The Grapes Of Wrath By John Steinbeck

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The Great Depression was a time of instability and fear for millions of Americans. Thousands lost their jobs and livelihoods, and while many gave in to desperation and fright, thousands more stood up in the face of terror and took their place of power. In the case of John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, these everyday heroes were women. By intermingling themes of nurture and power, portrays a shift toward matriarchal structure in the Great Depression era. Steinbeck first introduces the power structures of the Joad family just before they set off on their journey to California. The squatter’s circle not only introduces the land as a source of power for the men, it also provides a dramatic contrast for the dynamics of the family at…show more content…
Her decisions need no deliberation or debate, unlike the long weighed decisions of the Squatter’s circle. Ma Joad’s power not only meets, but exceeds the power of the men in the family, shown when Steinbeck makes her the sole voice in the decision-making process. When it comes to The Grapes of Wrath, Ma Joad is not the only woman who steps and takes on a leadership role. Rose of Sharon to undergoes a shift throughout the novel, growing from a naive child into a strong, if jaded adult. Abandoned by her husband and giving birth to a stillborn child, Rose of Sharon could choose to wallow in her sadness. Instead, Steinbeck symbolically passes the torch from Ma Joad to Rose of Sharon when Rose saves an old man from near certain death. Not only does this action portray Rose of Sharon in a new, motherly light despite the recent death of her child, but it’s ostensibly a sort of trade for the shelter the Joad family requires. Susan Vincent recognizes this when she writes: In the course of the novel, as men’s roles in providing for their families disintegrate, women, in the form of Ma Joad and later Rose of Sharon, as those responsible for the daily reproductive needs of their households, take on increasing importance...a woman breastfeeding her own child in the United States in the 1930s is carrying out a reproductive task in the reciprocal context of the family; giving breast milk to a man who is in possession of shelter the Joads
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