This novel by John Steinbeck starts with Tom Joad being released from Oklahoma prison after serving a 4-year sentence for manslaughter.
He comes across Jim, a retired preacher who has lost his belief, and they both head to Tom’s home. On arrival, all the farms around theirs are deserted. Most of the families had moved to California to seek work. The two head to John’s house (Tom’s uncle). They find Pa Joad and Ma in the process of packing also heading to California for a fruit picking job.
The journey is long, and Grandpa Joad, who constantly complains about not wanting to leave his home dies soon after they depart. The highway is clogged with many families headed to California. They Joad’s encounter a stranded couple on the way; Sairy and Ivy Wilson and invite them to travel with them. Sairy is ill and cannot continue with the journey.
The Joads meet rumors of a depleted market for jobs and even discouragement from an immigrant on the way who revealed that 800 jobs were contested for by around 20000 people. They push one and arrive but soon after Grandma Joad passes away. The environment in California becomes harsh, and they struggle for everything. Tom later engages in an argument that ends with the arrest of Jim.
They result in moving to a government camp that seems to have a better environment. Tom stops a riot orchestrated by the police to be allowed to shut the camp down. The Joads keep moving and soon find work picking fruit and start making a decent wage. Jim is released from jails and makes enemies which result in his death. Tom watched him die by the hands of the police and in turn, murders an officer.
He hides for some time and the family in turn moves to a cotton farm. Tom is almost discovered but Ma Joad saves him by sending him away. The picking season ends, and work is scarce again. Rose of Sharon delivers a stillborn baby. Some heavy rains and floods forced the family to move to a barn. In the barn, they find a starving dying man and his son. Ma chases everyone out so that her daughter can save her with her breast milk.