What two characteristics help the Joad family maintain hope?

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Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Joads have a firm belief in family. Ma Joad especially fights hard to keep the family together. As long as they can all get to California as a family, they will manage to survive. She maintains this faith, even as family members die off or run off one by one. With each loss, Ma Joad gathers the family together, instilling in them the conviction that they are not defeated yet. They quickly adjust and follow Ma’s lead. As long as they are a family, the bad times won’t “lick” them.

Another characteristic that keeps the family going is the belief that good times are possible, somewhere. Not all see this as being fulfilled in the orchards of California. Some see it somewhere else. Tom, for instance, sees it in safety from the law, both for himself and the family. He leaves, believing that this is the only way the family can survive. He believes that he will return to them someday, and Ma agrees. They refuse to give up. As long as there is life, there is hope. The controversial closing scene of Rose of Sharon nursing the starving man is symbolic of this characteristic. What we need to survive is readily available inside us. Though the rest of the world might be determined to beat us down, “we are the people that live,” as Ma Joad proclaims.

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The Grapes of Wrath

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