These farmers were not ready for such a long journey, having uprooted their families to travel far into the West for better livelihoods.
Arrival and Disillusionment
The problem with having displaced so many farmers was that at arrival to the West, many of them found themselves even more destitute than before. California, for many of the displaced sharecroppers, was supposed to be the "land of milk and honey;" yet at arrival, there was no work to be had. Families lived in Hooverville establishments that "don't look none too prosperous," as Tom significantly states in the movie. Most were periodically told to move further south, where jobs were opening. Those who tried to travel north were stopped by belligerent men telling them to go back to the south, as there would be no room for them in the north.
Repeatedly, the Joads find themselves just as stranded as many of the men and women trying to find jobs and camps that would accommodate them. Tom's dwindling family actually succeeds to secure a few jobs in a couple of camps, though the experiences in the first one were more than unpleasant. In the first camp, Tom sees the bewildering amount of policemen who abused their privileges, beating down on the insurgents who questioned the authority given to them. Many dissidents argued the problems that the job-seekers faced; farmers were getting paid less and less, the more workers there were (Tom's camp went from five cents an hour to two per worker). Yet in the same manner, the town store charges exorbitant amounts of money for food, because it is the only store in the area.
Disillusioned by this, Casy, having joined the strikers outside of the camp, appeals to Tom, telling him that they should all stand together in order to garnish equal pay for workers. This undoubtedly leads to a disastrous end for Casy, who is murdered by a cop chasing him down. It in turn results in Tom killing the cop, which enables the family to move once more. The chaotic scenes between farmers and policemen seem to show the higher authority's dehumanization of the farmers. To those at a higher position, the farmers seemed nothing more than expendable workers, easily replaced, thus easily susceptible to wage-slashing.
Conclusions: Social Reform
The plight of the farmers met extremes at the hands of those who continued to oppress them during their times of trouble. By the end of the film, Tom's eyes were opened to the possibilities that lay before him. After the Joad family landed in a more promising camp, Tom's comparison of the treatment of sharecroppers in the first camp to the "clean" Farmworkers' Wheat Patch Camp shows him that trouble could be controlled, as long as there are people out there willing to work towards that goal. His final words to his mother (Jane Darwell) showcase the personal changes he had undergone after the long journey across the country.
I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look, wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build, I'll be there, too. (Tom Joad)
Tom Joad is but one of many sharecroppers who found their views of the world leading them to an inevitable clamor of social reform. Farmers were repeatedly wronged throughout the film, and even those who passed them by looked upon them like creatures who "didn't know any better." Farmworkers' Wheat Patch Camp, however, showed Tom that when banded together for a greater cause, the farmers themselves can take their fortunes into their own hands. With a further need to be more aware of the situation happening throughout the nation, Tom undergoes to leave the camp once more, to find the bigger picture of a nation in one of the largest Depressions that it has experienced throughout history. Thus Ford's The Grapes of Wrath leaves off with a positive message, one that sends out hope for what Ma Joad calls "the people" of the United…