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How does Steinbeck portray gender, in his novel : 'The grapes of wrath'

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  1. Joad family and the sense of community.
  2. Simplistic approach towards gender.
  3. The character of Ma.
  4. The other females within the group.
  5. Men within the novel.
  6. Steinbeck's attitude toward gender within The Grapes of Wrath.

In the novel, Steinbeck skilfully creates a complex communal structure, through which the genders are portrayed. This community has a harsh and realistic nature. Many tragedies and disappointments threaten the family as they move through life, Tom kills a man and goes to prison, Rose of Sharon loses her husband and her baby, and the grandparents die. However Steinbeck's sense of community is proved to be strong, when the individual characters can overcome their losses through the support of the group. Ma herself says' What we got lef' in the worl'? Nothin' but us I ain't scared while we all here'

[...] ' Also we can see this in the case of the grandparents. When Granmpa dies, Granma soon follows him, as if they needed each other to stay strong. ' They fought over everything, and loved and needed the fighting.' Steinbeck's attitude toward gender within The Grapes of Wrath is a interesting one. He seems to create characters symbolically, using them to recreate particular themes that run through the novel. Rose of Sharon in her fading youth, and lost voluptuousness is the essence of nostalgia for the old land, and Granmpa represents the death of the old land and its ways. [...]

[...] However, unlike Ma they lack the power of these three images. Ruthie is too mean at times to represent the innocent joy that Ma has, [p.332 the incident at the croquet court], Rose of Sharon has neither the strength nor protective instinct of Ma as a mother, [ p.335, lets herself and her unborn child be bullied by Mrs. Sandry], and Granma does not have the clarity and leadership that Ma has as the matriarchal crone. Instead, these women represent different themes. [...]

[...] As we can see, the women characters of the novel are often sentimental, stereotypical images, but their creation is a fundamental part of the spiritual and symbolical landscape that Steinbeck creates. This can be true of the male characters also. It seems there is a undertone of negativity towards the men folk running through the novel. From the beginning they are reduced to impotency over the loss of the land. Also the image of the uncaring bank is a masculine one, though always described as or 'they'. [...]

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