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I'll Have What She's Having Essay

884 words - 4 pages

I’ll Have What She’s Having
We live in a time where gender equality is almost a reality. Women can do many of the same jobs men can do and in single families or in times of need take a patriarchal role in their family or the workplace. This is exactly what happened in The Grapes of Wrath, when Ma had to slowly take control over her family and progressively lead the Joads out of their own familial depression. The role of women and their status within the book is elastic throughout the novel and breaks the common convention at the time. As a reader, we see Ma Joad often assume a male role, and we see Tom Joad display a more traditionally feminine role as time progresses in the story. ...view middle of the document...

In previous times, the Joad family generally looked to Pa for answers and guidance, but Tom and the other men do not maintain the dominant role as “Ma looked at Tom to speak, because he was a man, but Tom did not speak.” As Pa and the men lose control over the family when they are stretched thin searching for work, Ma takes over the role of the “rock” or “foothold” of the family, providing support and stability to the crumbling tribe of Joads. She is converted into an almost biblical figure as the story parallels leading a group of oppressed peoples on an exodus. One can look at the ever-growing rise of feminine presence by looking chronologically at the text. The book transforms itself by the end focusing solely on Ma and the other women’s struggles. In the end when Tom leaves, the book discards the only other main character to focus on Ma. A man made the first decision of the book and a woman ends up making the final decision by telling Rose of Sharon to offer a dying man breast milk.
The Joad family is heavily reliant on the Patriarchal structure of family. In the beginning, this is evident when Grandpa is still seen as the head of the family even though he is too old to actually function as a higher-ranking member of the family in his worsening cognitive state. When the Joads begin their exodus to the Promised Land, Grandpa dies, which...

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