Oh man, it’s the end of Laura’s readalong! Which makes me sad, because I love our little gang and the hilariousness and gifs and with this book, the awesome semi-political discussions.
So, the book ended with Rosasharn breastfeeding a dying man. That was the LAST PARAGRAPH.
I totally get the whole message behind this – no matter what you should always help people, blah blah blah. But one – gross. And two – you have no other food, and this man is like at death’s door. You can’t feed him, so really by trying to save him, you’re just dragging out his starvation. What the hell. And what a messed up way to end the whole book, Steinbeck.
Anyways, on to my usual chapter recaps…
Chapter 26: Ma tells the men to man the hell up and think of something, because while the camp is nice and all, they’re about to starve because there’s no work. And while the men listen to her, Pa gets all asshole-y and says he should beat her for thinking she’s head of the family and taking the man’s place. To which Ma is like
Al is dying to go off on his own and get a job as a mechanic somewhere, and the family won’t let him, which sucks. He’s the only one of them with a skill that’s actually useful and he has the chance to get a good job somewhere, but they’re all “No we need you to drive the car.” which is kind of selfish. He could have made some money to help out the family. So, they find a really crappy peach farm to work on, but it’s heavily protected with armed guards, which means OF COURSE T.J. goes looking for trouble. He sneaks out, finds Casy and learns that Casy’s been leading strikes against the farm owners for paying low wages, and Casy promptly gets his head bashed in by the patrolmen (which was actually pretty sad, because I kind of liked Casy). T.J. snaps and kills yet again, gets his face busted up, and runs back to the family. Now they all have to leave just to protect his stupid ass.
Chapter 27: Cotton-picking is great, except just like everything else once the farm is overrun with workers and it all gets picked, you have no more work.
Chapter 28: The Joads are doing okay, living in a boxcar and picking cotton and actually making a little bit of money – enough to eat regularly and to save. Ma kind of annoys the bejeezus out of me in this chapter, which is disappointing since she was so awesome throughout the rest of the book. Ruthie (she’s so annoying, I’m actually disappointed she didn’t get written off somehow) gets into a fight with another girl and BLABS ABOUT TOM HIDING BECAUSE HE KILLED A MAN. After Ma expressly told her and Winfield to never tell anybody. And Ma is all “No, I won’t beat her, it’s not her fault.”
So, it seems we know why Tom has no self-control when it comes to his temper. Because apparently if you screw up in a fit of anger and kill a guard or blab the family’s secrets around, it’s not your fault. Come on Ma! You should’ve beaten her ass so that she would learn to shut her mouth and control her anger. So, Ma is awesome when it comes to standing up to Pa, but sucks when it comes to disciplining her kids after they royally fuck up.
Anyways, Ma gives Tom $7 of the family’s money to run away. The Joads worry about what they’ll do when there’s no more cotton to pick. Al gets engaged to a girl, and this upsets Rosasharn so much that she insists on helping to pick cotton, and then promptly gets herself sick.
Chapter 29: There’s rain. Once again, Steinbeck is kind of angry at all the California people for not being more charitable when Mother Nature strikes. When a group of migrants flood an area, there will ALWAYS be sickness, starvation, theft, mistrust, anger, etc because these people show up with nothing and there’s not enough work for them. You can’t be pissed at California because they’re not willing to feed and give land to the random 200,000+ people that suddenly showed up in their area. It’s not their fault either.
Chapter 30: The rain is coming down hard and ends up flooding the boxcar camp, and Rosasharn goes into an early labor. The baby is born dead, which was sad but I also feel like it was for the best, because Rosasharn was convinced her baby was going to grow up terrible and messed up. And let’s face it, they’re not in any condition to care for a newborn right now. Al stays with his fiancee and her family, and the Joads decide they need to get to higher ground. They find a barn on top of the hill, which is where the starving guy and his son are, and voila. We know what happens then.
Sooooo… I don’t know how I feel about the book overall! I didn’t hate it – I would have hated it if I had been bored to tears. But I don’t feel like things got that sad, and I feel like that was where Steinbeck kind of failed – while he’s a good writer and obviously can write beautifully, he let his politics kind of take over the show and it overshadowed the family, which kept me from really connecting with most of them. I guess I just need to like my characters more in order to feel badly for the things that happened to them… but some of it was kind of brought on by themselves, too. I’m disappointed that we’ll never know what actually happened to Connie. Actually, because of the INSANELY screwed up way that Steinbeck ended the book, we don’t know what ever happened to any of them – for all I know, the Joads are still shivering in that barn and trying to figure out their next move. Ma was BY FAR the best character, even if she did disappoint me in the end.
If nothing else, I actually enjoyed the book because it gave me LOTS to talk about. Lots of fun conversations with both the honeyman and fellow bloggers. And like I said, I liked Steinbeck’s writing – it was so awesome in the first section. But then he kind of forgot about things like character development and plot and said “Fuck it, I’m just gonna rant about how unfair Californians/farm owners/cops/businessmen/tractors are.”
I’m going to write a non-spoiler-y review later, for the people who didn’t readalong with us. But overall, yay! And if anyone wants to host an East of Eden readalong, I will TOTALLY sign up for that.