Ma's reunion with Tom shows a special relationship between mother and son. Tom bites his lip so hard it bleeds. Ma's first words are "Thank God. Oh, thank God." She had been fretting about never seeing Tom again. Ma's response is typical, for she is the family worrier. She carries the family's burdens on her shoulders. She is the healer and the judge. No wonder that Steinbeck calls her the "citadel of the family."
We find that Grampa is a "cantankerous, complaining, mischievous" old man who likes to tell dirty stories. Grampa admires Tom and boasts that no prison is secure enough to hold a Joad. He drinks too much and rarely stops talking or cackling. He bickers constantly with Granma. In spite of his eccentric behavior, though, Grampa is still considered the leader of the Joads. Age, it seems, holds a revered place in their society.
Granma, too, is something of a hellion: crude, loud-mouthed, "lecherous," and "savage," hardly the sweet little old grandmother type. Hearing that Tom has returned, she comes out shrieking, "Pu-raise Gawd fur vittory."
But Granma gets a bigger thrill from seeing Casy. Now there can be prayer meetings and proper grace at mealtime. "I ain't a preacher no more," protests Casy. Granma insists anyway that Casy say grace before breakfast. In Granma's eyes, once a preacher, always a preacher.
Casy obliges. He seems to be living up to his vow to love "the people." Casy's prayer is a personal story about how, like Jesus, he went alone into the wilderness and discovered a new religion for himself and the people. It sounds more like a confession, but that doesn't matter to Granma. For her, it's not the content but the ritual that counts. Do you recall that Casy was driven from religion in the first place by that very point of view?
Tom sees his brother Noah. They exchange cool greetings. Noah's behavior is hard to figure out. He seems remote from the family. Later, we find out why Noah is an outsider: he had had a difficult birth, which evidently damaged his brain.
Rose of Sharon, Tom learns, has married and is pregnant. Tom sees her later that day and notices how in four years she has blossomed from a child to a woman. Tom also meets her husband, Connie, a 19-year-old who acts bewildered by the physical changes in his young wife. Both Rose of Sharon and Connie are preoccupied with the coming baby. Their blushes and giggles when they greet Tom suggest just how young they really are.
Twelve-year-old Ruthie and ten-year-old Winfield greet their brother as they would a stranger. They hardly remember him. Four years is a long time in the life of a child.
Al Joad, Tom's other brother, has grown up, too. His main occupation, we discover, is chasing girls. When Tom arrives, Al hasn't yet returned from the previous night's "smart-alecking." We're told that Al has impressed many girls with the information that his brother killed a man in a fight. Evidently, Al is proud of Tom.
For four years Al has filled in for Tom as the family's second son after Noah. How would you expect a person in Al's shoes to react when his older brother returns? If he is disappointed, he doesn't show it. The only thing that bothers him is that Tom hadn't broken out of prison. By waiting until he was paroled, Tom loses face in Al's eyes, and Al loses something to brag about to the girls.
© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
Further distribution without the written consent of PinkMonkey.com is prohibited.