Grapes of Wrath Analysis Essay

In, Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck used his character Ma Joad to portray the importance of family, unity, and support for the migrant families during the depression. Steinbeck develops Ma Joad as a strong character that is the “glue” of the family. Numerous times throughout Grapes of Wrath Ma Joad displays her courage, strength, and love for not only her biological family but the extended family that was acquired on the Joad’s journey west. John Steinbeck uses Ma Joad to be the matriarch of the family.

Ma Joad carries the burdens of the family and her emotions barely break.She sacrifices herself for her family. You can find the best example of this in chapter 18. Ma Joad spent the night with Granma and kept the fact that she was dead to herself. She spared herself so that her family would make it across the desert.

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“Casey said in wonder, ‘All night long, an’ she was alone. ’ And he said, ‘John, there’s a woman so great with love—she scares me. Makes me afraid an’ mean. ’” (Page 229) Those around Ma Joad recognized and acknowledged her strength, such as Casey did in that quote. Ma Joad’s strong will is evident in chapter 16 when she refused to allow the family to “bust up”.

Her focus is the family and keeping them alive and well. She had her mind made up and did not budge. Ma Joad understands that family is the only thing that they have left.

This was true for all migrant workers but their family wasn’t limited to their biological relatives. In the last paragraph of page 169, it says, “… All we got is the family unbroke. Like a bunch a cows, when the lobos are ranging, stick all together. I ain’t scared while we’re all here, all that’s alive, but I ain’t gonna see us bust up. ” Family, in Grapes of Wrath, extends beyond your traditional idea of a family.Ma Joad reaches out to the other people staying on the various camps with them. Whether that be giving children left over stew (Chapter 20) or supporting Rose of Sharon through the abandonment of Connie or the still birth of Rose of Sharon’s baby.

Ma Joad remains a strong and impactful character. She has a relationship with each of her family members and they look to her for support. Steinbeck uses Ma Joad to, not only display courage, strength, and love, but to show the how far a person would go to defend and help their family prosper—especially in migrant families during the depression.


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