"Women As Self Sacrificing And Nurturing Mothers In The Grapes Of Wrath" Is About The Portrayal Of Women In John Steinbeck's Novel

5244 words - 21 pages

Table of contents1.Introduction2.The Joad women2.1Rose of Sharon2.2Ma3.Portrayal of the ideal woman3.1 Self-sacrifice and endurance3.2Narrative techniques3.3Reversal of leadership roles4.Biological determination4.1Ecological cycle4.2Mother earth4.3The final image5.Critical reception of the women-figures6.Concluding remarksReferences1. IntroductionThe Dust Bowl that forced thousands of Americans into migration and the national economic depression of the thirties prompted John Steinbeck to write Grapes of Wrath, the famous novel about the Joad family and, in the interchapters, about the migrants and their social situation in general. Steinbeck visited camps and was familiar with the living conditions of the "Okies". Grapes of Wrath was published in 1938, when the problem of migration was still going on. The book became extremely popular and has influenced many different genres. Film, music and theater have adapted Steinbeck's novel. Grapes of Wrath won the Pulitzer Price and became the cornerstone of his 1962 Nobel Prize award.The Joads can be seen as the representative migrant family. Consequently, the female Joads can be considered the prototype of the migrant women, as depicted in the novel. Steinbeck had a certain idealized picture of women. His characters in Grapes of Wrath, in the way they are described, demonstrate and support his portrayal of women.This paper will examine the role of women in the novel. The ideal female character is Ma Joad, a hardworking and enduring mother. Rose of Sharon does not display these qualities in the beginning and she is therefore portrayed in a negative light. Only later, after she has turned into a self-sacrificing woman like her mother, is she described positively. It is the main task of women to bear children and to bring them up. Maternal qualities are therefore shown as the most important.Ma and Pa's reversal of roles will be pointed out. The woman is presented as strong and decisive, whereas the man is not. Men, in the novel, lack the unselfishness that is necessary to make the family go on. The survival of a migrant family depends on a woman like Ma, who is selfless, but also strong and able to cope with great burdens.By stressing the biological determinism of the Joads, Steinbeck emphasizes the role of women as child bearers and nurturing forces. This becomes concrete in the final image of the book. Another aspect of biology is the circle of life, which is also strongly connected with the female and an important theme of the book.This paper will also answer the question of how the reader gets influenced to agree with this traditional picture of women. Steinbeck uses various images and narrative techniques to achieve consent to the female qualities and values he presents. He was successful in getting his picture across, which is proven by the large amount of secondary literature that has collectively praised Ma Joad's endurance and condemned Rose of Sharon's self-centeredness.2. The Joad women2.1 Rose...

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