Explain examples of where leadership of the Joad Family shifts to different people. Why do these shifts occur? How does the family unit itself change? How is that change a metaphor For American...

Explain examples of where leadership of the Joad Family shifts to different people. Why do these shifts occur? How does the family unit itself change? How is that change a metaphor For American society in the twentieth century?

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Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the beginning of the novel, the grandparents of the Joad family are present, yet their leadership is being transferred onto the next generation. Grandpa eventually refuses to go with the family to California and he intends to stay on the homestead, hanging on to the past. He is forced to go, yet he soon dies within days of their departure. Grandma is now in the background, and it is Ma and Pa who assume leadership. Pa admits to feeling that he has been a failure as the head of the family, and there is some evidence to back this up. His past decisions, combined with events out of his control, lead to the loss of the family homestead. Uncle John also has faded into the background, seemingly just along for the ride. When Tom leaves the family, it is Ma who has stepped into the role of leadership, followed meekly by Pa. By the end of the novel, she has become sole leader, and everyone looks to her for the decision-making. This is symbolic of the end of a patriarchal society, in which the father is the sole breadwinner and leader. More and more leadership falls on the woman (wife and mother), often when the father is no longer present. It is the maternal instinct that focuses on, no matter what, keeping the family together.

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The Grapes of Wrath

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