The Grapes of Wrath

Ma Joad: The Progression from Family to Humanity

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck introduces a family rooted in the leadership of men. The journey of hardship they endure, however, disintegrates this patriarchal control, leaving the women, Ma specifically, to take charge. As Pa falls behind, guilt-ridden for his lack of ability to provide for his family, Ma is left to make the decisions. It is she who takes the lives of her family into her own hands, and through a passionate bond, all humanity, as well. Steinbeck illustrates how Ma Joad is the strong force within the family who realizes the true value and meaning of life.

At the novel’s commencement, it is the men of the family who control the decision-making for the Joad clan. Even Ma, an adult, looks to her son to comfort her apprehension in chapter ten.

“Tom, I hope things is all right in California…seems too nice, kinda. I seen the han’bills fellas pass out, an’ how much they is, an’ high wages an’ all; an’ I seen in the paper how they want folks to come an’ pick grapes an’ oranges an’ peaches. That’d be nice work, Tom, pickin’ peaches…I’m scared of stuff so nice. I ain’t got faith. I’m scared somepin ain’t so nice about it.” (90-91)

As the chapter progresses, it becomes blatantly obvious that the women are not seen...

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