Grapes Of Wrath 9 Essay, Research Paper
One would say that on a literal level The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is about the Joad family s journey to California during The Dust Bowl. However, it is also about the unity of a family and the concept of birth and death, both literal and abstract. Along with this, the idea of a family unit is explored through these births and deaths. As can be seen in The Grapes of Wrath, the Joads are a very tight-knit family. Yet on their trip to California, they experience many losses and additions to their family. In general, Steinbeck s novel abides by the circle of life. When a birth occurs, a death follows, and when a death occurs, a birth follows. However, in The Grapes of Wrath, the number of deaths outweighs the number of births as a way to show the negative impacts of The Dust Bowl.
The first birth in the novel occurs in Chapter Eight when Tom Joad returns from jail to his family. Prior to Tom s homecoming, Ma Joad had been deeply concerned about making the journey to California without him, because she did not want the family to break up before the start of their journey even occurred. The idea of Tom Joad returning at this point is considered a birth because the Joad family is now complete. This starts the novel giving the reader a better sense of the closeness of the Joad family. In addition, the first reference to death occurs in Chapter Ten. Grampa decides that he does not want to leave his land and go out west. This here s my country. I b long here I ain t a-goin . This country ain t no good, but it s my country (152). Once again, as to not split up the family, Ma Joad drugs Grampa in order for the family to place him on the truck without his knowing. This drugging is a symbol for not only the death, or loss, of the Joads land, but also for the actual death of Grampa. In Chapter Thirteen, Grampa does die, as he was never truly the same once he left his land. This is because the land goes back to Grampa s ancestry, and losing the land is like losing a family member. This is the Joad family s first run in with death on their journey, yet Ma Joad still manages to keep the family together.
Moreover, in Chapter Thirteen, as the Joad family continues on their journey, they meet the Wilson family. The two families decide to carry on with their trip together. It is at this point that Steinbeck follows the pattern of the circle of life. Steinbeck begins by writing about the rebirth of Tom Joad. Next, Grampa dies. Following this, there is a birth for the Joads when they add the Wilson family to their own. However, as previously stated, in order to represent the hardships of the journey, many more deaths than births occur in the novel. In Chapter Eighteen alone, Noah leaves the family, the Joads continue on without the Wilson family, and Granma dies. It may seem like these losses would tear the family apart, but Ma Joad understands the concept of family, and tries her hardest to keep the family as one unit. For example, Ma Joad sits up all night with Granma s dead body, jut so the family can cross the border. The fambly hadda get acrost (312).
Furthermore, by the time Chapter Nineteen ends, the Joads lost their land, their dog, Grampa, Noah, Granma, and the Wilsons. In Chapter Twenty, Casy dies, and then another death takes place when Connie leaves Rose of Sharon because he cannot handle the journey anymore. The event of Connie leaving can be looked at as a symbol for the dead baby that Rose of Sharon delivers in Chapter Thirty. One would believe that when Rose of Sharon delivers her dead baby, it is a sign that all hope is lost because it breaks the circle of life. However, Steinbeck ends The Grapes of Wrath on a somewhat uplifting note by incorporating one last birth. At the end of the novel, Rose of Sharon gives life to a dying old man by letting him drink the breast milk that she would have used in order to feed her own baby. She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously (619).
In conclusion, The Grapes of Wrath may appear, on surface level, to be a novel about an Oklahoma family s trip to California during the Dust Bowl. Instead, when looked at more deeply, The Grapes of Wrath is found to be a story about the circle of life and the way that a family stays together through this cycle.