I am writing a journal about the value of "family unity" for Ma Joad in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath; please recommend some helpful resources concerning family life or the values Americans held during the Great Depression.
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The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, is considered one of the great American novels because it reflects a real time in American history and puts a face to the plight of millions of displaced families during the Great Depression.
Ma Joad, of course, desperately wants her multi-generational family to remain intact as they are forced to leave their home; unfortunately, she is forced to watch it disintegrate over the course of the novel. She does what she must, sometimes crossing the traditional boundaries for women, and is occasionally successful; however, her losses are staggering. She does not have time to grieve, but Steinbeck honors all mothers in these circumstances when he says of her:
“It was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials.”
Ma Joad is representative of all mothers who did what they needed to survive during this trying time in history. Despite the fact that she is unable to keep it and protect it, her family is the the thing she values most because it is all she has.
Below are two excellent eNotes links. One specifically discusses the idea of family in The Grapes of Wrath and one is a more general discussion about the value of family during the Great Depression. Both of these links are connected to others which may also be helpful to your study, so I encourage you to do some exploring on the site. I have also included a link to a third site which should be helpful regarding the changes the Great Depression forced families to make.
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