the flushing toilets, hot water and daily baths. Well, they lived in said camp for about a month at which point there was no longer work for the men and food was pretty much scarce. Ma decides it's time to pack 'er up and hit the road to look for work:
Ma plunged the dish into the bucket. "We'll go in the mornin'," she said.

Pa sniffled. "Seems like times is changed," he said sarcastically. "Time was when a man said what we'd do. Seems like women is tellin' now. Seems like it's purty near time to get out a stick."
Silly Pa. We all know Ma is the boss. 

Rosasharn still hasn't given birth to her baby and she's craving dirt (most likely iron deficiency) and getting all snooty because she hasn't had milk in a long time, even though she was told by the "nurses" in the camp she should. Then she tells Ma that if Connie hadn't taken off, she'd be living in a house with all the milk she needs! (Delusional.) So Ma decides Rosasharn should have her ears pierced before she gives birth. Because that makes sense. 

So once Rosasharn's ears are pierced, the Joad's pack up and find a peach farm that is hiring pickers. It takes the poor family a whole day of picking just to earn one dollar which buys them just enough food for supper. The living conditions here are poor and the whole operation is run with strict enforcement - almost like a prison.  It was hard not to have a lump in my throat while reading this section - I just kept waiting for the bomb to drop.  WHERE IS THE BOMB, STEINBECK?

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But then Tom decides to sneak out of the camp to explore and he runs into Casy! Yay, Casy! Except Casy has joined the strikers and while he's convincing Tom to convince his family to stop working, he gets his head bashed in. And then Tom get hit in the face, but manages to pick up the club and hit a guy on the head with it, killing him. It was all very sudden and a bit gory. And poor Casy. But luckily Tom is able to sneak back into the camp where he has to tell his family the truth. Now that his face is bashed up, he has to lie low and can't help his family pick peaches. When the Joad's realize how much trouble Tom is in if he gets caught, they decide to pack up again and sneak Tom out of the camp. 

Next stop: Cotton picking!  At this point, Tom decides he needs to hide in the brush until his face heals. And the rest of the Joad's get to pick cotton by day and live in a boxcar by night. Am I the only one that thought boxcar meant a little wooden car, and was thinking how the hell do entire families sleep in a boxcar? Are you on drugs, Steinbeck? Ya, me neither.

Boxcar in Brie's head


Boxcar like the Joad's would have lived in.
But then silly Ruthie gets in a fist fight with some kids and like typical kids, they start threatening to get their older brother's to beat them up at which point Ruthie blabs about her having a brother who's killed two people. Ma knows Tom can't come back now, even once his face his healed, so she gives him some money and we never hear of him again.

And then the RAIN comes. But it doesn't just rain, it pours. Literally. It rains so much that fields are wiped out, families living arrangements are threatened by flooding, and everybody and everything is soaking wet. And this means there are no jobs and therefore no food. And really, is there even hope anymore at this point?

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Of course, this is when Rosasharn goes into labour. And while the men are outside in the pouring rain, trying to build up a bank to prevent the streams from flooding their boxcars, Rosasharn gives birth to a stillborn. WHICH, I think is a good thing, because I'm pretty sure raising a baby at a young age, all on your own back in those days wasn't easy (or acceptable in most people's eyes). Unless your a widow. Then I think most folks just pity you.

At this point, we only have a few pages left. And I'm thinking, how can this all end in a few pages?! Is Steinbeck going to have everyone DROWN!?

Spoiler: No one drowns. But the water keeps coming and the boxcars are flooding, so the Joad's wade out to find dry ground. They come across a barn on the other side of the road, but they quickly realize they aren't alone in the barn. In the corner is a young boy with his starving, dying father. But no one has any food, let alone milk (milk seems to be the answer for sickly people in this book) and so Ma and Rosasharn share a knowing look and Ma ushers everyone out to the tool shed. AND THEN ROSASHARN BREASTFEEDS THE DYING MAN. And she strokes his hair, whispers "there, there", and smiles mysteriously. Mysteriously? Why mysteriously? THE END.

Ok, ok, I get there's some underlying symbolism here that I'm failing to grasp, like there's still hope even though life is shit, but COME ON. Well, Steinbeck, if you were going for shock factor, mission accomplished!

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I'm not sure what I was expecting to happen (see first gif), but I was hoping for a little more closure at the end of the book - like some epilogue of the Joad's finding steady work, renting a small home, having enough food to eat, etc, etc. But I guess that would be too neat and tidy and hope is always the best ending, right? Well at least everyone's still alive (minus the people that previously died I mean). Although, if we're going to be all honest here, I am a little disappointed that Tom never got caught breaking his parole. I felt like there was so much foreshadowing for this, but I guess him having to leave his family and fend for himself at the end was punishment of itself.

In conclusion, I WILL MISS YOU READALONG peeps. Let's do this again real soon!


The women watched the men, watched to see whether the break had come at last. The women stood silently and watched. And where a number of men gathered together, the fear went from their faces, and anger took its place. And the women sighed with relief, for they knew it was all right-the break had come; and the break would never come as long as fear could turn to wrath. 

22 comments:

  1. I mean... I think that the foreshadowing was kind of like for Tom actually just BREAKING his parole, like he did with the whole murder thing, you know. And he had to leave the family, which was the main reason we didn't want him to do that, so... That happened!

    SO many things I could say, but your summation of the Rosasharn-Ma situation was hilarious! " So Ma decides Rosasharn should have her ears pierced before she gives birth. Because that makes sense." Yeah, that was ridic! But I think it made RoS really happy, so.

    Yeah, the ending man. It's totally supposed to be that hope thing you were talking about, but yeah. Totally creepy and weird. But nice! But WEIRD.

    AND finalement, thanks for taking part! Don't worry about missing everyone, we'll be allll over your ass now! You're OURS! Haha

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    1. Sometimes there was so much effort spent on making Rosasharn "happy". She was probably my least favorite character in the book. I didn't even feel sorry for her when the baby was born dead because I just couldn't stand her by that point. I guess the baby kind of had to die or else that old man would have died...

      And thanks again for hosting! I'm sure it's a lot more work than all of us just linking up our posts. And for that I appreciate you :)

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  2. HA, that last gif is excellent.

    Hurrah readalong! We must do this again sometime. In the meantime, you are going on my Google Reader. Totally the same thing.

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    1. Sometimes finding the right gifs was my favorite part! ;)

      I am totally hooked on readalongs now. You guys could convince me to read anything now :)

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  3. So.... did you like the book? I get the feeling you're conflicted.

    LOL at your idea of a boxcar. That would be awkward.

    I think the whole pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding was symbolic. Birth of a new era, and all that.

    And OMG Ruthie. I really wanted to reach through the pages and throttle her.

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    1. Uhhh, I guess I didn't really *say* what I thought of the book overall...maybe I will do a "review" post on it. I wouldn't say I LOVED it, but I did like it. I think I enjoyed the experience much more having have read it with a fun group of people. It definitely would have taken me much longer than a month to have read it if I was reading it on my own. And I think I got a lot more out of the experience this way.

      I get that the whole breastfeeding thing is symbolic of a new era/hope, etc, but now that I think of it - her baby had to DIE in order to save another man's life then...

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  4. "and depressing moments and the feeling sad moments."

    Oh you mean THE WHOLE THING?

    Dude, Little Rascals gif. "That wa'n't sand; that was kitty litter." I need to watch that movie again.

    And yeah, this group's pretty great. This is why we tend to only do readalongs together. It's not so much the book; it's more us yelling in each other's comment sections and using many gifs.

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    1. Oh, Little Rascals. That movie is wonderful, and Buckwheat is the best.

      I love our group. We are a fantastic Mutual Admiration Society.

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    2. Mutual Admiration Society should be our new name! Let's vote on this.

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    3. So, we'll be the "MA's"? Haha!...

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    4. "Wow, Porky, you sure know how to make a sand...wich."

      MAS. Only I would like a T added so we can be MASTs or MASTers. So long as we don't make the word too long. This isn't a dirty group...oh damn. I'm sorry, guys. My brain's ruined it and now we have to change the name.

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  5. I think Steinbeck was going for the whole "there is hope even in the most dire of circumstances" message in the last scene. But instead, I felt it was more like, "don't worry -- even if your baby dies your breastmilk won't go to waste! You can feed an old, starving stranger instead!" Not quite the silver lining I would expect Rose of Sharon to appreciate.

    But YES to the awesomeness of our group readalongs! We really are the coolest.

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    1. Her baby living would have given me hope! It wasn't even the breastfeeding that necessarily creeped me out (although it *was* creepy) - it was the way Steinbeck described it *shudder*. But he also did a good job of making sure no one every forgets the ending to this book lol.

      We ARE the Coolest!

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  6. I wonder if Ma pierced Rosasharn's ears before giving birth in part to distract her and make her focus on something else, but also cos Ma really wanted to smack her a bunch of times, but held back. it's like a socially acceptable, not punishment way of hurting her. Except I'm sure Ma is a better person than that, even if I would have been like "oops didn't work! Let me try piercing them again..."

    I wish there was an epilogue to this, but I feel like it would have been like "And then all of the Joads died, either by drowning or starving to death, the end." Which is what I assumed happened after the ending Steinbeck did give us.

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    1. Didn't people spank/smack their kids all the time in that era though? God, I wanted to smack Rosasharn ALL THE TIME. Ma is a much bigger person than I would have been. I also wanted to smack Ruthie a few times...

      Haha at your epilogue! Are we supposed to assume that life went on or that the Joad's eventually died? Is saving that one dying man going to save them all? I think not. How did ANYONE SURVIVE the depression?!

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  7. Based on the read-along posts I've read for this book, I'm not sure if I'll read it. I remember we were to read it in high school, but I never did -- it just seems WEIRD for a high school read!

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    1. It would be SO WEIRD to read in high school! I couldn't imagine reading that ending among all my classmates lol.

      I think you should just pretend you're read it now (like vicariously through all of us!). I mean, I'm glad I read it, but I don't think I'd recommend anyone to read it on their own.

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  8. I was disappointed that the parole thing didn't really come up too. And Rosasharn - UGH. She deserved SO many smacks. As did a lot of other people in this book, but oh well. At least Ma was ready to beat people whenever necessary! (Well, except to discipline her kids, but still.)

    I love reading books like this with readalong people, makes it so much more fun!

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    1. SO MANY SMACKS. And Ruthie too, and Connie, etc, etc. Come to think of it, no one was that likeable except for Ma. And Alfred.

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  9. Good to hear you had so much fun with this readalong! It really does sound like an excellently fun way to read a book. Also, LOVE those gifs!!

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  10. I've never done a read along before, but it does sound like a ton of fun. I'm glad you liked the book. the gifs are hilarious! especially the Boxcar part. It seems like a messed up book... especially for a classic. I thought they were all about finding the meaning of life & such. Hah! I guess not.

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