Damsels in Distress Essay

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Damsels in Distress

“Frailty, thy name is a woman!” This quote can be found in William Shakespeare’s famed literary work, Hamlet. Throughout the decades and centuries there has been much dispute about the strength and role of “the weaker vessel.” But, many other sources have proven that women are, in fact just as strong if not stronger than any other “vessel.” In literary works throughout history, women have been portrayed in helpless and domestic, “feminine” roles. John Steinbeck did not employ this depiction in his novels, The Grapes of Wrath in particular. In the novel, The Grapes of Wrath the roles in which Stienbeck portrayed the women was contrary to the common roles of women, in the economic depression the United States suffered
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There is a story early in the book, humorously relating Ma’s “assertiveness” gives an account of when Ma “beat the hell out of a tin peddler with a live chicken.” When, what she meant to do was go after him with the ax, which was in the other hand. When Ma was through, there was nothing left of the chicken but it legs and Mimi Gladstein makes an acute analysis of this situation in The Indestructible Women: Ma Joad and Rose of Sharon when she says, “Though Ma struggles against those forces which are destroying her family, her weapons prove to be as ineffective as a live chicken. She fights with all her might and is left with little more than an inedible pair of chicken legs.” These examples and many others prove it is evident throughout the novel that Ma Joad is the strongest character. Again referring to a quote from Gladstein, “In terms of overwhelming odds, both physical and mental, none of the other characters covered in this study has quite as much to endure as Ma Joad.”

Ma Joad is not the only woman in the book shown to have strength, in the beginning of the novel, Rose of Sharon is a weak, self-centered character, but under the careful tutelage of Ma, she becomes strong and ready to become a pillar in the family structure. We see this, when we compare two passages from the novel. One of these passages is from page 113, this is the
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