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Essay on Ma is the Man in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes Of Wrath"

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A clear concept in John Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath was the way families were run. At the beginning of the twentieth century, men led the family. They made the decisions and they made the money for the family while the women worked behind the scenes and kept everything going. What the men did not realize, or did not want to recognize, was that the women were the ones who were really in control. Though they did not take credit for it, they were the ones who bought and cooked the food the men ate, bore and reared the children the men helped create, and did everything they could to make a better life for themselves and their families. This changed once the Dust Bowl struck. Soon after, women took charge of the family affairs and slid into the position of the head of the family, a place of power where they could lead the family in the right direction, create a better life for them all, and in the long run, dredge themselves up from being viewed as a piece of property, to being viewed as a person with ideas and a personality of their own.
The Grapes of Wrath is a fictional story based on real events witnessed and experienced by the author, John Steinbeck. It follows the life of the Joad family; a family directly affected by the Dust Bowl tragedy, and their journey to California in an attempt to leave their shattered life behind them and forge a new livelihood for themselves. At the start of their trek to California when the Joad's are packing up what they can fit into their decrepit vehicle, a change in the denomination of women's work sets the inevitable in motion. This event is when Reverend Casy (a man who is more of an ex-Reverend because he has lost his connection with God) offers to relieve Ma Joad of her job of salting th...


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...e settin' down, an' I'll knock you belly-up with a bucket. I swear to Holy Jesus' sake I will.' "(Pg. 230) Unlike Pa's threat, Ma's is one she intended to follow through on. The time for standing in the background and not having any say in the issues is over. Once Ma stands up for herself, the rest of the men relent and agree to Ma's terms to keep the family together.
In conclusion, the era of women being viewed as property eventually ceased to exist. The hard times generated new ideas and propelled women to the head of the families and in turn allowed them to create a better life for them and their families. Ma Joad's rise to power in her family shows just how effective this change was. If not for her uprising, Pa's ignorance of his power would have put the family in a much worse situation, and the path the family ventured on would have been far worse for them all.


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