The Grapes of Wrath

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What does family mean today? What did it mean 80 years ago? The theme of family is explored throughout the novel The Grapes of Wrath, particularly in the character Ma Joad. In some ways her definition is similar to mine, in some ways it is different. John Steinbeck used her meaning of family to help contribute to his message of the book, the saving power of family.

Ma Joad makes numerous actions and says countless things that depict to the reader how she views and defines family. I agree with a select few of them. I do believe that the family unit should stick together, but only to an extent. Ma Joad recounts that “Al-he’s a-hankerin’ an’ a-jibbitin’ to go off on his own… There ain’t no fambly now” (ch.26, p.536). She is implying that due to the absence of Noah and Al wanting to leave, they have lost their family ties. Without these ties they are no longer a family. Al even says that he is “goin’ out on [his] own purty soon. Fella can make his way lot easier if he ain’t got a fambly” (ch. 26 p487). He is implying that he will no longer associate himself with the other Joads because they are weighing him down, keeping him from his own desires. When Rose of Sharon brings up that she “and Connie dn’t want to live in the county no more… a little worry came on Ma’s face” (Ch 16, p224). She did not like the thought of her daughter, although married with a baby on the way would ever leave her and her husband. She even goes so far as to ask Rose of Sharon “Ain’t you gonna stay with us- with the family” (Ch16 p224). I would be devastated if one of my siblings decided to up and leave without any intentions of returning. Sticking together is vital to keep a healthy family relationship. Although they do not live with us, I see my siblings a...

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... He then goes on to tell Tom about how a Hoovervilles is structured and cue him in on how he will be treated in the present and the future. This shows us that the people are one group, one family. He is dropping settle hints to help Tom and the Joad family despite the fact that they just became acquainted with each other. The entire migrant force became one family.

Family is a timeless importance in our mental and physical well being. In the novel The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck depicts this cultural characteristic in Ma Joad. Although the definition of family has changed, some characteristics still hold true. Family does not necessarily mean genetically similar. It can mean much more than that, such as a large group of people struggling together to survive. One single person can belong to many families, but essentially we are all one family, the human race.