The Changing Family Revealed in Grapes of Wrath Essay

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The Changing Family Revealed in Grapes of Wrath

The emphasis on family in America is decreasing. Divorce rates, single-parent households, and children born out of wedlock are all increasing. Furthermore, instead of the network of aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and other relatives that was prevalent in early America, Americans today are more distant from their extended family. As sociologist David Elkind said in a 1996 interview with Educational Leadership, "Instead of togetherness, we have a new focus on autonomy. The individual becomes more important than the family" (4). This means that one of the basic needs of humanity, belongingness and love, is very likely going unfilled in many people.

The changing
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"Homelessness and exile are among the worst of conditions, alienation and estrangement, the feelings of great despair" (Mack 59). During their exile, the Joads rest temporary in both hospitable and harsh environments, but none of these places is home. As Muley says in The Grapes of Wrath, "Place where folks live is them folks" (71). By losing their land and leaving behind their home and the past, the Joads are making the first step towards the disappearance of their old family.

When Tom returns from his jail sentence, all of his family is living on John's farm- Ma and Pa, Grampa and Granma, Al and Noah, Ruthie and Winifred. Rose of Sharon has married and brought Connie into the family unit, but marriage was long accepted to be a way of adding people to one's family. However, this unity isn't to last long. Grampa was too connected to the old place and died in spirit the minute they took him off of it (199). His physical body died soon after, and Granma was only a few days behind. In addition to the death of the eldest generation, the Joads also lost family members when Noah and Connie ran off, despite Ma's addimence for keeping the family together. And finally, at the end of the book, Tom himself leaves to protect the family.

The Joads don't just lose family members, however. During their travels, they encounter people who gain the status of 'honorary family,' something almost unheard of

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