The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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How does the economic decline correspond to the disintegration of the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath?

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Hollis Sanders eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In The Grapes of Wrath, the economic situation and the situation of the Joad Family are quite similar in that they both simply deteriorate over the course of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, the family is at least all together and at least has enough in the way of supplies to feed themselves. However, Grampa Joad dies on the first night out on the road, foreshadowing the doomed nature of the Joad family's journey.

By the time the Joad family reaches California, they have suffered another death, as well as two family members abandoning the journey. This hopelessness in regard to the family...

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luannw eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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yamaguchit | Student

This is a great question. I like that you are comparing the economic decline during the Great Depression with the problems the Joad family faces during the entire novel.

My analysis of this is that the economic decline, caused by the Depression, is what leads to the disintegration within the Joad family. Think about it, the family was doing just fine before the Depression, before the farming drought, and before the dust bowl hit. The family was living happily on their farm, as many Midwesterners did up until the storms hit. However, as the farming industry went down the toilet and the Depression came into full force, families and farmers began to lose their jobs and thus, their income.

This loss in income and work, leads the Joad family across Route 66 to California, in search of any possible work they could get their hands on. Unfortunately, as we read throughout the book, this is also what sends the family through various struggles and problems. Death, hunger, and feuds within the family are all what is experienced throughout the book, and it is tied directly to the down-spiral of the economy. Without this fallout in the economy, the Joads wouldn't have needed to drive across the country in search of work, and thus would probably not have experienced the problems that they did.