"Women as self-sacrificing and nurturing mothers in The Grapes Of Wrath" is about the portrayal of women in John Steinbeck's novel

Essay by charlottehoepflUniversity, Bachelor's March 2003

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Table of contents


2.The Joad women

2.1Rose of Sharon


3.Portrayal of the ideal woman

3.1 Self-sacrifice and endurance

3.2Narrative techniques

3.3Reversal of leadership roles

4.Biological determination

4.1Ecological cycle

4.2Mother earth

4.3The final image

5.Critical reception of the women-figures

6.Concluding remarks


1. Introduction

The 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...