“I’ll be there” – The Final Speech of Tom Joad

“I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this.”

I just finished reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  I have always known of this book but never read it or even knew very much about what is was about.

I really wasn’t prepared by how relevant it was to so many situations occurring globally at the moment. The mass migration of populations due to climate changes, infrastructure collapse and economics, the refusal of a system to help and indeed the full demonisation of those in transit.

The language is beautifully simple and yet says so much about strength, sadness, suffering, perseverance and dignity.

I have included below the Last speech of the character Tom Joad as he says farewell to his mother. Bill Hicks cited this as his favourite book and apparently usd this speech as the basis for his famous last words.

Below is the speech as performed by Henry Fonda in John Ford’s 1940 film of the book.

“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’ 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 — an’ then —”
“Then what, Tom?”
“Then it don’ matter. Then I’ll be all 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 thinkin’ about him so much. Seems like I can see him sometimes.”

  • Tom Joad, and his mother, in Ch. 28, p. 419