When a man is broken

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Steinbeck had what was, to me, an especially powerful two passages. Early when the crops are dying Steinbeck notes that the men go out and stare at the crops and the women stare at the men, waiting to see if they will break. It is mentioned several times that the women are terrified of their men breaking but that as long as the men remain strong everything will be okay.

Then, when the men are told that they have to move they sit down and begin to ponder once again. The reader is sure that the men will once more stand up with resolve on their face and that once again they will find a way to persevere and survive. But no, this isn't a happy story. This is a story about the depression and how crappy times were. This is a story about what happens when men break.

Chapters later Muley explains how when a man is separated from his land he is murdered. Land is all a man ever has, and no matter how measly or how infertile or how bad it may be, it is a man's because he has born and bled on it. When a man is robbed of his land he is robbed of his life. This is not a happy tale. This is a tale of broken men and broken land. This is a story of industrialization.



Christopher Dufalla said:

I must agree with you, Carlos, that the Great Depression was by no means a happy time. Steinbeck is most definitely conveying to the audience that times were very far from pleasant, and that just when it seemed as though life couldn't get any worse it did. Yet, I feel that Steinbeck is trying to show the audience the hopes and dreams that people had during this time. It was these hopes and dreams that gave them something to live for. There was the light at the end of the tunnel, but the idea was to take things one step at a time.

Steinbeck uses all of the overwhelmed and broken men to show the audience of the immediate barrage of troubles that hit all at once. No house, no land, no food, and seemingly no future. But Tom Joad contrasts this idea of overwhelming disparity. While the tenants in the early passage asked what will we do now and pondered what would happen with the rest of their lives, they were worrying about everything all at once. Tom tells his mother in chapter 10 that you must take life one day at a time and not let everything overwhelm you, for surely you would lose your sanity if that was the case. Instead of having everyone lost in total peril, Steinbeck tries to show the audience that there is hope to be had and gained. Man must persevere.

April Minerd said:

I saw something interesting taking place in the men's stature during chapter five. During the discussion between the owner men and the tenant man, Steinbeck seems to emphasize the demeanor of the tenant men by repeatedly depicting them in a kneeling position. At the beginning they stood, but the majority of the talk they squat, only rising once out of anger. It also adds, "the boys squatted beside their fathers, because that made them men." All the while, standing by are the observing women. I know the men represent security to those women, and security is in jeopardy for all at this point in the story.

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