Gender roles

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After Casy dies at the end of chapter 27, it is evident how Ma keeps the family together. When Tom Joad offers to leave as to not cause the family any more trouble Ma suggests that a way to keep him covered so that no one will recognize him while they travel out of harm's way. You can tell the power has shifted from Pa to Ma when Pa says,

"Seems like the man ain't got no say no more. She's jus' a heller. Come time we get settled down, I'm a-gonna smack her" (400).

Ma decides that they are going to hide Tom between two matresses and she also decides what is best for the family. Pa is pretty much just a figure head at this point and does not posses the power in the family that he once had. Ma seems to be assuming more of the 'manlier' roles of the family by looking over them and suggesting what is best.

Do you think Steinbeck meant to portray the women in the novel and the 1930s as more cabable than just doing "women's" work?

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I definitely think that the conditions the characters are put in throughout the novel uproot the traditional gender roles they are used to; it becomes almost impossible for the gender dynamics that previously existed in the Joad family to continue on in the midst of the extraordinary circumstances they must survive. It begins way at the beginning of the novel when Casy offers to salt down the meat before they begin their journey to California and Ma insists it's "women's work." Casy replies that there's too much work to be able to split it up like that. Being in a constant state of flux, the men can't pin their authority on being the sole breadwinners anymore. This definitely undermines their position as the leaders of the family, and the women have to become much less dependent and more self-sufficient. Rose of Sharon has to learn how to survive without Connie, who hasn't been able to make it through the difficulty of keeping a family together in such desperate times. Women can do more than what's traditionally designated as "women's work," but more importantly, in the desperate circumstances they face, women have to take on more than they traditionally had to.

Carlos Peredo said:

I think a big part of it has to do with the lack of any more male roles. Ma takes control of the family because there's nothing for the men to do. They manage the money and they drive the cars, and that's about it. I think that's a large part of why many men are often interested in taking class in radio or mechanics and such. They have been stripped of the only manly thing they new how to do and are desperate for a way to gain their role back.

Sue said:

I would say yes to your question. Steinbeck could have been trying to show us that things were really changing for women. It wasn't just the men fixing things and knowing everything, and doing everything anymore, women were beginning to make a stand.

April Minerd said:

Steinbeck may very well have intended to topple and reset the roles of men and women for just that reason—he provides the reader with an alternative scope to view religion, through Casy's character. The upheaval of traditional mindsets is vital to the books objective; which, I believe is to make readers evaluate the basis of held assumptions and acceptance of certain attitudes.

Joshua WIlks said:

I agree with this completely. I never actually thought about it like this, but since the men were stripped of their role as being the breadwinners they really tried to maintain their "manliness" by overcompensating. Steinbeck does portray strong women in the work.

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Joshua WIlks on Gender roles: I agree with this completely.
April Minerd on Gender roles: Steinbeck may very well have i
Sue on Gender roles: I would say yes to your questi
Carlos Peredo on Gender roles: I think a big part of it has t
Matt Henderson on Gender roles: I definitely think that the co