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The Grapes of Wrath | Chapter 24 | Summary

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Summary

On Saturday morning at the Weedpatch, the community prepares for the party. Everyone bathes and puts on their best clothes. The Central Committee is concerned about the possibility of deputies trying to bust up the dance. The committee head, Ezra Huston, asks Willie Eaton about the entertainment committee. Willie says he has 20 men in the committee. They'll make sure there isn't any trouble. Ezra emphasizes that he doesn't want any violence. Willie says they don't have to use violence.

The Central Committee talks about why the landowners hate the government camps. The owners are afraid that the migrants will get used to having things nice and will start to demand better working conditions. People start to gather around the dance floor. Soon, guests in cars arrive. After dinner, Al dresses in a suit and flirts with a girl. Tom says he has joined the entertainment committee. Rose of Sharon misses Connie and says she's not going to the dance. Ma soothes her and convinces her to attend. Pa and Uncle John talk to men at the office about how the wages keep getting lower. They are all perplexed about what to do about it.

Tom and a Cherokee named Jule Vitela look over the guests as they arrive and try to pick out troublemakers. Jule spots three suspicious guys. Tom goes to the dance floor and tells Willie to keep an eye on the three men. The first dance takes place without any problems. However, just before the second dance, the three men enter the dance floor and start to pick a fight. Twenty men from the entertainment committee, including Tom, hem in the three troublemakers. A shrill whistle is heard. The committee escorts the three men off the dance floor. Meanwhile, deputies approach the entrance and claim there is a riot going on at the dance. The camp men say there is no riot. All that is heard is the music and people having fun. The deputies back off and wait. Tom and other committee members bring the three troublemakers to the back fence. Huston asks the three who hired them. They don't respond. Then the committee makes the three men climb over the fence. Pa talks to men at the office about forming a union.

Analysis

In Chapter 24, Steinbeck illustrates how the community can work together to handle a difficult situation. The Central Committee knows that deputies are coming to break up the dance. In response, the committee uses the power of the community to prevent the incident. Some community members patrol the fence looking for people sneaking in, while others try to spot troublemakers among the guests. Still others keep an eye on people by the dance floor. Although everything is coordinated like clockwork, three men try to start a fight; again, the power of the group is used to squelch it. Twenty committee men hem in the troublemakers, preventing them from throwing a punch. Also, the committee men place hands over the mouths of the three men, gagging them. The troublemakers are then escorted out of the camp without the use of violence.

Again, Steinbeck offers an ironic comparison. The migrants, who are supposedly ignorant and unruly, work together to peacefully handle a potentially violent situation. In contrast, the deputies, who represent official law and order, want to create a riot. To prevent this, the migrants have to stop the supposed peacemakers from disturbing the peace. This comparison contributes to the theme of Individual versus Community by showing that common people naturally want to form a harmonious community and are able to do so despite the disruptive influence of outside forces.

Although this chapter shows the Joads and other people enjoying the dance, Steinbeck conveys a sense of insecurity about the festivities. He does this in two ways. First, he shows that a potentially disruptive situation could happen at the dance. In addition, he intersperses descriptions of the dance proceedings with Pa talking to men about the lowering wages and how to handle this problem. One of the men describes how workers in Ohio formed a union. Storekeepers and others tried to break it up, but the workers went into town and had a "turkey shoot." This display of violence quieted the people who were protesting the union. The man at the Weedpatch camp wonders if the migrants should use similar tactics. Although the Joads and other migrants are enjoying the dance, they know that they will be facing more hardships and might need to unite in force to face them.

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