Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Decent Essays
The novel The Grapes of Wrath is set in the 1930’s, during the dust bowl. The book is centered on the Joad family traveling to California. Throughout the book the Joad family experiences many trials that take a toll on them. Around this time period women did not have many rights. John Steinbeck uses third person to portray women as powerless and reliant on men. This is shown by actions of the characters and the time period during which the story takes place. Women in the book are silent observers, made to feel powerless. The book begins with families during the dust bowl and how “the women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole” (Steinbeck 7). Being “whole” meant that the men felt safe and were at peace. This quote means that if the women saw that their husbands were peaceful and pleased then everything was going to be fine. Gender is used here by the women not knowing what to feel until they see how the men feel. This theme continues with the Joad family throughout the book. Ruthie is used to symbolize how women obey men in the book. Tom instructs Ruthie to “Tell Ma I et breakfas’ with some neighbors. You hear that? Ruthie nodded and turned her head away…” (Steinbeck 398). Ruthie did not have an option of telling Ma where Tom was going. She looks to Tom for guidance. If Tom tells her to do something she does it because she trusts his opinion since he is a male. Tom uses the fact that he is male to get Ruthie
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