Broken Stereotypes in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

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Broken Stereotypes in The Grapes of Wrath

Masculinity and femininity are not restricted to two separate and distinct groups. In reality, they are different within themselves, and similar to each other. It is a well-known stereotype that men are tough and strong with no emotions, while women are weak and need to be supported.

The characters in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath are examples of the typical masculine and feminine groups. However, the book also contains models of those who do not fit the stereotypes. In general, the book contains two types of portrayals of both men and women.

Pa is an example of the more common must-support-the-family man. On the contrary, Casy, another male character, is a soft-spoken, thoughtful man. Though they are mother and daughter, Ma and Rose of Sharon are two examples of very different femininity. Ma is a hardworking, family focused woman while Rose of Sharon is a young naïve character who needs to be taken care of.

In The Grapes of Wrath, Pa is the main male character and plays a leadership role of the family. After Grampa's death, it is clearly stated that Pa is the family leader. "Pa was the head of the family now" (151). Steinbeck purposefully puts Grampa, then Pa in the position of head of the family because the eldest male is most commonly the leader. This is a typical example of a patriarchy. Pa carries this role until they reach California and begin looking for work. Pa is ashamed that he cannot work to support his family and fulfill his position as leader.

Pa demanded, 'Well what the hell am I gonna do? We're outa money. One of my boys got a short job, but that won't feed us. I'm a-gonna go an' take twenty cents. I got to' (374).

It frustrates Pa that he is helpless when it comes to work. Although he is more than willing to work hard for money, Pa is unable to find a job to feed his family.

Ma takes on two roles in the course of the book. Pa begins despairing because of his lack of work, so Ma takes over his role as leader. This shows the masculinity in Ma's character coming out.

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