Theme of Family in Grapes of Wrath

6 June 2016

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck portrays the overall theme of the importance of family is. The novel is set in the 1930s during the era of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, causing poverty nationwide, especially concentrated in farm towns. The protagonist of The Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad, is on his way home to his farm in Oklahoma from jail when he realizes his family has been uprooted and forced to move to California in efforts to find work. Tom comes across an old pastor Jim Casy and the two decide to find the Joad family and travel with them to California.

Steinbeck creates the dynamic theme of family importance by using literary elements. One element that he uses is characterization to show how close the Joads are with each other. Furthermore, Steinbeck uses dialogue to show the emotions between the family members. Lastly, the use of symbolism shows the ties that are portrayed throughout the novel. Overall, Steinbeck successfully creates the theme by use of literary elements. Steinbeck heavily relies on the literary element of characterization to develop the central theme of family. Throughout the book, each character’s traits are revealed through either direct or indirect characterization.

Theme of Family in Grapes of Wrath Essay Example

By doing this, Steinbeck allows readers to infer how close the Joads are to each other and how much they depend on one another. For example, Ma Joad is revealed to be the strongest unit of the family when Steinbeck writes “She walked for the family and held her head straight for the family” (169). This quote shows that Ma Joad is the main support of the family. Without Ma, the family would crumble under the pressure of poverty but she remains prideful and strong constantly throughout the book. Steinbeck allows readers to see how important family is in The Grapes of Wrath by utilizing the literary device of characterization.

Moreover, the use of dialogue enhances the theme of family dependency in The Grapes of Wrath. By using dialogue, readers can infer the thoughts and feelings of each character. This helps show how important it is for families to remain as one during hard times, especially one like the dust bowl. For example, the Joad family begins to break up because they lose hope and stop depending on one another. Ma Joad shows these feelings when she says “Use’ ta be the family was fust. It ain’t so now. It’s anybody” (48).

Ma Joad claims the family has changed since the Dust Bowl started because of the pressure families are facing. The Joads start to grow apart from each other, putting each member under immense stress, due to the poverty that has been bestowed upon them. Overall, the use of dialogue helps Steinbeck create the idea that family comes above every things.

Lastly, Steinbeck relies on the element of symbolism to further develop the theme in The Grapes of Wrath. The Joad family is dynamic, and they persevere through all of the struggles as one unit; the family does not willingly leave one of their own behind. This characteristic about the Joads is portrayed in The Grapes of Wrath through the element of symbolism. In the early chapters, a turtle is introduced to the story.

As Tom is walking, he comes across the turtle that is overturned and trying desperately to get back on his feet. Tom picks up the turtle and takes goes on his way. In this scene, the turtle represents the journey that all tenant farmers are going through during the Dust Bowl. As much as the turtle tries, it cannot get back on to its feet until Tom comes along and picks it up. Tom’s actions represent how all the Joads interact with each other; they pick one another up during difficult times. Symbolism helps Steinbeck create the overarching theme of the importance of family in The Grapes of Wrath.

In conclusion, Steinbeck is very successful in creating the overall theme of family importance in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath. One element Steinbeck uses is characterization. This element helps the ties between the Joad family members. In addition, the use of dialogue helps readers understand how close the characters are to each other. Finally, Steinbeck uses symbolism to help his audience fully understand how important family is in the struggles of life.

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