Back at the government camp, Ma and the children spend the first day learning to be civilized again. Ruthie and Winfield have the most to learn. Can you imagine what happens to 12- and 13-year-olds leading this kind of wayward life? Lately they've seen almost nothing but meanness and violence and death. How can they be expected to act like sweet, lovable kids?
In fact, they don't. They argue and fight and call each other names. In the camp bathroom Winfield flushes a toilet. Convinced that he broke it, Ruthie delights in telling on her frightened brother. Perhaps their behavior doesn't differ greatly from any typical brother and sister, but Ruthie in particular antagonizes almost everybody. For example, she barges into the middle of a children's game of croquet, shouting, "I wanta play now." The children troop silently off the court. Seeing that no one will play with her, Ruthie realizes her mistake. She runs back to the tent to weep alone. In time, she'll learn to act decently, but as for many people, it won't be easy.
When the camp manager pays a call on the Joads, Ma is distrustful at first. She has every right to be. When has any kind of authority treated her respectfully? But the manager calls her "Mrs. Joad," and praises her coffee. He also informs her that the camp's Ladies' Committee will soon visit her. Ma scurries around tidying herself and the tent. Suddenly, her dream of a better life has been rekindled. "Why, I feel like people again," she sighs.
The ladies of the camp greet Ma warmly. They take her around, proud to show off the laundry, toilet, and shower room. The camp works, they tell her, because people cooperate. No one should go hungry in the camp. If you're in need, you'll get credit at the Weedpatch store. If you can't pay your rent, you can work for the camp. Your obligation is to be clean, quiet, and obey the rules. Violators are expelled from the camp.
Just when Ma begins to enjoy her new surroundings a little, she has a row with a certain Mrs. Sandry, who has come to visit Rose of Sharon. Since Connie abandoned her, Rose of Sharon has been sickly and lethargic. Mrs. Sandry, a poor, deranged woman crazed by fear of the devil, warns Rose of Sharon: "You be good. If you got sin on you- you better watch out for that there baby." Sin, to Mrs. Sandry, is "clutch-an'-hug dancin'," the kind they do every Saturday night at the camp. And "play-actin'," too, when folks go "struttin' an' paradin' an' speakin' like they're somebody they ain't." Since Rose of Sharon has done both, she grows pale with fear over losing her baby.
Ma comes to the rescue. Remember how Ma threw the Jehovite woman out of the tent? She does the same to Mrs. Sandry, not only to protect her terrified daughter, but because she rejects Mrs. Sandry's "wailin' an' moanin'" brand of religion. Picking up a stick of wood, she says, "Git! Don't you never come back. I seen your kind before." The woman leaves, but she has left her mark on Rose of Sharon. Until her baby is born, Rose of Sharon will brood over what Mrs. Sandry called the "innocent child a-burnin' in that there girl's belly."
© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc. Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
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