Last Updated on February 15, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 582
Extended Character Analysis
Rose of Sharon, called “Rosasharn,” is the eighteen-year-old elder daughter of the Joad family. At the beginning of the novel, she is married to Connie Rivers and is pregnant with his child. Rosasharn is selfish and mostly concerned with her own needs and her child. She is womanly, demure, and serious. Despite her hardships, Rosasharn grows as a character and eventually learns to care for others over herself.
Rosasharn’s Pregnancy and Hardships
Rosasharn actively understands childbearing, and as Steinbeck wrote, “all the world seems pregnant to her.” Because of this, Rosasharn is mainly focused on her unborn baby throughout the novel. Her actions are dictated by her desire to have a healthy baby, which is difficult given the hardships the Joads face. As a result, she is also representative of the hardships that pregnant women face as child bearers and future mothers.
Rosasharn is abandoned by her husband, Connie, leaving her with an incredible amount of responsibility. Connie’s desertion is also symbolic of the further degradation of her quality of life; the entire Joad family faces even greater suffering when they reach California, which was supposed to be a promised land for them. Rosasharn further feels her isolation and the weight of her responsibility when her brother Al is pushed to marry Aggie Wainwright. She again is reminded of the fact that her husband has left her, and laments having to bear her child alone. Rosasharn’s jealousy and sadness is a reaction to the burden of being a single mother, despite her love for her unborn child.
When Rosasharn gives birth, the baby is stillborn. This symbolizes the end of her dreams for a better life; she has no husband, no home, no money, and now no child. Her baby is wrapped in a blanket and sent down the river during a flood, as a bad storm renders her incapable of burying her child. Rosasharn had placed all of her energy into her unborn child throughout the novel; her selfishness, in which she focused on only herself and her future child, is now without basis. Having lost her baby, Rosasharn is, in a sense, free from the binds of motherhood but must cope with the significant hole left behind from the loss of her child.
Rosasharn as a Giver of Life
Throughout the novel, Rosasharn focuses her efforts on her unborn child, doing what she can to create a life for her child. Her pregnancy had served as a symbol of hope for the family, a promise of new life. However, with her child stillborn, she no longer has a new life to sustain.
During the flood, the family moves to a barn to escape the rising water. They encounter a young son and his starving father in the barn; the father is unable to eat solid food. Rosasharn volunteers to feed the man her breastmilk to save him. Without a child to care for, she focuses her care on a stranger. This act is selfless; Rosasharn puts her grief and needs aside to help someone else.
Rosasharn's saving the starving father brings back her status as a symbol of hope. Even though her child was lost, she becomes a life-giving mother to all of the downtrodden. Her actions represent a move toward community and care for all people. Like Ma, Casy, and Tom, Rosasharn works to help those around her, as the survival of others is just as important as the survival of herself and her family.
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