Grapes of Wrath Essay: Theme of Strength Through Unity

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Theme of Strength Through Unity in The Grapes of Wrath

The traditional human family represents a necessary transition between self and community. In the difficult era of the 1930's, the family's role shifted to guard against a hostile outside world rather than to provide a link with it. With the drought in the Dust Bowl and other tragedies of the Great Depression, many were forced to look beyond the traditional family unit and embrace their kinship with others of similar necessity. In his novel The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck uses the theme of strength through unity to comment on the relationship between the dissolution of individual families and the unification of the migrant people. The journey of the Joad family west
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As the many families camp together, proximity combined with necessity breaks down barriers of relation, and miniature societies form with there own unwritten rules and expectations. It is in one of these "Hoovervilles" that the Joads have a wicked confrontation with a vigilant police officer. A woman is shot, Tom and Floyd Knowles nearly become fugitives, and Jim Casey is arrested and thus removed from both the family and society. This sacrificing of self for the good of the group strengthens the bonds between the migrants in the Hooverville, and Casey's experience with fellow inmates in prison gives him an important realization about the power of organized protest. Incidentally, these terrible losses at the Hooverville drive the Joads in fear to what will turn out to be a far better place, and the knowledge that there are others in the same situation who will help lends unifying strength to the family and other migrants.

On the surface, the government-run Weedpatch camp is heaven compared to the squalor of the Hooverville, but it is also a place of incredible unity and advanced culture. The Joads are lucky to find a place, and this is a pleasant place where all people are held to be equal. Broken down, it is a collection of families sharing common "sanitation units", but taken as a whole, it is a society. Here the individual family roles break down as family members fill other positions for the camp at large. However,…

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