John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath


"Tom," [Ma Joad] said. "What you aimin’ to do?"
He was quiet for a while. "I been thinkin’ how it was in that gov’ment camp, how our folks took care a theirseves, an’ if they was a fight they fixed it theirself; an’ they wasn’t no cops wagglin’ their guns, but they was better order than them cops ever give. I been a-wonderin’ why we can’t do that all over. Throw out the cops that ain’t our people. All work together for our own thing - all farm our own lan’."
"Tom," Ma repeated, "what you gonna do?"
"What Casy done," he said.
"But they killed him."
"Yeah," said Tom. "He didn’t duck quick enough. He wasn’t doing nothin’ against the law, Ma. I been thinkin’ a hell of a lot, thinkin’ about our people livin’ like pigs, an’ the good rich lan’ layin’ fallow, or maybe one fella with a million acres, while a hunderd thousan’ good farmers is starvin’. An’ I been wonderin’ if all our folks got together an’ yelled, like them fellas yelled, only a few of ’em at the Hooper ranch --" Ma said, "Tom, they’ll drive you, an’ cut you down like they done to young Floyd."
"They gonna drive me anyways. They drivin’ all our people."
"You don’t aim to kill nobody, Tom?"
"No. I been thinkin’, long as I’m a outlaw anyways, maybe I could - Hell, I ain’t thought it out clear, Ma. Don’ worry me now. Don’ worry me."
They sat silent in the coal-black cave of vines. Ma said, "How’m I gonna know ’bout you? They might kill ya an’ I wouldn’t know. They might hurt ya. How’m I gonna know?"
Tom laughed uneasily, Well, maybe like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big one - and then --"
"Then what, Tom?"
"Then it don’t matter. Then I’ll be aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where - wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ - I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build - why, I’ll be there. See? God, I’m talkin’ like Casy. Comes of thinking about him so much. Seems like I can see him sometimes."
"I don’ un’erstan’," Ma said. "I don’ really know."
"Me neither," said Tom. "It’s jus’ stuff I been thinkin’ about. Get thinkin’ a lot when you ain’t movin’ aroun’. . . ."

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath




"Pretty Boy Floyd" - a well-known folk balad about an Okie who turned into an outlaw (there are distinct parallels to Steinbeck’s protagonist). The song was recorded, among others, by Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez.



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