The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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How does The Grapes of Wrath reconcile American values of rugged individualism with collective strength?

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Dayna Watsica eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a good question. One way to look at and reconcile rugged individualism and collective strength is by looking at a few characters who embody both.

Ma drives the story and the journey. She is an enormously powerful character. An example of this point comes when she knows that her husband is dead, but she still carries on to California. She sits next to his corpse to keep the family going. Her sacrifice knows no bounds. From this perspective, she demonstrates rugged individualism. That said, we need to ask why she did all of these things. She did them for her family. She is the one who keeps the family together. By doing so, she shows the power and need for a collective group. In her we see rugged individualism for the sake of collective strength.

Another character that shows both qualities is Jim Casey. Initially, he is only one man who met God in a “burning bush.” Of course, he gives up his preaching vocation, but he begins to galvanize people to do something great. His rugged...

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shake99 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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