Essay On The Grapes Of Wrath
Tom Joad is the young everyman, a good person forced to develop a social conscience.
Ma Joad is the universal mother, the nurturer who rallies to support her family and sacrifices her own comfort for their sake.
Steinbeck makes the Joads, his protagonists, stand in for all of the Dust Bowl farmers.
While each Joad family member has his own quirks, speech patterns, and characteristics, the Joads are less a group of three-dimensional characters than they are a collection of archetypes.
The big corporations soon bought out most of the land in the Mid-West and many families were soon forced to make their living by other means.
The shift of these families out west to a limited number of jobs damaged the United States’ economy.
The cold, soaked earth, which was a source of life not too long ago, abducts a young child while the mother can only watch hopelessly as the husband shovels mounds of dirt.
Some may find the epic sweep of the Joads’ life inspiring and devastating precisely because the Joads can represent all of humanity; others may find that the Joads’ everyman status makes them opaque or even boring.But Steinbeck intentionally denies us access to his characters’ minds.We can only observe them in the situations their creator has constructed.Ma’s determination to hide the death of Granma during the desert crossing is a miracle of motherly strength and selflessness.Pa’s attempt to construct the dam sums up the touching determination of fathers to protect their families.Steinbeck’s grand scale not only evokes strong reactions, but it also paradoxically suppresses them.Many novelists try to erase evidence of their own presence from their fiction, thereby allowing the reader to forget she is encountering a story that has been constructed by a writer and enjoy the illusion that she is reading about real people.In contrast, Steinbeck looms as an ever-present authorial presence.He lards the narrative with deserts, floods, and dramatic births, setting his characters against a biblical backdrop.This narrative choice has two opposite, and often simultaneous, effects: It both elevates and universalizes the Joads and makes them difficult to care about as individuals.While the Joads are by no means flat or allegorical characters, Steinbeck intentionally lets their deep inner psychologies go unexplored, preferring to focus on the ways in which they represent every other Dust Bowl farmer and the ways in which the changes they undergo during their move to California resemble the changes every farmer endures.