A Women's Strength in a Broken Family.
In John Steinbeck's, The Grapes of Wrath, he writes of the direct effect on the traditional American family, where the father was the head of the household. Thousands of families were forced to give up much of what they owned, in hopes of holding onto a small portion of their livelihood. As families made due with less, fathers slowly lost status within the structure of the family. A father without a job often lost self-esteem, and self-respect. Without the spiritual and financial support of the father, many families split apart during the Great Depression. As the dominance of the father figure slowly faded during the Depression, families began to depend more on the mother to support the family, morally and spiritually. Some mothers' ability to economize was the difference between keeping food on the table, and allowing the family to starve. Women ran the households in some cases; they kept the family together and organized. One of the main characters, Ma Joad delineates perfectly the expansion of the roles of women in the American family. In this essay I will track the changing role of women, and the importance Ma Joad, Rose of Sharon, and Mrs. Wilson play in the changing lives of the Joad family. .
At the beginning of the book, the dominant male in the family, Pa Joad represented the financial supporter, decision-making head of the family. Pa Joad had a sense of responsibility for the well being of his family. His family mirrored the strength of Pa; his strength was their strength.
"And the women came out of the houses to stand beside their men - to feel whether this time the men would break. The women studied the men's faces secretly, for the corn could go, so long as something else remained.After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant. Then the women knew that they were safe and that there was no break.