A number of characters disappeared during the journey, either died or left the family. It looks like the novelist John Steinback removed them on purpose. What do you think? Explain.

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Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The deaths of Grandpa (soon after the Joad family left home) and Grandma (as they crossed into California) are understandable. Not only are they weakened by age, but their spirits remain back in Oklahoma with the land. Seemingly, the new home is only for the young. The departures of Connie and Noah can also be viewed as the weeding out of the weak. Al leaves the family to start his own, hinting at the small hope of a future somewhere for the Joad line. It is the departure of Tom, the protagonist, that is surprising. Tom has been the voice of reality amidst the turmoil of a life falling apart for the family. From the beginning, though, Tom’s presence has carried with it a hint of the possibility of his leaving, since he is on parole and not allowed to leave the state. His voluntary departure, however, even though it is to save himself from being caught, makes the reader wonder what the family is left to count on. With Ma, Pa, Uncle John, and Rose of Sharon (along with Ruthie and Winfield), only the bare bones of the clan are left. There is not much hope that Tom or Al will return, so the Joad family’s future is unclear. At the time of the writing of the novel, the Depression was still going on, so Steinbeck could not see the hope of a better future any more than the Joads could.

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The Grapes of Wrath

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