The Grapes of Wrath Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Why is unity important in Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath?

Expert Answers info

booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2003

write4,119 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, thousands of people have have lost their jobs, their homes and their land, and have been forced to pack up and move across the country, looking for work and a new home where they can begin again.

Ma Joad, the woman who works extremely hard to keep her family and her extended family healthy, fed and together, knows how important it is to maintain a sense of unity.

There are several reasons for this. Being united is safer: the group is less likely to be harassed/robbed if they stick together. Working together also increases the chances that the group will survive in terms of finding work and/or food. Unity is extremely important to provide a sense of belonging that fights the insidious feelings of alienation brought on by this terrible time in U.S. history.

In terms of unity, one of the major themes is man (or the individual) vs society. For instance, when the men try to get work, they are often competing with others, and "fighting" even those who are hiring, for there are many man, many hungry families and only a few jobs.

Commitment is another theme, and this is easier to apply oneself to if part of a strong collective family-like unit—and that is what the Joads are. They understand that in order to survive, they must stick together. Those who do not remain will most likely die. However, there is another side to the question of commitment: in being devoted to the family, two members of the group are considered "Christ-like" figures in that they "sacrifice" themselves for the good of others.

Greater than a commitment to survive is Jim Casy 's sense of obligation to others. To live by his conviction to love everyone, he sacrifices himself to the authorities so that Tom and Floyd are...

(The entire section contains 634 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial