Family Ties: John Steinbeck’s The Grapes Of Wrath Essay, Research Paper
In John Steinbeck?s The Grapes of Wrath, the most important elements are family structure and the family?s connection to the land. The Joad family must stay together for support and happiness. They also have a strong tie to their homeland that affects every aspect of their lives.
Steinbeck exemplifies the family support primarily through the character of Ma Joad. She holds the family together. In Steinbeck?s description of Ma Joad, he states, ?She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. . . . She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone? (100). Ma Joad provides the necessary support for the rest of the family. Another example of the internal support in the Joad family is shown in Tom?s homecoming. On his return from prison, some family members assume he has broken out of jail, but they are completely behind him on that decision. They want the family to be together, no matter what it takes.
The family must also stay together in order to be happy. Steinbeck shows that the lack of family has a detrimental effect on a person through the character of Muley Graves. When Casey and Tom meet up with Muley and Muley tells them that he stayed behind when his family went to California, Casey says, ?You should of went too. You shouldn?t of broke up the fambly? (65). Muley refuses to because of his attachment to the land, but he is miserable alone. He explains to Casey and Tom,
I?d tell myself, ?I?m lookin? after things so when all the folks come back it?ll be all right.? But I knowed that wan?t true. There ain?t nothin? to look after. The folks ain?t never comin? back. I?m jus? wanderin? aroun? like a damn ol? graveyard ghos?. (69)
Muley is unhappy without the rest of his family around to support him, but his connection to the land is too strong to allow him to leave.
The other characters are not unlike Muley in this respect. They are all tied to the land somehow. Muley talks of his father being buried in Oklahoma and the memory of his first sexual encounter. Those are some of the reasons why he cannot leave the land. He tells Casey and Tom,
I been goin? aroun? the places where stuff happened. Like there?s a place over by our forty; in a gully they?s a bush. Fust time I ever laid with a girl was there. . . . An? there?s the place down by the barn where Pa got gored to death by a bull. An? his blood is right in that groun?, right now. Mus? be. Nobody ever washed it out. An? I put my han? on that groun? where my own pa?s blood is part of it. (69).
Grampa also has a strong tie to the land. After Grampa?s death, Casey says of him, ?Grampa an? the old place, they was jus? the same thing. . . . He died the minute you took ?im off the place. . . . He was that place, an? he knowed it? (199). The relationship he holds with the land is so intense that he cannot live without it.
Steinbeck focuses on the relationship with the land and the connection within the family, because all life in the late 1930?s revolved around these aspects. It is quite possible that some semblance of these ideals is still visible in modern-day life.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.