The Grapes of Wrath: Economic Forces

In the movie and or novel The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck approaches and takes on, many political and social problems that the depression held. One topic that seems to be overlooked is how the storyline has many examples of economic forces at work in the film.

One of these economic forces, which are also one of the most apparent, in the film is the message of unemployment. At the opening of the film the family of the grapes of wrath are faced with eviction from their farm home; which is due mostly because of the dust bowl as well as the great depression.

The family, out of work, decides to travel cross-country with the hopes of finding a job as migrant workers, only to find that a hiring ploy had been pulled, which made this next economic force apparent to the family.

This next economic force at work in the story is supply and demand. The hard pressed family soon after arriving in California realized that the demand for jobs far exceeded the supply, thus sending them from farm to farm, looking for work.

Although this example of supply and demand is not applied to consumers and goods, this example still shows the economic force of supply and demand at work and how it affected the family.

The last of the economic forces at work in the film that I will mention is the economic force of labor. Labor, by definition is; the physical and mental effort of humans used to produce goods and services. In the movie, this is exactly what the many hopeful workers hoped to do in California, making a desperate trek from the Midwest of the United States, to the farms, vineyards, and orchards of the west coast, trying to overcome the previous economic forces of unemployment, and supply and demand for jobs to raise their income and standard of living to a point where one could survive.

Sadly, John Steinbeck isn’t one for happy endings, concluding on a light point of hope and insight amidst surrounding sadness and distraught. The analysis of this novel/movie as in the standards of economic forces is insulting to this great piece of American literature, defacing it’s deep underlying messages given in the last chapter (or scene) through intense “biblical” imagery, that show an account of humanity and humanity’s perseverance to survive and succeed.

Optimism in The Grapes of Wrath

At the end of the novel The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, it seems as though the Joads have nothing left to live for, however Steinbeck shows signs of optimism through symbols and biblical allusions. The Joads have gone through tremendous hardships throughout their entire trip to California to find work.

They have lost several family members, have gone without work and lived on extremely low rations for months. At the height of their struggles, the Joads are without food, shelter, and their strongest member Tom Joad.

The daughter, Rose of Sharon also delivers a stillborn baby. Steinbeck does however end the story with symbols of hope. The rain, which is constantly pouring down, is a symbol of renewal. The rain represents the coming of spring and plants. The rain has made a tiny points of grass came through the earth and Athe hills were pale green with the beginning year, enabling for new crops to grow and for families to find work.

Rose of Sharon’s stillborn baby is also a symbol of optimism. Uncle John is told to bury the baby after it is delivered. Instead Uncle John decides to float the baby down a river in its coffin. Through this action, Steinbeck alludes to Moses, who was also sent down a river as a baby, and later freed his people from slavery and brought them to Isreal. As Uncle John puts the stillborn baby into the river, he tells it to A. Go down in the street and rot and tell them that way. Uncle John is telling the baby to show the rich landowners what their greediness has done.

Uncle John sends the baby down as a symbol of the great suffering the have-nots have been through, saying, maybe they’ll know then. The last symbol of optimism comes when Rose of Sharon nurses a dying man. The man has been deprived of food for six days and is not able to digest solid foods. Rose of Sharon, after just delivering a stillborn baby, understands the situation and lets the man drink her milk. This action shows the tremendous growth Rose of Sharon has gone through as a person and ends the novel with optimistic gestures of generosity and unselfishness.

Marxism in the Grapes of Wrath bye John Steinbeck

Capitalism was chosen as the best economic system when the founding fathers were trying to determine the future of America. A capitalist is someone who owns a production system and who gains money through misusing the effort of workers. Through capitalist economic relations, socialistic ideas are broken down to bias earnings of an individual. Through creating such divisions as the upper, middle, and lower class, the theory of Marxism analyzes what ways capitalism can be used against the people. In the Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck confronts this ideal and reveals what he believes regarding this subject.

The Marxist theory of criticism examines the economic and governmental system that Steinbeck uses throughout the novel and reveals that Steinbeck does indeed believe that capitalism is naturally flawed.

Steinbeck starts his grand confrontation with capitalism, by creating the feeling that there are two classes with a third stuck somewhere between. In the start of the novel, Tom Joad wants to hitch a ride with a driver who has a “No Riders” sticker on the truck.

Tom make the driver become tied and twisted in his emotions and moral feelings when saying, “sometimes a guy’ll be a good guy even if some rich bastard makes him carry a sticker…the driver considered the parts of this answer. If he refused now, not only was he not a good guy, but he was forced to carry a sticker, was not allowed to have company” (7). The driver is forced to believe that in order to be a “good guy,” he must put aside pride and help out a fellow man. Tom tries to make the driver realize that a man does not need to work for “some rich bastard” to be a decent person. It is also interesting to note that Steinbeck sees that “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

He shows that those who have higher authority tend to take advantage of others for their own selfish desires. One character of the intercalary chapters notes that the greed of the upper class dominates society and says, “You go steal a tire and you’re a thief, but he tried to steal your four dollars for a busted tire. They call it business” (81). Using “he” can come to represent the strong business owners because its shows the marketing techniques used then. Businessmen would try to take everything away from those who were just trying to make ends meet. By saying that “he tried to steal your four dollars for a busted tire,” means that they only take for their pleasure and their corrupted desires. This motif of the separation of the current society into many classes based on greed shows how deeply ingrained it is and then shows how deeply it affects everyone.

Steinbeck delegates blame of the complete and utter misfortunate of the lower class onto the upper class. While looking for a job, Uncle John and Pa start speaking to a group of men about work, and the men respond by saying, “You can’t feed your fam’ly on just twenty cents and hour, but you’ll take anything. They jes’ auction off a job…pretty soon they’re gonna make us pay to work” (352). The upper class promises the other fortune, food, and other physiological needs for their families and through this completely and utterly dictates every single move of the lower class by dominating their basic needs that must, absolutely must be met. He then projects a specific quality and image to represent the upper class.

“The Bank-or the Company-needs–wants–insists–must have–as thought the Bank or the Company were a monster…they were men and slaves, while the banks and machines were masters all the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to suck cold and powerful masters” (32). The reason the banks and companies are symbolized as monsters is because they consume profits and interest on money. If no provisions are given to this monster, this master, then its “slaves” would not be taken care of either, so it feeds from the weak. This is just another way in which those with the power can dominate the lower class through the basic needs that everyone has. It is through many other instances that follow the same pattern as the others that Steinbeck shows how the upper class completely dominates all aspects of society and the living of everyone else.

From every corner of the novel drops the contempt that Steinbeck has for those who completely disregard the needs of others in order to profit. To this end, Steinbeck uses the camps to show how he believes that society should currently be operating. In Weedpatch, the Joads gathered at camp with everyone else and noticed something different about the atmosphere. “There grew up a government in the worlds a Man who was wise found that his wisdom was needed in every camp; a man who was a fool could not change his folly with this world” (197).

This scene showed how the families united as one under their own governing. It showed that each person was equal to the next, falling away from this class defined society. Steinbeck headed towards socialism with this quote, opposing capitalism and its errors labeling a person and their family. By uniting, it seemed as though more work was able to get done and more people enjoyed a feeling of freedom. Families were able to get away from a higher authority and be able to work and think for themselves. Finally, an answer is presented to the question and problems, which Steinbeck had been building up, through the simple connection of the many ideas that flowed through this novel.

Through the suffering and misery that is faced by the farmers, Steinbeck sets the concept of separation of class based on luck and circumstance; the greed of those in command then does not allow for any change of any type to occur at all. The power that lies in the hand of the upper class has been abused and used to abuse those that it was meant to help. The greed that prevails throughout all instances of merchant dealings throughout this novel indicate that this is the basis and the only true representative of the upper class; through the struggles of the other people, Steinbeck believes that there is much more to life than simple materialism.

In Weedpatch, he shows that once people can shed pettiness and greed that capitalism fosters, they are able to connect and create something much better. From the first event of the novel to the last, Steinbeck focuses on showing the flaws of capitalism and providing a better solution to the problem that plagues the majority of the nation. Socialism will work where capitalism will not, one is based off of the unanimity whereas the other focuses on the few individuals that are able to exploit their greed and disregard for civilization to the extreme.

The Impossibility of the American Dream

America has come to represent ideals such as wealth, happiness, and freedom. Immigrants travel to America in search of the American Dream, constructed of these hopes, although the majority of foreigners and natives alike never discover it. Various American novelists comprehend this unachievable desire and explore its depths in books that have now become classics. Among these novels are John Steinbeck’s _Of Mice and Men_ and the same author’s _The Grapes of Wrath._ In the first, two men with the names Lennie and George roam California in the 1930’s, hunting for ranches to work on.

However, Lennie is mentally ill and always provokes trouble, driving the two companions to become fugitives until the next rural occupation. The American Dream motivates the two men; their version being a homestead with crops and rabbits, until George reluctantly shoots and kills Lennie. In the latter novel, the Joad family is forced off their land and into California in pursuit of work and ultimately their vision of settling down in a white house with oranges.

The family works efficiently and arduously, but remains in the miserable, poverty-stricken state in which they began. In his novels _Of Mice and Men_ and _The Grapes of Wrath_, John Steinbeck exposes the American Dream as unattainable through his settings, symbolization, and characters.

Steinbeck uses his settings to illuminate the unrealistic concept of the American Dream. Both novels occur in California in the 1930’s. More specifically, in _Of Mice and Men_, the story unfolds on a ranch, where every worker desires the American Dream, but none acquire it. For instance, Curley’s wife, who aspires to be a movie star, is murdered and Candy, who wishes to own a farm with Lennie and George, is condemned to remain at the ranch. The ranch is an accommodation for men, who have abandoned their dreams, to drudge through the week and then spend their pay on temporary pleasure. As George is exciting Lennie with their future home and land, George describes men who work on ranches. He announces, “They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to” (13-14). Despite the ranch’s employees’ daily labor, all they have to look forward to is the next week’s redundant momentary contentment.

The ranch represents these men and reflects the impossibility of the American Dream, since all of its inhabitants fail to capture it. In addition, the intricately detailed settings in _The Grapes of Wrath_ suggest the inaccessibility of the dream. For example, Steinbeck describes a roadside camp, “There was no order at the camp; little gray tents, shacks, cars were scattered about at random. The first house was nondescript. The south wall was made of three sheets of rusty corrugated iron, the east wall a square of moldy carpet tacked between two boards, the north wall a strip of roofing paper and a strip of tattered canvas, and the west wall six pieces of gunny sacking… and about the camp there hung a slovenly despair” (241). This precise portrayal provokes an understanding of the immense gap between reality and the American dream, since numerous people’s realities were dirty, uncomfortable camps such as the one depicted, not the comfortable lifestyle presented in the dream.

Moreover, Steinbeck uses symbolization to propose the American Dream is unreachable. Curley’s wife, in _Of Mice and Men_, finds Lennie alone in the barn one night and confesses to him her broken lifelong dream of becoming a movie star. She explains, “Well, a show came through, an’ I met one of the actors. He says I could go with that show. But my ol’ lady wouldn’t let me… If I’d went, I wouldn’t be livin’ like this, you bet” (88). Curley’s nameless wife is not a character, but the embodiment of the unattainable American Dream. She is an excellent example of the countless people who were forced to settle for less than the perfection of the dream. In _The Grapes of Wrath_, Rose of Sharon gives birth to a stillborn baby. When Ruthie asks her mother where the baby is, Ma replies, “‘They ain’t no baby. They never was no baby. We was wrong’”(446). The baby symbolizes the hope, happiness, and fresh start associated with the American Dream. Consequently, when the baby dies, all the ideals it suggests die with it, leaving the American Dream blatantly unattainable.

Furthermore, Steinbeck uses his characters to explore the dream’s inability to be obtained. George and Lennie, in _Of Mice and Men_, desire a house on a farm, but when Lennie kills Curley’s wife, George understands the dream has disappeared. He admits to Candy, “‘I think I knowed from the very first. I think I knowed we’d never do her. [Lennie] usta like to hear about it so much I got to thinking maybe we would” (94). Regardless of George and Lennie’s money and effort, the friends do not reach their goal. Likewise, the Joads, in _The Grapes of Wrath_, hope to find work and settle down in California.

Unfortunately, work is scarce and very few people are adequately prosperous to own land; the Joads face many hardships and difficulties. Steinbeck reveals the family as a flood invades their boxcar home and threatens to destroy the little property they own, “The family huddled on the platforms, silent and fretful. The water was six inches deep in the car before the flood spread evenly over the embankment and moved into the cotton field on the other side” (450). The family’s crushed dreams, for they are far away from a white house with oranges although they struggled to succeed, assert that the American Dream is unfeasible.

Even nowadays, people strive for goals that are ultimately unachievable. Society tells children that they can do anything or be whatever they want to be. Unfortunately, this is unrealistic. Not everyone can be a famous actor, talented singer, or professional athlete because all these careers take luck and skill as well as hard work. Aiming for unattainable goals only leaves the dreamer disappointed and dissatisfied and holds him or her back from obtaining more realistic dreams. In the novels _Of Mice and Men_ and _The Grapes of Wrath_, John Steinbeck realized the harm in constantly aiming for these unhealthy desires and exposed the impossibility of the American Dream.

Jim Casy as a Jesus Christ Figure

In John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck uses several characters and situations to symbol something greater. The character, Jim Casy, is portrayed as an allegorical figure that represents Jesus Christ. Casy’s ideals and beliefs are very similar to those of Jesus Christ. Jim Casy is used to represent Jesus Christ, and to give the people going through a hard time a glimpse of hope and strength. Steinbeck portrays Jim Casy as Jesus Christ. The first notable comparison between them would be their initials.

Both Jesus Christ and Jim Casy have the same initials.

They also both have a strong love for humanity and saw the good in people. Jim Casy let people around him know that it shouldn’t be God that they should lean on, but on each other.

In the novel, he says, “It’s love. I love people so much I’m fit to bust, sometimes. ” (23) This showed that Casy wanted people to lean rely on each other. He believed that people struggling together was by far better than one person struggling alone. Both Jesus Christ and Jim Casy go to the wilderness to get their thoughts and beliefs together. Casy’s main goal was to find the meaning of “holy”.

Casy tells the Joad family, “An’ I went into the wilderness like Him, without no campin’ stuff. ” (81) While in the wilderness, Jim Casy realizes that holy is when mankind is united as one. He believed that every person was just one piece of a universal soul and that people could only be holy if they were united. Both Jesus Christ and Jim Casy also sacrificed themselves to protect others. Tom Joad, who already committed the crime of breaking his parole and leaving Oklahoma, knocked out a deputy. He was then instantly put in the danger of going back to prison.

Jim Casy selflessly offers to take the blame and go to jail instead of Tom so that Tom would be able to lead the family. Lastly, both Jesus Christ’s and Jim Casy’s beliefs are spread after their deaths. When Jim Casy is brutally murdered, Tom Joad vows to spread Casy’s beliefs onto more people. Jesus Christ and Jim Casy share many similarities, a few being in their names, their love for humanity, their wilderness experiences, and their sacrifices. Steinbeck portrays Jim Casy as Jesus Christ in order to show that people working together will give them hope and strength.

Steinbeck sends the message that people must always look towards a brighter future and stick together. He says, “But when they’re all workin’ together, not one fella for another fella, but one fella kind of harnessed to the hole shebang-that’s holy. ” (81) Although the Okies were being driven off their land, Casy worked hard to get the people to work together. One of the many ways Casy reaches out to people is by taking the blame and going to jail instead of Tom. By doing so, Tom was able to carry on with his journey and guide his family as well.

This gave people the incentive to start working together and relying on each other. Casy desperately wanted to give his people some hope and spirit that would allow them to look towards a brighter future. Casy says, “I gotta see them folks that’s gone out on the road. I got a feelin’ I got to see them. They gonna need help no preacher can give ‘em. ” (52) Casy knew that his purpose in life was to help those people in need. Therefore, he took every opportunity he could to help. He organized a group of migrants to picket outside a peach picking camp.

By working together, the migrants managed to keep reasonable wages for their work. Even though he knew the risks of going to jail if there was ever a leader, he still did not stop fighting for his people. Jim Casy fought for his people till death. His message, however, remained alive and touched the hearts of many of the Okies. Before Tom leaves his mother, he says, “But I know now a fella ain’t no good alone. ” (418) This showed that Casy was successful in spreading his message. He was able to make Tom realize the importance of a community during desperate times.

Though Tom was just one person, he was sure that his people would soon get his message. Steinbeck portrays Jim Casy as Jesus Christ in order to emphasize the importance of unity in a community and also to give people enough hope and strength to allow them to carry on. Jim Casy is a symbol of Jesus Christ. He is used to give his fellow people hope and strength by working together. He has several similarities with Jesus Christ in his life and even in his death. His beliefs and ideas provide hope and strength for those in need. Steinbeck used Jim Casy to give the Okies some spirit to carry on and look forward to a brighter future.

Grapes of Wrath

The exodus of the Joad family from Oklahoma to the promised land of California. They were cheated by tradesmen along Highway 66, harassed by border guards at state boundaries, and on arrival were burned out of their makeshift camp by police deputies. One dark night the Joads wandered into Weedpatch Camp, a government refuge for migratory farm workers, where they found clean beds, indoor privies, food, friendship, and hope. “Oh! Praise God,” whispered Ma Joad. “God Almighty, I can’t hardly believe it! ” pronounced Tom.

(p. 390) Their praises were addressed to Providence, but were intended for Washington. Here, they believed, for the first time in their lives, was hard visible proof that their government, whatever and wherever it was, really cared about them and the hundreds of thousands of people like them–landless, homeless, penniless victims of a fickle climate, an unstable economy, and a pernicious way of life. Between the Lesters of Georgia and the Joads of Oklahoma, a profound change of spirit had come upon the land.

The great revolution of the twentieth century, not only in the United States but also in the emerging nations abroad, is the kindling of an extravagant hope that the human condition of man can and should be improved, through the harnessing of the power, resources, and machinery of government, not in some distant millennium, but during the lifetime of those now living. The effective response of modern governments to this enormous challenge depends not only on the dreaming of dreams and the preaching of hope, but also on the capacity to convert the pictures in men’s heads into the realities in their lives.

4. Considering the characters in the novel, which actions do you find admirable, and why? Which do you find reprehensible, and why? Admirable A considerable indecisiveness emerges from the novel about how radical the problem is: whether the circumstances of class war exist likely from the interchapters or whether there is a clear-cut villain in the Farmers’ Association with no broader implications—likely from the chapters and their limited point of view.

The problem is partly compounded by the pragmatism of the Joads themselves, in many ways admirable in the face of degenerating circumstances but also dangerous in their willingness to lower their expectations: at the beginning Ma Joad dreams of a white house in California after a few months on the road, she hopes they may one day afford a tent that does not leak; Rose of Sharon plans early in her pregnancy a comfortable future for her child at the end she is sulking for a little milk so that her baby may be born alive.

The disadvantages of nonteleological thinking are apparent when the result is a perpetual readjustment to straitened conditions: while we are told that the metaphysical grapes of wrath are ripening for the vintage, what we see among the poor is stoicism, sacrifice, and one supreme act of charity. Reprehensible Rose of Sharon and Connie think only of themselves and of now they will break from the group, and when difficulties arise Connie wishes that he had stayed in Oklahoma to man a tractor driving the people from the land.

Later, alone, Rose of Sharon complains of her plight and frets about the coming child, and instead of sharing the family responsibility she adds to family worries. Uncle John is similarly preoccupied with his guilt and his personal problems and is almost useless to the group, picking cotton at only half the rate of the other men. Both he and Al withhold money from the family treasury. Noah, thoughtless of the others, wanders away. Connie, leaving a pregnant wife, also deserts. Even the children show a teasing selfishness.

Ruthie eats her crackerjacks slowly so that she can taunt the other children when theirs is gone, and at croquet she ignores the rules and tries to play by herself. 5. Describe the role women play throughout the novel The seemingly gratuitous details of the truck driver and the woman driver may intentionally suggest Steinbeck’s awareness that men are often destructive while women are usually more protective: Tom Joad has just been revealed as having committed manslaughter; later we shall see that Ma Joad and Rose of Sharon try to preserve the family and nurture life.

Ma Joad would be womanly and maternal in any station. If she had been a duchess, she would have labored with heroism for the integrity of the family and would have had a comprehensive vision of the serious social obligations of her class. The scene of her farewell to Tom… is of the pure essence of motherhood. The pathos is profound and free from a taint of sentimentality. The courage and devotion of the woman are sublime

In Ma Joad, Steinbeck created one of the most memorable characters in American fiction of the twentieth century. It is her courage which sustains the family through the almost overwhelming distresses suffered during their epic migration to the West. She voices the author’s belief in the common folk’s invincible will to survive. Ma is a tower of strength to her group, like Pilar in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls though less articulate.

She is a kind of pagan earth mother, kind to her father-in-law and her mother-in-law, anxious to let her husband Pa lead the family but quickly assuming the reins when he lets them slip through weakness and lack of understanding, firm but sympathetic with her children, friendly with deserving strangers. Ma holds her family together far longer than anyone else in the group could have done. She suffers intensely when she sees Grampa die, then Noah disappear, then Granma die, and then Tom obliged to hide and then go away. But she almost never reveals the degree of her misery.

She knows that while she holds, the unit will hold unless man’s inhumanity to man and nature’s indifference put pressure upon her which simply cannot be endured. She goads Pa into near frenzy, knowing that it will make him stronger. She threatens to slap Rose of Sharon at times, but when the poor, pregnant, abandoned girl needs comfort, Ma is there with it in full measure. She knows that she can rely on Tom, not Al. She lets Uncle John have money for one quick drunken spree, knowing that without it he might crack. References Steinbeck John, (1939) The Grapes of Wrath New York: Viking.

Family Unit in the Grapes of Wrath

I dedicate this humble work to those whose blood runs in my veins; to my dearly loved parents and to:

my dearest sisters all fundamental B.A student all my delighted and respected English teachers all those who will read this modest research paper


I’m foremost grateful to my supervisor Dr. YASSINE Rachida whose guidance and continual encouragement have efficaciously helped towards the fulfillment of this modest research paper. I would like also to thank deeply whose efforts in class room opened my eyes and inspired the idea and the subject of this research paper, namely: Mr.

ELHAMRI Rachid. I would like as well to express my deep feelings of gratitude to my little precious family that supported me to achieve where I am today and still supporting me to the fullest, bearing in mind my treasured friends for their ongoing moral support. Finally, my thanks are devoted to all the students of the department of English at Ibn Zohr University for their appreciated suggestions while this research was under preparation.


As most of critics refer to it, The Grapes of Wrath is a master piece written by john Steinbeck, a great American writer who wrote some of the best American stories ever. This novel tells the story of the Joads, an example of what happened to families that lived in Oklahoma during the 1930s. Because of drought, dust storms, and the death of crops, the landowners had to kick the farmers off from their lands. In order to live, thousands of people moved westward and left their homes deserted for new chances of life. On their way to California, they faced many difficulties; some of them lost family members because of starvation and tiredness, and some women brought new born babies to life, and some children stole food from other’s camps in order to eat and feed their dying families.

When people reached California with big dreams, ambitions and aspirations, they found out that it was not as they expected, life is harder there if not saying worst than the one they already live, crowds of poor, hungry and unemployed people staying in government camps waiting for salvation or even death, hopes and dreams were broken, many decided to go back and die in their home towns. Despite some of them had a chance to work, the wages were too low to feed a family of more than eight members. At that point in time, working class people were considered as slaves and pigs for the rich class, their struggles against the current is described by Steinbeck as a “turtle crossing the road”.

In The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck tells us what kind of struggle the Joads confronted during their journey to live an ordinary life or more, a better one. In this Research paper I’m going to focus my attention on the concept of “family” itself and the strong union between the members of the Joads as the main drive that kept them going and fighting against all odds for their freedom and right of life thanks to “Ma” the strong, sturdy woman who is the moral center of family. This last point is what stroke me and motivated this research paper’s choice of topic, therefore my aim is to inspect first of all the importance of family in our day of age and how does individualism affects its unity and brings it down, then secondly, I will show you the example of this family unit through the work of John Steinbeck; The Grapes of Wrath by revealing everything that helped to keep the them bonded and united through the whole way to California and when they reached it.

PART I: Family vs. Individualism

Family in the light of individualism became more complicated and more separated than ever. In the last few centuries western families were characterized by the strength of their unity that ties them together and keep them close to each other as one vital entity that functions properly in the society, but with the rise of the ideology of individualism, family members started to break up from the usual structure and start a whole different one that is based on new principles, norms and a whole new ideas about the concept of family. The aim of this chapter is to discuss; Firstly, the distinction between collectivism and individualism with taking into consideration family as a model of collectivism, secondly to make difference between traditional and new modern family structure in the western societies. Finally, to show how individualism affects in a negative way the unity that bonds western families.

1- Family and individualism

The family institution is essentially the most important part in our society. Without the family, our society would not be able to function the way it is supposed to. Thus, how can we define the word “family”? The definitions of family are as diverse as families themselves and the situations they are found in. I shall then begin with defining this concept in a more general way. Family is the basic social unit because it represents people living together by ties of blood, marriage or adaptation, thus representing a single household. According to sociology, the family has the primary function of reproducing society; biologically, socially, or both. Furthermore, there are various structures of a family based on the relationship shared between parents and their children. Therefore, different types of family can be distinguished from the nature of this relationship, such as patrifocal family, where the family consists of a father and his child, Matrifocal Family, where the family consists of a mother and her child. Consanguineal family is one which consists of the mother, the child and other people, mainly belonging to the family of the mother1.

In most societies, Family is the principal institution for the socialization of children. And this institution might be based on the traditional concept of family or on the new version of it; each one of them has its own principles and characteristics which I’m going to show in detail later in the next following section. In addition to that, Family is considered as the best example of the idea of collectivism which some few cultures are still characterized by. In contrast, there is an opposing concept which is totally different from it which is the concept of individualism that means the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses the moral worth of the individual2.

Hofstede explains it by asserting that in the individualist cultures people are autonomous and independent from their in-groups; they give priority to their personal goals over the goals of their in-groups, they behave primarily on the basis of their attitudes rather than the norms of their in-groups, and exchange theory adequately predicts their social behavior3. In other words, individualists believe in one’s own interests, goals, freedom and independence and according to the German sociologist Ulrich Beck individualism has become the social structure of the era we are living in today. Life of individuals is characterized by choice where in previous generations no such choices existed. he clarified this by saying that the “Maintenance of the family link is no longer a matter of course but a freely chosen act.

In the situation following a divorce, kinship is worked out anew in accordance with the laws of choice and personal inclination”4. Nowadays, in western societies many families has became totally modernized, In other words, they are infected by the individualistic ideology that keeps children away from their parents and helps to destroy the family unit that we really need in this day and age exactly as it used to be very essential centuries ago, for example, in the 20 th century precisely in the age of the great depression, family unit was a very important characteristic in the lifestyle of western families in order to maintain survival and endurance through the worst economic

“Family”. Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 25 Jun 2012. Web. 28 JUN 2012. . 2 “individualism”. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopaedia Britannica., 2012. Web. 28 Jun. 2012 . 3 Greet Hofstede, Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2001), p. 909 4 Beck Ulrich and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, Individualization (London: Sage, 2001), p. 96  crisis of all time. Now the question is which one is characterized by unity, the traditional family or the new modern one?

2- Traditional vs. New Modern family

At the present time, the traditional family structure no longer exists in the modern western world. It’s not surprising that the modern family structure has substituted it instead. In this section of my research paper, I’m going to focus on the differences between these two contradictory family structures by highlighting three major characteristics (the size, the head of the family and the discipline) In order to show in which one the concept of “unity” appears most. Let’s begin with the size. The Size is one main feature in comparing the two structures; hence, traditional families appear to be larger than modern families. Usually they are more than ten members in their families, whereas modern families have only three to four members. Also Traditional families always live with their relatives and have a lot of children in one big house, which is the reason why they are big families. Concerning their work, Most of traditional families are farmers.

They can work at their farms and fields; consequently, they don’t employ additional farmers in order of saving money. In contrast, modern families don’t need anyone to help them in their work because they work in the office. They only have one or two children and don’t live with their relatives; this last difference affects modern families because they will not be acquainted with their relatives, as traditional families do. They only meet them on special occasions, such as birthdays and New Year. For example, children will not get used to their grandparents because they only meet them in few times per year. They will not respect them as much as they should have. Another difference between traditional families and modern families is the head of family. Men are always head of traditional families. Women usually take care of children at home, whereas men work outside. Women and children must listen and follow whatever men tell them, they should obey him and do whatever it was demanded to be done. Men have the power to order members of their families to do everything, even if they don’t like to do.

Modern families don’t have the head of family because women and men are considered to be equal. Both women and men work outside. They share ideas with each other. Women and children don’t obey the men’s orders if they think their orders aren’t correct. Women and children can decide by themselves. For example, women work outside, as men do. When she comes home, she doesn’t do the house work alone because she needs her husband to help her in doing it. The last difference is discipline. Traditional families have many rules that are respected by all the members of the family. Most parents of traditional families are strict because they have a lot of children to look after. It is only women who take care of children at home, so they need to have a lot of rules to control them.

On the other hand, modern families have few rules to control their children. Parents of modern families work outside. They don’t have enough time to take care of their children, so they don’t have time to make rules also. Instead they hire someone to look after their children while they’re working outside. This difference actually affects modern families because their children will always make problems to gain attention from their parents. For example, children don’t go to school because they want their parents to ask them why they do this.

They want their parents to talk to them. Through these three important differences, we can notice the development of family system from the past until now and it’s only confirming the idea that states: “when societies change, families also change and both good and bad things change”. We can also notice that traditional families are more collective and social so that we can sense the aspect of unity in it, whereas modern families are more individualistic and independent and it lacks family unity in all its aspects. But the other question is how this individualistic attitude affects the family unit?

3- The effect of Individualism on the family unit

Much has been said about the family and the future of family in the so-called postmodern world we are living in today. As it was said before Individualism has become the social structure of this present era; Life of individuals is characterized by two major features: the first one is the moral appreciation of individualism and the second one is the opportunity and capability to choose. These two main characteristics were rarely found in the previous generations. Talking about the previous generations for example before and during the great depression era, all families were mainly traditional because they living all together in one place as one entity; Grandfather and Grandmother with the children of their children in one big house probably with a farm and some corn fields or at least a vast land to work on later, the idea here is that, the group had control over the individual in everything.

Nowadays, the individualistic attitudes affected the concept of “family” by leading it to a gradual change in its structure and the principles it was built on. Individualists or as they call themselves modernists today tend to have a unique way of thinking and a special way in looking to things and life in general. They also have their own way of looking to “family” as a social institution. But their selfish attitudes prevented them to see to what extent they affect it negatively, Etzioni argues that the surge in individual rights conflicts with the needs of community. He added that Individualism would destruct vital institutions such as family and neighborhood, and thereby create misery5. in other words this effect begins when certain members – especially grown children – of the same family when they become aware of their own preferences and abilities to have a better life as an independent unity in the society to which they belong.

This certain beginning leads to the ultimate break up from the original family then from the society into another atmosphere of living life with new ways of thinking about the whole social institutions particularly the one of “family”. During the great depression era, families needed to be united and gathered as one body, any break up in that unity led to the collapse of the entire family. My aim behind this general study of family in the shadow of individualism is to illustrate how important family unit in the novel of the grapes of wrath is. I shall make this clearer in the second part where I’m going to focus deeply on the concept of family in this novel in which Steinbeck portrays the value of being united in the era of The Great Depression.

In the previous part, I discussed generally the concept of Family and the one of individualism. I discussed as well the difference between the traditional and the modern structure of family. Afterwards, I examined how individualism can affect the traditional family and how it tries to modify its structure in order to modernize it. However, the traditional family remains the best structure in all circumstances, because it keeps family members as one group as we will see in the novel of John Steinbeck; The Grapes of Wrath. The Family is the key of survival in this Nobel Prize winner masterpiece. Without each other, the Joads would have no way of coping with the loss of their land or of getting to California. Family is the one weapon that the Joads have against the cold, bitter world around them.

They, along with many other migrant workers, learn that they are stronger and safer when they stay with each other as one unit and when they reach out to other families in order of creating a sense of community. Therefore, my research paper topic will be developed efficiently by giving answers to these following questions: Who are the Joads? What is The Great Depression and what is its effect on the Joads? How did they survive? Is it their strong unit of family or because of some other reasons? These questions and more are going to be answered in this chapter in details to show how family unit is important for the Joads in the era of the great depression as a reaction against the crisis and the greediness of the upper class of the 1930s.

1. Introducing The Joads

Before dealing in details with the “family unit” itself in this novel, we should first get acquainted with a traditional family that survived thanks to their strong unity, it’s The Joads family. In this section I’m going to introduce all the family members who played a great role  of maintaining and keeping the whole family as one unit through their journey to California. So, who are the Joads? The Joads is a family of twelve members from deferent generations; Tom Joad, Ma Joad, Pa Joad, rose of Sharon and her husband Connie, Grandma Joad, Grandpa Joad, Al Joad, Noah

Joad, Uncle John, Ruthie Joad, and Winfield Joad. Let me first introduce the ones who kept the family as one unit: Tom Joad: The book’s central character, and Ma and Pa Joad’s preferred son. Tom is goodnatured and thoughtful man. Even though he murdered a man and has been separated from his family for four years, he does not waste his time with regrets. He lives fully for the present moment, which enables him to be a great source of vitality for the Joad family. A wise guide and fierce protector, Tom exhibits a moral certainty throughout the novel that imbues him with strength and resolve: he earns the awed respect of his family members as well as the workers he later organizes into unions.

Ma Joad: The mother of the Joad family. Ma is introduced as a woman who knowingly and gladly fulfills her role as “the citadel of the family.” She is the healer of the family’s ills and the arbiter of its arguments, and her ability to perform these tasks grows as the novel progresses. Pa Joad: Ma Joad’s husband and Tom’s father. Pa Joad is an Oklahoma tenant farmer who has been evicted from his farm. A plainspoken, good-hearted man, Pa directs the effort to take the family to California. Once there, unable to find work and increasingly desperate, Pa finds himself looking to Ma Joad for strength and leadership, though he sometimes feels ashamed of his weaker position.

Rose of Sharon: The oldest of Ma and Pa Joad’s daughters, and Connie’s wife. An impractical and romantic young woman, Rose of Sharon begins the journey to California pregnant with her first child. She and Connie have grand notions of making a life for themselves in a city. The harsh realities of migrant life soon disabuse Rose of Sharon of these ideas, however. Her husband abandons her, and her child is born dead. By the end of the novel, she matures  considerably, and possesses, the reader learns with surprise, something of her mother’s indomitable spirit and grace.

Grandpa Joad: Tom Joad’s grandfather. The founder of the Joad farm, Grandpa is now old and infirm. Once possessed of a cruel and violent temper, Grandpa’s wickedness is now limited almost exclusively to his tongue. Grandma Joad: Granma is a pious Christian, who loves casting hellfire and damnation in her husband’s direction. Her health deteriorates quickly after Grandpa’s death; she dies just after the family reaches California.

Al Joad: Tom’s younger brother, a sixteen-year-old boy obsessed with cars and girls. Al is vain and arrogant but an extremely competent mechanic, and his expertise proves vital in bringing the Joads, as well as the Wilsons, to California. When he falls in love with a girl named Agnes Wainwright at a cotton plantation where they are working, he decides to stay with her rather than leaving with his family.

Uncle John: Tom’s uncle, who, years ago, refused to fetch a doctor for his pregnant wife when she complained of stomach pains. He has never forgiven himself for her death, and he often dwells heavily on the negligence he considers a sin.

Ruthie Joad: The second and younger Joad daughter.

Winfield Joad: At the age of ten, Winfield is the youngest of the Joad children. Ma worries for his well-being, fearing that without a proper home he will grow up to be wild and rootless.

Two characters left the family because of their selfish dreams and their individualistic attitude; they represent in my own interpretation the individual type that does not believe in the ideology of the strength of the traditional family, they simply give up their role among their family by trying to find their own happiness without the help of any one. They are: 12

Connie: Rose of Sharon’s husband, an unrealistic dreamer who abandons the Joads after they reach California.

Noah Joad: Tom’s older brother. He leaves his family behind at a stream near the California border, telling Tom that he feels his parents do not love him as much as they love the other children.

There’s also one other character who accompanied the Joads through their way to California; Jim Casy: A former preacher who gave up his duty out of a belief that all human experience is holy. He’s the moral voice of the novel, Casy articulates many of its most important themes, among them the sanctity of the people and the essential unity of all mankind. Therefore, we feel that Jim is almost a member of the Joads6.

This brief introduction of the Joads family paints in our minds a wonderful image of a perfect family unit, also through reading the story, we feel like they can’t never be separated, even if some of their family members ran away and others died, they seem to be related deeply to each other; for example, through the whole journey uncle john still blames himself for letting his wife die because of his negligence, another example of their strong relationships to each other is when they reached California, they all kept wishing if grandma and grandpa were still alive to see it. Now, what’s the cause that made some members of the Joads ran away and leave their family and made others die?

2. The Great Depression and its effect on the Joads family

In the story of The Grapes of Wrath, the Joads were Going west on Route 66 towards California, on their way, they encountered many barriers and difficulties, the worst one was the death of two family members; along the road, Grandpa died and was buried in a camp 6

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Grapes of Wrath.” SparkNotes LLC. 2007. (accessed June 26, 2012). where they stopped for a while, Also Grandma died close to the California state line, and both Noah and Connie split from the family and ran away. The remaining members, led by Ma, realized they have no choice but to go on, as there is nothing remaining for them in Oklahoma. In other words, the cause that made them leave their home is the same one that affected them and caused to some of them death and others to run away; it’s The Great Depression and all the sorrows it brought to the American families.

The Great Depression era was an awfully challenging period for the American family, the effects of The Great Depression, both during and after, seriously impacted the structure, finances, and employment of the American family unit. What was known as “The Dust Bowl” pushed thousands of immigrants to leave their homes to other states, especially California State, and made them obliged to find a humble job with an average wage to live a simple life and survive during the economic crisis that broke their life to pieces by causing more starvation, poverty and death7. The Joads are one of the thousands of victims in the Great Depression era.

First of all, they had to leave their home and the whole state of Oklahoma to the state of California because of the dust that transformed their farms from fruitful fields to dust yards, as a result of that, food was very hard for poor people to get so that they had to fight for it, in addition to that, jobs became extremely scarce and the land owners had to push out the tenants farmer from their lands, this is what exactly happened to the Joads, the responsible authorities obliged them to leave their land and home town, therefore, they sold what they’ve already got, and bought an old decrepit truck which they are going to use as their transportation on their way to California, the second effect of what happened in the great depression was on family itself; a traditional family are known by its strong union and unity, exactly like the Joads family, but what happened in that disappointing era has split many families and destroyed their unity, only strong ones survived but with many losses and sacrifices;

The Joads finally gathered after the return of their son Tom from the penitentiary,  they already decided to leave Oklahoma, on their way to California, they faced many troubles, and they witnessed their family fall apart many times because of the bitter realty and the cold hearted people they encountered during their trip, grandpa died of old age and also grandma died of sickness by feeling sorry for her old poor husband who didn’t want to leave to California in the first place, he decided not to go there in the last minutes while they were packing their needs and getting ready to leave. Feeling abandoned by the family, Noah left also the family as Connie did for their selfish dreams and aspirations. By reaching California, the Joads became shocked and disappointed by the reality of the place they’ve sacrificed everything they got to be in it. The situation there is just the same as the one in Oklahoma if not saying it’s worse than Oklahoma.

Finally, after a long while and through many impediments, The Joads reached California with numerous dreams and ambitions, but they faced the unforeseen and witnessed the unexpected; the realty tells a different story and the ideal golden California was just a fantasy, the hand bell that brought them there worth nothing at all, but did they lost their hope of living a happy life as a happy family? Did they give up all their dreams and aspirations? These questions have answers in the last section of this Part.

3. The unity and the strength of the Joads

In his novel The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck portrays the theme of Joads’ strength through their unity in order to comment on the relationship between the dissolution of individual families and the unification of migrant people. Steinbeck also aims to prove to us that the unity of the traditional family is the only motivation that drove the rest of the Joads to California and helped them to stand in front of any obstacle that they faced in their quest to a better life.


“The family became a unit […] Pa was the head of the family now.”8 The use of the past tense in this quote tells us that Pa was taking control of the family. As It is always known, the father is the head of the traditional family, but what is really striking in this novel is that pa became so weak to take control over it, so Ma Joad, the pillar of the Joads took his place and led the family towards California for a better life by making the right decisions and reacting against anyone who attempts to break the family apart. Before the journey, Ma Joad was just one voice among many in making group decisions. As the novel progresses, she becomes more dominant. She decides when they will stop or go on9. Ma Joad was described by Steinbeck as the “citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken” (100), she seems to be the source of hope to all the members of the family, if it wasn’t for her, the rest of the family would never reach as far as they got, even though some members lost their hope and became overwhelmed by despair, Ma’s determination encouraged and motivated them to carry on also she taught them to never give up and never be away from the family. The nature of her relationship to other members of the family differs from one to another.

Her favorite one is her relationship to her desired and beloved son; The arrival of Tom also revived the unity of family, she lost him once when he was in prison, then she became so happy when he got paroled and came in the appropriate time to move with his family to California. By the end of the story she accepted his loss for the sake of the rest of the family, she was so afraid that cops would take him back to jail then she let him run away with a broken heart. For Ma Joad, family is everything, from the beginning of the story until the end, all what she cared about was the unity of her family. ‘We got nothing’, now,’ Pa said … ‘Seems our life is over and done!’ ‘No it ain’t, ‘ Ma smiled. ‘it ain’t, Pa. An’ that’s one more thing a woman knows. Women. I noticed that. Man, he lives in jerks – baby born, an’ a man dies, an’ that’s a jerk.Women, it’s all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on. Women looks at it like that. We ain’t gonna die out. People is goin’ on-changin’ a little, maybe, but goin’ right on!” (577)

She saw her family falling down but she acted rapidly and pulled it up before it touched the ground. She consistently proves to be the novel’s strongest supporter of family and togetherness. In other words, when we first met Ma Joad, she was a strong woman. When we saw her in the very last chapter, she was the same strong woman. We didn’t think it possible, but her strength only grows throughout the course of the novel. In fact, her initial strength is transformed into a different one. We can’t really pinpoint exactly what is this new kind of strength, but we know it’s the one who kept the rest of the family together until the end. Furthermore Steinbeck presents Ma Joad’s growing power as a source of communal strength sheltering human dignity from the antisocial effects of individualism 10.

On their way to California the family continued to meet obstacle after obstacle, it seems like Pa Joad did not quite know how to keep it together. But Ma Joad knew how to do it. Thanks to her strength again, and when they reached California Ma Joad was the only one who didn’t feel shocked, because she knew it from the beginning before no one else did, her only objective is to keep the family together, she told them that all what matters is that they are together and no one can separate them from each other, her belief in this unity is so pure and strong, and that’s what made her so special as a women belonging to a traditional family.

In this part, I dealt with many aspects in treating the concept of family in the respected work of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”, the essential step to understand how he dealt with it in his novel is firstly to introduce all the members of the joads one by one and understand their roles in this work, secondly it’s important to deal with the concept of family by discussing how the great depression affected it and showing an example of a strong family that resisted that impact by being so strong and focusing on the family unit such as the Joads Family, then finally, I dealt with showing you the source of strength of the Joads: the fountain of wisdom and knowledge and the center of strength Ma Joad.


In drawing conclusions for this study, I shall start summarizing what was said since the first page of my research paper beginning with the first part in which I emphasized the most important institution in our society which family that is also the main issue of this paper. I started by defining it along with another challenging concept which is individualism that affected negatively the family institution and made it lose its traditional values and acquire new modern thoughts and opinions about family in general. This prelude to the main issue of my research paper is made necessarily to help understanding these two different concepts before dealing with their appearances in the novel of Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath in which I concentrated on the theme of “family unit”.

In the second part, I developed this theme in details by introducing first of all the main characters of this story in order to understand each one’s role in the changing of events, and then I talked briefly about the Great Depression era by acknowledging it and showing its strong effect on the traditional family structure. Then finally I discussed the center and source of strength that helped the Joads to get through their problematic journey and achieve their destination without falling apart when they faced the bitter truth and after making many sacrifices that hurt every one of them especially Ma Joad, the pillar of the Joad family. Taking seriously what was going on during that depressed era and how did this family survived, is really what we need to do in our days of age, in other words, families must be united if they want to survive and live life properly.



Beck Ulrich and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, Individualization. London: Sage, 2001. Cederstorm, Lorelei. The great mother in the Grapes of Wrath. Canada: Brandon University, 1993. Etzioni, Amitai. The spirit of community: The reinvention of American society. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. Hofstede, Greet. Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2001. Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Modern Library, 1939. Steinbeck, John and Harold Bloom, ed. The Grapes of Wrath “Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations”. Chelsea House Publishers, 2006.


“Family”. Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 25 Jun 2012. Web. 24 JUN 2012. . “Individualism”. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopaedia Britannica., 2012. Web. 24 Jun. 2012 . Shmoop Editorial Team. “The Grapes of Wrath” Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 24 Jun. 2012. SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Grapes of Wrath.” SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Web. 26 Jun. 2012.

The Grapes of Wrath: Good vs Evil

The Grapes of Wrath is a novel about the Dust Bowl migration in the harsh times of the Great Depression. It is the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, and it is also the story of thousands of similar men and women. The Joads are forced off their land, so they move West to California. When they reach California, they are faced with the harsh reality that it is not the Promised Land that they hoped in a beginning.

Steinbeck’s purpose in writing The Grapes of Wrath was to inform the public the migrants’ difficult situation hoping that it would cause social change. Steinbeck employs the theme of the rich versus the poor to accomplish his purpose. It is a classic conflict between good, portrayed by the poor, and evil, portrayed by the rich. One of the ironies of Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath was that, as Ma Joad said, “If you’re in trouble or hurt or need — go to poor people.

They’re the only ones that’ll help — the only ones.

” The irony is that if you need something you have to go to the people who have almost nothing. And the poor people in this book are shown as the good people because of their generosity, their family union, their humbleness, and most importantly, their connection with God. In the other hand, there are the evil people, known as the rich; and the reason they are portrayed as the bad people is because of their selfishness, bad temper, their greedy nature, and their desire to get rid of the migrants in California.

One, and I think the best example of the struggle between good and evil was that in the novel, as well as in the real life back in the 30’s, the bankers took all they could from the farmers and then when they could give no more they were kicked out of their homes, making the Joad family move to California; but somehow, thanks to this evil act, the Joads could move forward with their lives, and this majestic book was born thanks to that and also by the Great Depression.

Later on in the story there are so many examples of generosity as well as evilness. One example of generosity is in at the truck station in chapter 15 when the restaurant owner and waitress give the family bread at a discounted rate, and candy two for a penny when it is actually nickel candy. The truck drivers then leave large tips to the waitress. Neither the truck driver nor the restaurant owner and waitress are very rich but they are generous anyway. In contrast to that, the novel also shows an example of evilness, as

when the Californians tell the Joads “Okies”, which means scum, and they wanted to get rid of them because they feared that the migrants would steal their jobs, and the Californians started riots and many other things in order to get them off their land, this seems really bad, and evil, but I have to admit that somehow that was the right thing to do, not the riots, but the desire to get rid of them because not everyone had jobs in that time period, and the ones who do, fought in order to keep it to earn money and raise their families.

However, there were also signs of generosity in the story, as in chapter seventeen the person at the car dump gives Tom and Al things for way discounted rates. Ma Joad is also an example of this. The Joads are poor and yet they give what little they have to the children who need it. These acts of generosity are contrasted to how the rich people are trying to rip off the migrants. Another example of evilness is in chapter seven, that shows how the car dealer rip the people off by selling them pieces of junk for high prices.

Chapters nineteen, twenty-one, and twenty-five are general chapters that show how the large land owners are cheating the migrants and smaller land owners to make a larger profit. They show how the land owners hire guards and lowered the wages to break their spirit and keep them from organizing. These are just facts that I remember from the story, but there are a lot more in it, which I am sure that are even better in the case of good, and worse, talking about evil.

To conclude, I would like to say that this world is full of generosity as well as evilness, it is something like fifty-fifty, but we, the good people cannot do anything about it, well, we can encourage the people to do good things, but we cannot force them, and that is the problem that affects the world we live in now, and the world in the time when the book The Grapes Of Wrath was written, but at the end of every story, the good beats the evil, and the Joads lived happily ever after, although they were still struggling with their economic issue, some life problems, they dealt with death of Grandpa and Grandma, but somehow they managed to live a harmonious life.

Conflict and Generosity Within the Grapes of Wrath

When a family becomes a victim to severe debt, attitudes change, the family tends to grow apart, and the members must cope. This was common during the Great Depression in the 1930’s after the collapse of the stock market, and a plethora of families flooded to California in search of a promising future. Home to Tom Joad and his family, the deteriorating economy of the Great Depression depicts the changing attitudes of many families and how they adapted to this difficult time period.

The work captures how many families like the Joads have to change to accommodate the financial shortage of the 1930s, and how they grow with this struggle.

With that, John Steinbeck constructs The Grapes of Wrath to include a family that is still generous in the midst of many trials and tribulations. The Grapes of Wrath depicts how great struggle is juxtaposed with an immense appetite for wealth, and how this conflict elicits generosity. John Steinbeck grew up around Salinas, California.

Even though he was not raised by parents who were poor, he witnessed discrimination upon the many dust bowl migrant workers who came from states that were “less fortunate” like Oklahoma and Texas.

Steinbeck channeled his anger and frustration from observing the heartbreak and struggle during the Great Depression into crafting The Grapes of Wrath. According to Carroll Britch and Cliff Lewis in their article “Growth of the Family in The Grapes of Wrath,” “Although it addresses issues of great sociological change, The Grapes of Wrath is at its core about the family and struggle of its members to assert their separate identities without breaking up the family. 1)” He utilized his aggravation for the people to illustrate the drastic changes that occur in the characters over a period of time, such as the way in which the community is altered when financial hardship is imminent.

But for Tom Joad and his family, staying together as a whole is one aspect that has not yet been lost in the troubling times. Though the Joad family has had a great deal of troubling experiences, in a way this brings them closer holistically. The way that Steinbeck crafts the family to adapt to the varying conditions like when someone dies, or loses work, llustrates how the family becomes more resilient to variety. The Joads and many families like them must leave behind their felt notions of idealism and work towards an “I to We” relationship with the others if they are going to survive during this great struggle, especially with the way that nothing financial wise is stable during the depression. For a large percent of the population, the scarcity of funds leads to chaos within families and friends across America.

The hedonistic views of the public drive people virtually insane, with car salesmen selling run-down vehicles for outrageous prices, to corrupted citizens stealing from stores who are going out of business. With money no longer an abundant commodity, banks and businesses began to shut down and fail, forcing many hard-working Americans to begin a life on the streets, which is not a welcoming new habitat by any stretch. This relates to the novel in that the Joads were forced out of their farm and had no choice but to flee to California in search of work and a brighter future, which appears to be a promising alternative.

Though the trend to fall a victim to the circumstances is growing, there are still some people like Tom Joad and his family who do not seem to fit this statistic yet. When the family reaches the government camp Weedpatch, they to some extent “forget” about the troubles of the economy. Warren French in his article Chapter 6: From Naturalism to the Drama of Consciousness—The Education of the Heart in the Grapes of Wrath, states that, “The self- governing arrangement of the camp also makes the Joads feel like decent people again (4).

This shows how despite the troubling situation, the Joads can still find remote happiness among a time of desperation. There is an apparent change in attitude once the Joads reach the Weedpatch camp. Warren French writes; “The easy atmosphere of the government camp, where—as one man observes—“We’re all a- workin’ together” (448), is in striking contrast to the tense atmosphere at the Hooper Ranch. There the prevailing attitudes are epitomized by a checker’s remark that putting holes in the bottom of buckets “keeps people from stealing them (4).

This suggests that having others to work alongside of eases the tension of being forced to work for almost nothing. The atmosphere seems lighter at the Weedpatch camp due to the migrant workers having others with similar circumstances amongst them. This makes the thought of poverty less menacing because for the migrant workers at the camp, they are beginning to collaborate and become a unit. Another aspect of “working together” is shown after the miscarriage of Rosasharn’s baby. If the baby was not kin to Pa Joad and the family, he may never have been motivated to build a dike so his family can stay dry.

Britch and Lewis quote Steinbeck in their article, “Well, we ain’t doin nothin’…. We can do her if ever’body helps. ” Building the dike with Wainwright and the others replenishes Pa Joad’s spirit, and teaches him that there is way more to be achieved with the “We” attitude. A major turning point in The Grapes of Wrath transpires when Tom murders the man that killed Casy. Though Tom committed a crime, Ma Joad and the family suggest that hiding him from the authorities would be a decent idea. The family pleads for him to stay but quickly realizes he must leave to avoid getting arrested.

This occurrence represents the growth of the family unit, the way they care for one of their own even though he is now a criminal shows the drastic change that has developed over the course of the Great Depression. This also depicts how the situation elicits generosity within the family. It is imperative that Tom leaves the family but aside that, Ma Joad and the others beg for Tom to stay. The difficult situation made them realize how quickly they can lose Tom, and with that the desire to help Tom is now apparent.

The Joads have gone through a metamorphosis with their attitudes and thoughts towards one another. Due to the series of events the Joads have encountered, they have faced many obstacles and this brings them closer over all. A significant incident like this causes the family unit to become more protective over the other members, even after losing Tom, Noah, and Connie. All of the events that transpired along the course of the novel have affected the overall dynamic of the Joad family either positively or negatively, more so positively.

With that, if nothing else, the experience of having to survive amongst one another in a time of great sociological downfall mends the family closer than one would think. The family traveled together, they slept together, and they even worked together. The Joads spent gratuitous amounts time as one unit just in completing those tasks, so even when bonding was not necessarily a part of the agenda, the way in which they became used to each other blossomed rather quickly into a stronger relationship for the family.

Generosity amongst the Joad family was more or less noticeable in the beginning of the novel, and became more of a characteristic of the family as the story progressed. The hardships they faced along the way with searching for work subconsciously drew the family closer. The longer the Joads were among one another, and the more trials and tribulations they faced, generosity among the group developed into the norm. This transformed the Joads from the persona of an average family, into an inseparable unit of people who fought for one another.

The Grapes of Wrath

There is more than one theme found in Pearl Buck’s 1931 The Good Earth, published by Pocketbook Press. The central idea of the work is a complicated intertwining of ideas that state that the Earth abides while man’s values change for the worse with the accumulation of wealth and the loss of connection to the land. John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath, published originally by Viking Press, appears to voice the theme that the world is divided into the rich and the poor.

Its theme seems on the surface to be that this division is the principal cause of all the suffering in the world.

Although there are similarities between these two classics works of literature, there is a subtle difference between them. Themes are universal truths upon which great works are based. The great theme of The Good Earth is that the land is inherently good and people will be good so long as they maintain their close roots to that land.

Buck says, “According to Chinese folk religion every small town has its own earth gods who protect the spot where they happen to be” (Buck p 387). In The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck says that the lust for money is, in the biblical sense, the common root of all evil.

Steinbeck says, “The quality of owning freezes you forever into ‘I’ and cuts you off forever from the ‘we’ (Steinbeck p 153). The two works use similar ideas to prove their theses, saying that the land is a source of enrichment to men and that closeness to it is directly connected to how humans relate to each other in a positive way, though the two authors take different routes to arrive at the same conclusion. Wang Lung, in The Good Earth, is a farmer who makes a living by the sweat of his brow, wresting sustenance from his plot of earth.

It is this direct connection to the earth that gives Wang Lung his character. He owes his spirituality and his very humanity to the good earth, which Buck virtually anthropomorphizes as a source of all good in the world. Buck implies that Wang Lung’s attachment to the earth is the source of all his success. Steinbeck, in The Grapes of Wrath, make a case for man’s extended family, those who come together in a clan for the protection and betterment of all, which is the key to not only survival, but inner peace and harmony as well.

He makes the point that nuclear families can be disrupted and torn asunder but man will organize into a loose family unit with others in like need for the common good, quickly becoming family. On families Steinbeck remarks of Casey, “He knew the government of families and he had been taken into the family” (Steinbeck p 105). Buck uses the impious nature of the Hwang family to contrast the good of Wang Lung, saying that the difference is a direct result of Wang Lung’s connection to the land. The land, to Wang, is like a mother; it fed, sheltered, and clothed him.

To Steinbeck, humanity is the source of all that was good, for it is only through the coming together of men into viable family units that they can survive. While both books show that the land-owners who only take the profits from the land are decadent and wicked, The Good Earth shows Wang Lung changing as he gets further from the land while The Grapes of Wrath portray the Joads as victims of greed brought about by the wealthy land owners. Still, lack of connection to the land is not the over-riding theme of The Grapes of Wrath.

Buck says the direct act of working the land is the source of piety. The land renewed Wang Lung, Buck says. “Then the good land did again its healing work and the sun shone on him and healed him and the warm winds of summer wrapped him about with peace” (Buck p 249). Steinbeck says that having enough land on which to make a living for one’s family is the key to peace and harmony, not the actual working of that land.

References Buck, P. The Good Earth New York: Pocket Books 2005 Steinbeck, J. The Grapes of Wrath New York: Pengu