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What Happens to Tom Joad?


I recently rewatched The Grapes of Wrath and then reread the book. They are both great pieces of art. Back in my social realist days of art in the late 90s and early 00s, I found the slightly more optmistic end of the movie irritating, but really the scene with Rose-a-Sharon suckling the old man was over the top and there really wasn’t much reason for the book to go on after Tom Joad leaves. And the mild sense of hope at the end of the film really is a more palatable ending. The flood offers nothing but more despair. The adaptation really is perfect as well. I know Steinbeck loved it. The superfluous characters are eliminated, even though it’s obvious in the film that there’s no way Ma Joad would have gone that long between children.

Anyway, what do you think happens to Tom Joad? Let’s assume he doesn’t killed like Casey. And let’s assume he survives the war. If Tom Joad is alive after 1945, what is his future? Am I the only who sees him becoming a conservative like most of his fellow ex-sharecropper migrants and voting for Goldwater in 64? Steinbeck makes a compelling case for Joad the populist man of the left. But of course Steinbeck’s landscape of the California fields is incredibly whitened, eliminating the Filipinos and Mexicans who had long history of work in the fields. That wasn’t entirely inaccurate given the deportations of Mexicans from California in the depression once white people needed low-paid work. But can Joad’s populism bypass the racist attitudes he grew up in and the racist attitudes of California? I guess I am skeptical given what we know about post-war California and the rise of conservatism. Maybe Joad returns from the war, gets a job in the defense factories like so many of his family members and comrades from Oklahoma, and those racial attitudes take over. Now Tom Joad didn’t buy into the religion at the heart of this, but then he’s a young man in the late 30s when the story takes place. Steady work and prosperity will do a lot to make someone forget the hard bad times that make them do crazy things.

I mean, sure, it’d be nice to think about Tom Joad as the vanguard of a left-populist movement. But that didn’t happen, nor did it come close to happening. So if we are playing the odds, I think we have to say that Joad votes Goldwater.

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  • Derelict

    I don’t see him turning into a Goldwater supporter. I see him becoming disaffected from politics right around that time. I base this on my own grandparents. They worshipped Roosevelt because he saved them and (in their view) the country. Their experiences during the Depression, during which they lost a very successful trucking business, shaped their view on government for the rest of their lives. So they saw government as a force for positive good on matters of the economy, and were devoted Democrats.

    Right up until Johnson and the Civil Rights Act. At that point, they decided Democrats were more concerned with “the coloreds” than with stalwart White folks like themselves. But they would never vote Republican because, as my Grandmother put it, “we’re not rich enough to be Republicans.” So they pretty much gave up voting in national elections.

    • Russell Arben Fox

      I see him becoming disaffected from politics right around that time.

      I think Derelict has it right, Erik, for one key reason: you’re ignoring the role of evangelical Protestantism, or at least the cultural hold-over of such religion, in shaping how the Okies who settled in California eventually, in their 40s and 50s, came to become hard-core, anti-communist Goldwaterites. Darren Dochuk’s book is the one to read here. Now obviously Tom Joad is a fictional character, but taken on the terms by which Steinbeck presents him we have to assume that Tom had no affection for or belief in the religion of his parents or people; maybe that would have changed when he inevitably married and had children, but as his fellow Okies came to embrace the right-wing, anti-communist gospel of Billy Graham after WWII, I think it’s entirely likely he would have stuck with Truman, Stevenson, and Kennedy. Yes, the civil rights movement might well of broken his allegiance to the Dems, but I don’t see his character as having the sorts of characteristics that were common among the Goldbugs.

      • Bruce B.

        Derelict and Russell between them posted what I was going to. Well done. :)

      • LeeEsq

        Billy Graham was an anti-communist, which makes sense considering Communist attitudes towards religion, but its unfair to call him right wing. He might not have been part of the Christian Left but he also referred to the Civil Rights protests as an act of Christian love and refused to endorse or join Falwell’s Moral Morality movement on the grounds that morality is more than sex. Graham might have not been as politically liberally as people on this blog but he wasn’t a die hard rightist either. Most of Graham’s religious activities were very apolitical in any sense.

        • RonC

          To my knowledge, Graham never took a public position against segregation when it mattered.

          • LeeEsq

            When Graham toured South Africa, during the height of apartheid, he insisted on preaching to a racially mixed audience. That is opposing segregation when it mattered. I believe that he had a similar stance.

            Graham’s understanding of religion was certainly apolitical. He emphasized Christ as the savior of souls rather than leftist liberation theology, which I’m not that fond of either. Liberation theology has a lot of anti-Jewish potential behind it. This doesn’t mean he was a crazy rightist though. He opposed the Moral Majority for having a limited, sex obsessed version of morality. There needs to be room for legitimate variances in beliefs.

            • DocAmazing

              Liberation theology has a lot of anti-Jewish potential behind it.

              Interesting statement. Care to elaborate? Examples?

              • The Dark Avenger

                Ed Asner explains it for you:

                have been lucky, overall, that I haven’t felt that much anti-Semitism in my life- I was raised in Kansas City. There were a handful of Jews there. I remember one incident in high school when I wanted to join a certain club. My name was brought up for consideration and I was blackballed. I was devastated because I thought it was my personality. I asked a friend who was in the club, was it – hope, hope, hope – because I was Jewish? On being told ‘yes’ I was so relieved that my Hebrew God could take the blame. I was okay, it was my God that was wrong. But the stinger stayed in my skin and whenever I get a letter calling me names or whenever my house is spray-painted, it all wells up again.

                There are fewer than 6 million Jews in the United States. But as a people, despite our minority status, we have made our presence known. As the chosen people we were given a certain destiny by God. As I think about what is expected of me, I think we should be looking back, examining what our marching orders were in the beginning and trying to adhere more closely to them.

                A term I’ve heard a lot lately, mostly in reference to Central America, is ‘liberation theology.’ It is the theology of going back to the biblical teachings that the true God liberates, not enslaves. Liberation theology focuses on the first commandment that we should have no strange idols. Idols enslave, whether it is idolizing a nation or an organized religion. We should get back to the essence of knowing God, doing justice. And we should focus on the empowerment of people rather than reducing our beliefs to a formula. Liberation theology engages our spirituality in relation to our willingness to liberate people worldwide and in identifying a new privileged class: children, the sick, hungry, oppressed, the starving and the imprisoned. The meat of this convention is Hillel’s second question: If I am only for myself, what am I?

              • LeeEsq

                In liberation theology, where Christ is emphasized as a the savior and champion of the poor, there is a lot of emphasis placed on the money lender episode and the Pharisees as enemies of the poor. Considering how Jews are stereotypically linked with certain professions, there is a potential to have the Jews play the role of the villain in liberation theology even if we aren’t directly mentioned. Its origins in Catholic churches of Latin American aren’t a great comfort in this regard since, if you study the history, Latin America has a long tradition of Jew-hatred without (many) Jews that they inherited from Spain.

                • The Dark Avenger

                  That’s stretching it pretty far, Lee. In fact, to say that identifying the land owners with the Pharasees in the Bible can lead to anti-Semitism belies the fact that the vast majority of them are probably Catholics as well, or at least Christians of some sort, given the inroads that other varieties of Protestantism have made in the region in recent years.

                  This is like saying you know Pablo Escobar was anti-Semetic because his zoo contained hippopotami that, according to traditional Jewish law, aren’t kosher for eating.

                  To say that somehow the 500K Jews in Central and South America are somehow at risk by liberation theology, given that recent Popes have only recently acknowledged and regretted the history of anti-Semitism in the church not very logical, to say the least. You display a stunning lack of understanding what liberation theology is about when you do so.

                  But then, you could probably take the Eightfold Path of Buddhism and find sonething anti-Semitic about it if you put your mind to it.

                • Eh, that’s as supported as saying it’s a philo-semite theology because its critique of capitalism shares much with that of the German Jew Karl Marx.

                • Besides, Liberation Theology rose partly in opposition to the authoritarian regimes of Latin America in the 1950’s and 1960’s, most of which were quite fond of the contemporary Franco and Salazar fascist-light dictatorships, which while not rabidly antisemitic like the Tiso regime in Slovakia or the Ustashe in Croatia, were still far from cosmopolitan havens for Jews.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    Well, if he was anything like my Okie grandparents, Tom Joad moves his family to a ranch house subdivision in Orange County, joins the GOP and the Neighborhood Watch, and becomes one of those newsletter-subscribing conservatives who hoards precious metals (we found dozens of silver bars behind the ceiling panels after he passed).
    So…good guess.

  • Manny Kant

    The Central Valley voted pretty strongly for Johnson in 1964. The only actually populated counties that voted for Goldwater were San Diego and Orange. What’s the basis for claiming that ex-sharecroppers mostly voted for Goldwater? Hell, even in 68 Humphrey won most of the Central Valley counties.

    • Okies may or may not have been populist, but a lot of them were also Baptist or Pentecostal. And they didn’t stay in the fields, they mostly moved to Bakersfield or Orange County. And those folks were at the heart of the new right in California.

      • BTW, the more I think about it, it was probably more common for the move rightward to not flip them to the Republicans in 1964; most probably voted for Johnson, though a lot were probably wingnut-curious. But what’s more likely to have tipped them solidly Republican would have been what happened the next two years: Berkeley Free Speech Movement, Watts, the Filipino & Mexican strikes in the fields that led to the creation of the United Farm Workers, Haight, rock and roll, cults, feminism, the anti-war movement, etc. It wouldn’t have been as likely that Goldwarter would flip them, it was much more likely that it was backlash to the social and political explosion in California in 1965-1966, which helped Reagan defeat Brown.

    • divadab

      I agree except if you go further forward in time Okies are now among the most reliable Republican voters in CA, almost as reliable as Mormons.

      What struck me strange initially in the central valley is that Okies I met still harbored an inferiority complex, almost an embarassment about being Okies. I guess it makes sense in a social environment in which “Okie” is an epithet meaning ignorant, poor rustic. Still!

      • The Dark Avenger

        That wasn’t uncommon back then. A man I know who is in his 70s now told me that one of the ways you could start a bar fight with him in his youth was to call him an Okie.

  • El Canibal Feliz

    Would his felony conviction have kept him out of the army during the war? And might he have been too old to serve, anyway?

    At any rate, he probably eventually votes Goldwater….

    • cpinva

      I think his age and physical condition render him unfit for duty during the war. he ends up getting a well paying defense related job during the war, building either tanks or bombers. investing his spare cash in war bonds, he has substantial savings by war’s end. using those savings, he invests in a ford dealership in orange county, eventually owning multiple dealerships throughout the state. he takes speech lessons to dull the okie edged accent, marries into the social aristocracy and has 4 children. eventually, they build an 8 room mansion on a 10 acre lot. his father-in-law, a local republican party official, convinces him to run for local office, which he does successfully. not completely forgetting his roots, he keeps a one acre garden on the back of the lot, and uses photos of him tilling, planting, plucking weeds and harvesting in his political campaign; all the local poor people vote for him. he’s seen driving the old family truck to campaign stops, the truck he’s re-located and restored to operating condition.

      eventually, he rises to the state legislature, where he suddenly develops pangs of conscience, and decides he needs to do something to help the poor and destitute in his state, his party leaders are less than thrilled with him. after a series of unsuccessful attempts to pass legislation for minimum wage, additional funding for schools in poor counties and medical care for the children of the poor, tom gets disgusted with politics and quits. a few years later, the poor medical care of his youth and young manhood catch up with him, and he’s found dead in his garden, having succumbed to a heart attack while picking corn for dinner.

  • You’re ignoring the actual outcome of the 64 election I believe. A lot of those blue collar folks voted for Johnson. Then Johnson betrayed them by escalating Vietnam, and that became the story of the rest of the ’60s. Maybe Joad would have voted for Nixon, the “peace” candidate of ’68, and been betrayed yet again. Maybe he would have voted for Wallace in ’72?

    • divadab

      More likely Nixon – certainly for Reagan later. And you bet he voted to recall Grey Davis.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Given that in many ways GoW is family history:

    1942: The hotheaded George Joad Sessions joins the Army, which in its incomprehensible way decides he should become an officer.
    1946: He’s back in the fields, getting into trouble. With an eye to the future, he’s in college on the GI Bill.
    1950: Married, Teaching school and organizing a teachers’ union.
    1952: First child arrives.
    1953: Has to leave the first district, perhaps from retaliation.
    1955: Has to leave second district.
    1956: Second child, buys a house not far from Barry Goldwater’s.
    1960: Active in Republican Party.

    Never did become notably religious, unlike his brothers and sisters. If I had to guess, a major reason for the change in direction was hissolidly middle-class wife from Illinois.

    FWIW: of the following generation, three of four offspring are much more liberal than their parents (and note that this is well past the age of 50.) The one exception worked in defense industries for 20 years before marrying a woman from the Delta country and settling there.

    The Talmud says “it all depends on the woman,” but a survey of the wives doesn’t totally bear that out.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    why so sure joad stays in california? could be he sees action in ww2, makes a wartime marriage to a wac from michigan, settles down there after the war and goes to work for general motors and is active in his union. his children, who hes able to send to college, flirt with hippie-dom but grow up to be republicans

    • Would have been very rare. I’m from the Detroit area. I can recall where a lot of the parents of my 70’s/80’s neighborhood and school friends were from, and none were from the West Coast. Far more common were people who had moved to California, or had uncles or aunts that had, or, later, moved to Texas or Florida.

      Whites who moved to Detroit after the 20’s were mostly from the rural parts of the Great Lakes states, from northern Alabama, or, especially, from Appalachia.

      I think that pattern was common throughout the industrial Midwest. Maybe after the war they would have gone to Kansas City or Denver or Dallas, but far more likely was they stayed in California.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        could be- i was transposing my own family’s experiences, to some degree- after the war they scattered and went pretty much everywhere- including california- but the south

        • The Dark Avenger

          A lot of folks, like my TX grandparents, would stay in CA because you don’t have snow or the humid heat of the Midwest. A lot of cities in the S.F. Bay Area grew as people coming home from the Pacific decided to settle in the area becaus land was relatively cheap. San Jose had been the biggest city in a region that was mostly an agricultural-driven economy, as people moved in and orchards were bulldozed for subdivisions.

          Your mentioning of MI is amusing because one of my Eurasian uncles married a nurse from MI after the war who elected to stay here, aside from the weather she liked to gamble so CA being close to NV was probably a factor as well.

  • c u n d gulag


    Talk about your bleak things to read first thing on a Saturday morning!

    Now, where did I hide that rat poison, so I can put it in my coffee?

  • KarenJo12

    I think it depends on his experiences in WWII. If he saw combat, then there’s a very good chance he stays to the left of the rest of the country. My father was too young for WWII, but my uncle and the fathers of my friends who actually got shot at all stayed Dem, although I have no really good idea why or if that was typical. (They’re all either dead or in nursing homes now. Mostly dead.) If he got a “shoveling shit in Lousiana” job (quoting George C Scott in “Patton,”) then he was far more likely to turn hard right. The support jobs provided all of the brainwashing required by the military with none of the experiences of danger, so leaving the guys who did them with an enormous sense of entitlement. They also got most of the perks from the GI Bill, providing them with a boost on postwar prosperity, and had probably actually learned a skill in the war that translated quite well to the civilian world.

    • NewishLawyer

      Eh my grandfather spent WWII working as a draftsmen at a defense contractor and he stayed Democratic but that wasn’t quite an army job.

      As I understand the demographics, the silent generation (maybe old enough to remember the Depression but too young for WWII) went hard-right but the Greatest Generation generally stayed left.

    • That was a broader generational trend regardless of military duty. People who were old enough to remember the depression were mostly Democrats (which is why in 1942 Republicans banded together with Southern Dems–who were concerned about precedents RE federal intervention in Jim Crow voting laws–to effectively deny the vote of people serving in the military). But the heart of the Tea Party are people born from the early to mid-1930’s through the end of WWII, who’ve been about the most Republican cohort in every election back to 1972.

      • KarenJo12

        That describes my parents.

      • divadab

        This is the Repubs demographic problem, IMHO.

    • Yeah, I almost linked to that too.

  • NewishLawyer

    Wouldn’t Joad belong to the Greatest Generation or is he too old? I thought that the Greatest Generation stayed Democratic?

    Any theories about why Okies became Republican as they got prosperous in the post-WWII economy but many or most Jews stayed New Dealers and Democratic to their cores?* My maternal grandparents moved to the suburbs after WWII but they stayed true to their Democratic roots until the days they died. And this was in then heavily Republican Nassau County. Nassau County did not start becoming blue until around 1996-1998 when I was in high school. My home suburb might have been one of the few Democratic strongholds in Nassau County until then and this could be attributed to being right next to Queens and being largely Jewish.

    I’ll be an optimist and say I can see Joad staying as a union organizer and to the left.

    *Of course some Greatest Generations Jews did become the original neo-cons during the 1960s like Irving Kristol.

    • Any theories about why Okies became Republican as they got prosperous in the post-WWII economy but many or most Jews stayed New Dealers and Democratic to their cores?*

      Two big, overlapping reasons are they were disproportionately evangelical Christian, and they were descendants of the original wave of English, Scottish and Scots-Irish settlement of Appalachia and the upland South who eventually moved west in to northern Alabama and Mississippi, in to the Ozarks and the Southern Plains, and then in to Southern California, especially Bakersfield and Orange County. Those people were ancestrally Democratic in large part because of sectionalism and the Civil War, but like the whites who stayed in those areas, they were also culturally and socially conservative. It’s one reason why California–before immigration completely remade it–had a bigger political split between the more liberal northern part of the state and the Reagan heartland of white areas of Southern California.

      Even today whites in California vote more Republican than whites in most of the Midwest and Northeast states. Obama got 45% among CA whites, which is only a little better than he did with white voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, about what he did with white voters in Michigan and Colorado, worse than he did in Wisconsin and New York, and significantly worse than in Iowa, Minnesota, OR/WA or New England.

    • Nobdy

      I’d add that in the 60’s and 70’s Jews were still discriminated against openly and directly by the sorts of people who make up the Republican parties. They didn’t want Jews in their country clubs and they said anti-semitic comments on a regular basis. Prosperous Jews didn’t become Republicans until recently because they weren’t wanted. Jews becoming fully “white” is a fairly recent phenomenon (and isn’t completely true even today.)

    • divadab

      I have an acquaintance who is a Jewish Okie and he votes Repub.

    • mary who makes wiring harnesses

      I like to think of Tom Joad as a union organizer, and a Democrat until his dying day.

  • Lee Rudolph

    Also, too, whatever became of Bobbie McGee?

    • Salinas PTA.

      • What about Benjamin and Elaine after they divorced?

        • Lee Rudolph

          Plastics and Tupperware, respectively.

          • He got a boob job and she became a serial killer with souvenirs in the freezer? Maybe, Lee, but unlikely.

    • cpinva

      “Also, too, whatever became of Bobbie McGee?”

      he got drafted, ended up in Vietnam and, sadly, was killed by a landmine while out on patrol.

    • Didn’t she throw flowers off the Tallahachie bridge?

      • mary who makes wiring harnesses

        That was Bobbie Gentry.

  • Barry Freed

    Next Loomis post: Had he lived Joe Hill would have joined, become head of American Bund.

  • Todd

    “Documents released by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2012 indicate that Steinbeck offered his services to the Agency in 1952, while planning a European tour, and the Director of Central Intelligence himself, Walter Bedell Smith, was eager to take him up on the offer. What work, if any, Steinbeck may have performed for the CIA during the Cold War is unknown.”

    Don’t know about Joad, but Steinbeck certainly settled into a middle-aged conformity nicely.

    • divadab

      It was about the free LSD.

  • LWA

    I knew a Tom Joad.
    In the 90’s, while I was still a conservative, I worked with an older guy who was rabidly liberal (about like I am now). I couldn’t figure him out, until bit by bit he told me his story, as an Okie growing up int he Central Valley.
    He didn’t dwell on the details, but I could put the pieces together, and grasped that his politics- everyone politics- was shaped by personal experience, the actual lived data that is so much more powerful than the stuff we read or get second hand.
    I also know others of that same generation who did go the Goldwater- Reagan route.

    I guess its all in how we interpret our life story- some people remember themselves in the powerless strugglers and feel empathy; other people remember themselves in the Horatio Alger strivers, and scorn the ones left behind.

    The old Okie’s liberal arguments never made a dent in my Reagan confidence- but his story did, and it helped me understand that just as his life experience shaped indelibly his political views, mine as a young man in 1970’s California shaped mine; and more importantly, how parochial my viewpoint was, my perspective flattened and distorted by the absence of other people’s experiences and thoughts.

    • Aimai

      Beautifully put.

      • Gregor Sansa

        I wish that we could sign on to “upvote” posts without having to add more, and in my case usually uglier, words.

    • mary who makes wiring harnesses

      Second to last paragraph above pretty much says it all.

  • DocAmazing

    Tom Joad took up organizing until he ran into a large number of Mexican fieldworkers; he was unable to convince the Okies he’d been organizing to join forces with these Mexicans, and he became despondent. He took a job in Fresno in a canning plant where he met a young woman and married her, moving to the Bakersfield area. He then went to work drilling for oil and again began to attempt to organize his fellow workers; he disappeared on his way home from the fields one day (his truck was found, driver’s-side door ajar, by the side of a road in Oildale). He left behind a pregnant wife and one child. That child was…Merle Haggard.

    And now you know…the rest of the story.

    • James Gary


  • LeeEsq

    Erik, with your hatred of science fiction and comic book movies, I’d thought that fan fiction and speculation would be bellow you.

    • NewishLawyer


  • Bruce Vail

    This is all heresy. The beauty of fiction is that the characters are forever frozen in time and space for us to admire (or revile) forever. There can be no post “Grapes of Wrath” Tom Joad.

    • LeeEsq

      Yes, this.

      • Mellano

        Yes. The larger point about the history of Oklahomans in Southern California is interesting in its own right, but that’s different than saying it’s “Tom Joad.”

        Question for those who know these things: was Joad’s lack of religious leanings unusual among other Dust Bowl Okies of his age, at that time?

        • Bruce B.

          Being open about it was definitely unusual. In the families I knew while growing up who had Okie backgrounds, a very quiet disbelief was much more common, particularly among the men.

          • Mellano

            Were these among the ones who latched onto right-wing evangelicalism? If so, ugh.

    • Aimai

      Actually I found this a fascinating thread. I admit that it treads very close to the line like the myriad of gay men who apparently wrote to the woman who wrote “Brokeback Mountain” insisting she’d “got it wrong” and that their slashfic would “fix” the problem with her writing. But asking yourself what the future of a fictional character would be like, while respecting the world the writer created that birthed that character, isn’t the same thing at all. Of course there can be a post Grapes of Wrath Tom Joad–to say that there isn’t is to insist, solipsistically, that the story exists only momentarily, as we read it, rather than pointing us towards larger realities.

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  • Gregor Sansa

    He joins the League of Extraordinarily Leftist Comrades. Guided by an ancient Tiny Tim, he and Holden Caulfield, Pavel Vlassov, Nicho Aquino, and (lone female) Lady Orlando, fight injustice around the globe.

  • The Dark Avenger

    Like my own grandfather, he could’ve moved to Napa and worked in the defense factories on Mare Island, sometimes coming home, grabbing a meal, sleeping, and then going back for another shift. After the war, he takes his money from the defense work and opens a trucking business, doing so well that by 1956 he has a private plane to tool around in, at the Napa Airport.

    as for interacting with ethnicities, he’d probably be concerned if one of his children married a FIlipino or Mexican because they would be Roman Catholic than if they were of a different skin color, as was the case when Dad married my Chinese-Scottish-American mother.

  • Tybalt

    Tom *would* have gotten a defence industry job in ‘42, and hung on until ‘48, but his co-workers had long memories of his casual talk at the beginning and wartime declarations of love for Our Soviet Allies, and an old confidante managed to lock onto a promotion to foreman by denouncing him.

    He left before he could be fired and went to work in furniture assembly instead, and actually did pretty well for a while. Marriage, to Alma, in 1945 (the boyfriend she had carried a torch for through the war married a Dutchwoman instead) softened him and made him practical, “less dreamy” in his own words. When the wife joined the Aimee Semple Macpherson church (Foursquare Gospel) they began to have problems. Eventually she left him in ‘55, for an aging undertaker with a Cadillac also active in the church, and things took a bad turn for Tom for a bit. He started drinking more, heading to the bar straight after work; he had another girl for a while, a widow his age also bitter about the war, but he hit her a few times after drinking too much and it didn’t last. After the last one she called the cops on him. Tom didn’t get charged, but was told it would be best if he left town to avoid same. He’d been inside; didn’t need telling twice.

    Suddenly rootless (Ma died happy in 1949, Rose had long lost touch), not seeing the point in staying in California with all the hard and bitter memories, he headed back east, to Texas, in 1957. He got a job labouring in Dallas, building the new concrete-steel-and-glass buildings of the oil boom. The trip back refired his old activism; he’d long been a fairly reliable Stevenson liberal but now he began to drift back into labour circles, helping to organize construction labour but not having the energy for the really intense union work. I wouldn’t say Tom was a radical by 1964, but he certainly thought Lyndon Johnson was too right-wing for him. But he voted faithfully, like most of Texas, for Johnson in ‘64. It was his last vote; had a heart attack at work in 1966 while putting up scaffolding.

  • Bitter Scribe

    And his children vote for Reagan.

    This is why my favorite Steinbeck book is the short-story collection “The Red Pony.” It’s free of the working-class hero stuff that puts me slightly off the rest of Steinbeck’s oeuvre.

  • I can rebut you in two words:

    Woody Guthrie.

    How jaded have you become?

    • Mellano

      He was so much older then. He’s younger than that, now.

    • The question was more about sharecropper Okies who ended up in Irvine or Bakersfield, not artist Okies who ended up in Greenwich Village.

      • Tom Joad was an ex-con. You really think he’d have ended up in Bakersfield?

  • Halloween Jack

    But of course Steinbeck’s landscape of the California fields is incredibly whitened, eliminating the Filipinos and Mexicans who had long history of work in the fields. That wasn’t entirely inaccurate given the deportations of Mexicans from California in the depression once white people needed low-paid work.

    Then why bring it up at all? This is the same Steinbeck who wrote The Pearl, the script for Viva Zapata!, requested that Hitchcock take his name off of Lifeboat because of the racist portrayal of the black character, etc.

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