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The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

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In chapter 8, Ma says that if all people who are shoved off the land get mad together, they can take action. When asked by Tom if others are mad, what is Ma’s response?

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Woven throughout the narrative of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is the concept of the Oversoul, a concept introduced by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  This concept holds that every individual is connected with every living thing in the universe. Jim Casy underscores this idea when he describes his experience out in the wilderness after being asked to say grace at breaksfast:

"There was the hills, an' there was me, an' we wasn't separate no more.  We was one thing. An' that one thing was holy.

"An' I got thinkin', on'y it wasn't thinkin', we was holy when we was one thing, an' mankin' was holy when it was one thing.  An' it on'y got unholy when one mis'able littl fella got the bit in his teeth and run off his own way, kickin' an' draggin' an' fightin'.  Fella like that bust the holiness.  But when they're all workin' together, not one fella for another fella, but one fella kind of harnessed to the whole shebang--that right, that holy."

While a man is not able to progress very far alone, with others he can achieve much.   Casy reiterates what Ma has said, that with a fellowship of men, a fraternity, there is a holiness that accomplishes something good.

This concept of the strength of many together is what Ma expresses; she understands that in unity there is strength.  When Tom, who has just arrived asks if others are "mad," "Many folks feel that way?" Ma replies,

I don't know.  They're jus' kinda stunned.  walk aroun' like they was half asleep."

Ma's keen observation indicates that people are shocked by the destruction of their homes by the bulldozers and by their forced uprooting, suggesting that they may later become "mean-mad," the way Pretty Boy Floyd did as she tells Tom, or they take action as she hopes. 


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