At the onset of The Grapes of Wrath we see the Joad family struggling just to keep their immediate family together. They are focused on just themselves. The Joad family s journey to California results in the breakup of their family. The breakup of their immediate family, and the embrace of the migrant family lead to a major change in the Joad’s point of view. These changes are represented through the loss of their land, Ma Joad s maturity as a character, and Tom Joad’s turn around and understanding.
The very first cause of the breakup of the individual family was with the loss of their land. The Joad family had lived there for many generations and had very strong ties to the land. Losing their land was equivalent to losing their family history. This is expressed by She puts them in her pocket, closes the box, stands and with resignation tosses the box on the fire . It is very evident that ma is reluctant to let her past go. On their journey they lose their first family member, Grandpa Joad. This shows that there is a strong connection between a man and his home. Grandpa s great longing for his homeland ultimately resulted in his death.
Ma Joad grows throughout the course of the novel and becomes the anchor for the family. Her main concern at the beginning of the novel is her family. She wants to keep the unit together and works diligently to achieve this goal. However, one by one, family members leave the group for various reasons leading to the slow disintegration of the Joad clan. The first to go is Noah, then Grandpa and Grandma die, Connie walks off and leaves Rose of Sharon, young Tom leaves because he has gotten into trouble again, and Al becomes engaged and decides to go with his fianc e s family. When she tells Pa Man, he lives in a jerk baby born an a man dies, an that s a jerk gets a farm an loses his farm, an that s a jerk. Ma is realizing that there is a circle of life, that the death of one may bring life to another, as shown in the end when Rose of Sharon feeds her breast milk for her dead baby to a dying man. Ma deals with each loss and best and she can. As the story progresses Ma Joad becomes more and more concerned with the people outside the family unit. She feels the need to share whatever meager food and belongings her family has with other families enduring hardships. She saw the needs of her own family at the beginning of the story and by the end of the novel, she sees the needs of her fellow man.
The shift from individual thinking to wide spread thinking is most directly seen in the actions of Tom Joad. In the beginning of the novel Tom is mainly concerned for his own welfare. He wants to make up for all the things that he missed while in prison. He appears to be self-centered. When Tom comes in contact with Casey he changes his views drastically. He becomes concerned about the soul of man, and the fellowship of mankind, and focuses less on himself. Tom begins to realize that in order for the migrant workers to survive and succeed they must unite. He knows that if they band together as one, they can demand that their God given rights under the constitution be honored. They begin to gain respect from their fellow man. Tom realizes that man is no good alone and that every man s soul is just a piece of a larger one.
Through many struggles and multiple losses, the Joad family endured many nearly impossible situations. In the beginning we had a family that was out to get rich for themselves, and in the end we have a family trying to survive. Their dreams were crushed and the family was torn apart. The Joad family lost their farm and was forced into a society that was very unfamiliar. They had to adapt from being one individual family to a world family of many other people in their situation. In the end when the Joad family disintegrates, they actually merge into a larger, more universal family the family of man.