The Grapes of Wrath - Beauty in the Midst of Hopelessness Essay

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The Grapes of Wrath: Beauty in the Midst of Hopelessness


The Grapes of Wrath portrays life at its darkest. It is the story of migrant workers and the hardships and heartbreaks that they experience as they are driven from their land - the land that they have lived on for generations - so the banks can make a profit.

Sure, cried the tenant men, but it's our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. That's what makes it ours - being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it (p.45).

Steinbeck follows the Joad family as they leave their farm to forge a new life in the land of opportunity - California - where
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There is no "happy ending" - when the book ends, Ma Joad's pride and joy, Tom, leaves because he has killed a man and cannot stay with his family without endangering them as well as himself. Rose of Sharon has just miscarried, and the Joads are driven by flooding from a temporarily happy home in a boxcar town. It seems as if the book has ended at a very uncomfortable and depressing point, but that is not the case. After spending over 600 pages getting to know the Joads, a reader has the sense that nothing can crush their indomitable spirit - that they will always go on, no matter how bad the circumstances are.

This is what I find fascinating about the book - the strength of the people who are put through horrendous conditions. They are driven from their homes, forced to live in a half-starved, miserable existence; yet they survive. Perhaps my favorite character in The Grapes of Wrath is Ma Joad. She seems to me to be the strongest and most steadfast character in the novel, and I admire her. Throughout all of the hardships that the Joads have to endure, Ma stands tall and proud, a pillar of strength that holds her family to-gether. Her overriding concern throughout the book is that the family has to stay to-gether. She says more than once, "It ain't good for folks to break up" (p.225), and that belief brings her out of the role of obedient wife to that of a woman who will even resort to physical conflict to get her way. At one point in the…

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