The Changing Concept of Family in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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The Changing Concept of Family in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Throughout the book, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, the physical transition of the Joad family from a small close-knit group of people living a quiet life on a farm in Oklahoma, corresponds with the internal transition of the concept of family. As the Joads leave their farm and journey westward, they no longer live just within their own isolated unit. Becoming involved with other families as they migrate, changes their focus and by the end of the book, the family members each reach out in their own way to embrace all of mankind as a family. Initially, the Joad's focus is on their own immediate family and their struggle to stay together. The
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The relationship was plain."(Pg.162) The changing concept of family is most evident at the camps, especially at the government camp. The entire camp was like a family because they set their own rules and ran the camp as they saw fit. Those having a hard time were helped as a matter of course not charity. When it appeared trouble was coming, they all worked together as a unit to defend the camp. As the book progresses, the changes within the family are characterized differently in each character. Mrs. Joad's primary concern is keeping the family unit together as they begin their journey. Soon, however, members of the family begin to leave. Noah cannot handle the changes and goes off on his own while Grandpa and Grandma leave through death. Connie abandons his wife and does not return. Al becomes engaged and goes with his fiancée's family. Even Young Tom leaves after he has accidentally killed another man and has to go into hiding. Mrs. Joad deals with each of these losses and appears to be stronger as the story continues, even making the decision for Tom to leave as it becomes necessary. At the onset of the book, Young Tom has just been released from prison and is interested in making up for lost time and enjoying himself. He is a strong family support during the journey but is among the first to begin reaching out to a larger family. At the end he has focused on the plight and abuse of all the homeless farmers and recognizes that they must

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