The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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Chapter 6 – Carry on, Wayward Tortoise

At the disheveled Joad’s house, Tom Joad and Jim Casy meet a familiar face, Muley Graves, who informs the two that Tom’s family was tractored off the land and they’re at Uncle John’s shack. The three decide to set up camp at the house, cook up some rabbits that Muley caught, and head to Uncle John’s in the morning. A car’s headlights illuminate the road which set the men into action as they dive into the fields of cotton, avoiding the accusation of them being trespassers.

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“ ‘Hell, I forgot the turtle. I ain’t gonna pack it all over hell.’ He unwrapped the land turtle and pushed it under the house. But in a moment it was out, headed southwest as it had been from the first. The cat leaped at it and struck at its straining head and slashed at its moving feet. The old, hard, humorous head was pulled in, and the thick tail slapped in under the shell, and when the cat grew tired of waiting for it and walked off, the turtle headed on southwest again.” (Steinbeck 44) The symbolism of the tortoise constantly carrying on southwest through any condition is similar to the path of the Joad family throughout the course of the book.

Tom is analytical, has his priorities in check, and states, “Think we better eat her now,”(Steinbeck 52) during a very deep conversation with Muley and Casy. With Tom recently leaving prison, the solo wolf mentality seems to have stuck. Tom plays the driving force in this chapter. He keeps the other characters moving and ignores the possible obstacles in others’ ways.

The clashing symbols of Muley Graves attached to his hometown and the tortoise constantly moving southwest reflect the minds of the Joad family, attached to home, yet forced to move on.

Chapter 13 – Out With the Old,

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