Gone Mad

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"I got to know, Tommy.  Did they hurt you so much?  Did they make you mad like that?"

Tom's heavy lips were pulled tight over his teeth.  he looked down at his big flat hands.  "No," he said.  "I ain't like that."..."All the time in stir I kep' away form stuff like that.  I ain' so mad."

She sighed, "Thank God!" under her breath."

(Steinbeck 103). 


I found it interesting that Ma wanted to know if Tommy went mad from being in prison.  He had been home for a bit and they getting things ready to leave to go to California and he could tell something was bothering her.  She told him the story of Purty Boy Floyd.  He went mad and she didn't want her son to go mad. 

Was she afraid that he would hurt her or anyone else in the family?  Orr was she afraid that he would go try to hurt the people who put him in prison for the past 4 years?

With her son being gone for 4 years and then started to move California I kind of feel like Ma might have gone mad if she had not seen Tommy one last time.  Pa told Tommy "Your ma got a bad feelin' she ain't never gonna se you no more.  She got that quiet look like when somebody died.  Almost she don't want to go to California, fear she'll never see you no more" (Steinbeck, 97).  I feel that the madness questions connect to her she felt before he found them.

Also, continuing with the 'madness' about this story.  I think Grampa starts going a little mad when he keeps saying before they're about to leave that he is staying at Uncle John's because that is his land and he feels he shouldn't have to leave.  But I feel like that is how many older people in this time period would be, not wanting to leave the land where they have lived for so long.   






Alyssa Sanow said:

The fact that Ma is worried about Tommy going mad in prison speaks to both how little she knows about prison life and the state prisons during that period. I'm sure they were far removed from the cement palaces in which criminals find themselves today.
Muley, who is not that old, has the same opinion as Grampa on leaving this land. These farmers had such a deep relationship with the land that a single man and a tractor could never try to imitate. More than the memories that Muley talks about, they see the land as rightfully theirs because they have toiled over the land for generations.

Interesting...I interpreted "mad" to mean "angry" and not "insane." It just seems like in the colloquial language they're speaking, it would be more normal to use a word like "crazy" or something to describe insanity. Ma refers to this kind of "mad" as being "mean-mad" that could potentially be directed at somebody but turns out to be something akin to being "mad at the world." I think Ma's talking about the anger that can consume people so much after experiencing something like prison that they can't find joy in anything anymore.
I don't know a lot about prisons at this time, but I'm sure they weren't pleasant (they were prisons, after all) and could potentially be dehumanizing.

Justin Iellimo said:

When a person is in one specific environment over a long period of time, many years for instance, it is hard for that person to function in other conditions. Whether it be Tom's grandpa who lived on the same farm all his life or Tom's experience stuck in jail for four years, it is hard to imagine a different life from the one you have grown so used to. Perhaps Tom's mother meant angry, or perhaps she meant insane, or maybe she meant both in a way. She wanted to make sure that the experience did not change Tom for the worse, because sometimes such experiences will have a lasting, and usually negative, effect on a persons psyche. As for the grandfather, it must be extremely frightening to come that far in life and have to deal with such uncertianty.

Chelsie Bitner said:

I never really looked at the "mad" being angry. I mean I know that's the most common way of using it but I thought mad=insane in Ma's sense. But I agree it doesn't really matter because Ma was just worried about his mind and his emotional state.

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