Grapes of Wrath Journal Essay
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As the Joads ride on their journey to California, they travel as a whole, one unit, one family. And on one night they camp off the side of the road, and run into the Wilson’s, creating and merging into one large family, with one goal in mind, reaching California. But as the days of traveling continue, the family struggles to stay intact due to obstacles such as the staggering heat, lack of money, automobile breaking down, doubts brought upon by people who have been in California, and even death.
But Steinbeck defines “family” as a unit with members who think of other members before themselves, and Ma expresses this idea clearly with Granma’s death. The Joads have a connection where each member truly has someone to have their back when in need. Tom shares this with Casy and Al, Ma and Granma, Pa with Granpa and Uncle John, Ruthie and Winfield, Rose of Sharon and Connie, but then there’s Noah who doesn’t feel the same love which is one of the reasons that persuades him to depart from the family.
They also have a structure in which Tom, Pa, Al, usually make family decisions and the eventually the final verdict is given to Ma. Overall, family is suppose to take care of each other when in time of need and work as one rather than individuals.
Adaptation (Positives and Negatives)
With the family traveling together, it’s evident that migration is a change that is supported and has to be overcome. And although the outcome of migration is suppose to be glorious, the journey to achieved the so call promise land gives the family a brutal beating of struggle, hunger, and even death. Granpa and Granma died due to lack of health and high heat, but then again the conditions were somewhat the same in Sallisaw. Then there was also the death of the Joads dog. With migration, the Joads needed leaders and this is where characters such as Tom and Ma come into play as the heads of the family. Tom in a way leads the men, especially Al, and Ma leads Granma, Rose of Sharon, and the kids. To conclude, adaptation or migration changed characters into leaders to lead the family to California but at great costs and struggle.
Compassion is taking pity or seeing those in need and taking action in anyway possible to help them overcome their problems and obstacles. In Chapter 12, a general chapter, a story of a family of 12 who were forced off their land and had to carry their belongings in a trailer, waited on the side of the 66. They were eventually hauled by a man who took them to California and fed them. This act by the random stranger is compassionate because he sees the family in need of help and no way to get to California and offers to take them and even feeds them. It’s one thing to feed 4 or 5 people but 12, it must come from the heart. With the Joads, they do the same with the Wilson’s but the Joads are less compassionate because they use them for their car to ease the weight from their own car. Then there’s also the part where a man enters a diner and begs for some cheap bread and the worker is pressured by the cook to be compassionate and give the man bread at a discount.
Another example of being compassionate is when Tom comes back from his venture for a con rod with Al and Casy and meets up with the family at a campsite but are forced to leave. When Tom leaves, he walks by a women cooking and comments on how he’d like some. The woman smiles and says when the foods ready, he can have some. Throughout the journey of the Joads we see that food is scarce yet this woman offers to share. And the final example is when the Joads decide to cross the desert leading to California and at the same time leaving the Wilson’s behind. Pa leaves behind cooked food and money for them, knowing how hard their desert journey will be. We see a sweeter side of Pa rather than the serious and quiet Pa that is usually portrayed. Overall, compassion is still around even with such devastation surrounding folks due to the dust bowl and overproduction causing foreclosures, the AAA telling farmers what they can’t farm. Many have lost their homes, land and past life, but some still have their heart.
Symbols (Biblical Allusions)
One thing that made be think of any biblical symbols or allusions that Steinbeck could have used was when the Joads formally entered California just after running over a snake. The snake part gave it away due to it usually referring or having to do with the devil along with the desert part. When the Joads spent a night traveling over the feared desert, it made me think what they went through so far. They lost Granma, Granpa, their dog, and separated from Noah. They were traveling by force through the desert on a low budget, with little food, heat anxiety, and were crowded in their old jalopy truck. With the desert, what comes to mind is the desert that Jesus traveled through for forty days and forty nights, and as he traveled he was tempted numerous times by the devil. And one thing to keep in mind is that God forced Jesus to walk and pray in the desert. As Jesus was forced to travel in the desert so were the Joads by the officer. I see the temptations as the conditions that the Joads were traveling with, lack of food, heat, little money etc. Just like the temptations from the devil, and the conditions of the Joads, they were suppose stop them from continuing on with their journey and to give up. But instead just like Jesus did, the Joads overcame the desert and won against the devil and that’s where the running over the snake comes in.
Antagonists (People along the 66)
Throughout the section, businessmen, state officials, land, and migrates who have been in California add on to the already challenging journey to California with their sound business, anti-farming seizes, mountains, discrimination, and doubts. In chapter 12, a tire store raise their prices because they know it’s an essential for family to keep going, and in this case, the salesman lies to the customer about the condition of a tire just to get an extra buck. Throughout the journey, the fear of high slopes and the desert scare the Joads and Wilson of stopping them from reaching the promise land. And along with the fear of nature not playing on their side, the Joads hear all the same stories of California not being what people thought it would be like. One man tells them that jobs are in a sense free labor or slave like work because so many are migrating to California giving an abundance of workers to employers, giving the the chance to give them whatever wages and they want. There’s also stories about not being able to farm or touch any fruit on trees, stories that it’s not worth going. The Joads meet a couple of families who were heading back home east, away from California. With these stories and testimonies, it’s hard for the Joads to have confidence and faith in their journey and destination.
In chapter 13, when Tom pulls alongside the road where a family is camping,, the Wilson’s, he politely asks if they have permission to camp along with them, even though the strip of land wasn’t under their ownership. With this action we see how kind hearted and friendly Tom is even though he killed a man. Another example depicting his traits is in chapter 16 when he proposes a plan that will split him and Casy from the rest, in order to fix their truck and have the others move along. His proposal and plan show his leadership skills. Another example is when he attacks the one eyed man for giving up on life due to losing his eye. Tom expresses his opinion that whatever defects or disadvantages a person has that they should make the best of it. Overall we see Tom as a generous, kind hearted, leader, that believes everyone has the opportunity to make something out of themselves.
Quote a Passage (Unity)
“When this family meets another family on the highway, they share their stories of loss… For here ‘I lost my land’ is changed… ‘We lost our land.’” (193). This quote is significant because it expresses the idea of unity that pushes the migrates to move as ahead as one. They share a common tragedy, the heartbreak of losing their land, home, or farm. A large part of the country is the same position, a dilemma, and the only solution is to head out west. And to do so, Steinbeck helps portray the families migrating as one by using “we” and “our” and if they want to achieve their prosperity, they must not only have the same issues but work together to solve those issues. In a way, the havok laid upon by the dust bowl, foreclosures, and overproduction can’t be solve by one individual but by the aid, work, and cooperation of many.