Study Guide

The Grapes of Wrath Gender

By John Steinbeck


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The narrator of The Grapes of Wrath paints vivid and general portraits of life in Dust Bowl America, and clearly delineates the roles of men and women. The men consider the losses, while the women look on silently, reading their husband's expressions. Men make decisions, and women tend to the house chores. Men slaughter and hunt, while women prepare and cook.

However, despite these very specific gender roles, we see Ma Joad often assume a "man's" duties, and we see Tom Joad display more traditionally feminine sentiments. The novel complicates its own understanding of women and men in 1930s America.

Questions About Gender

  1. What role do men play in The Grapes of Wrath?
  2. What role do women play in The Grapes of Wrath?
  3. What kinds of relationships do men and women have with one another in this novel?
  4. How does our narrator feel about gender roles?

Chew on This

The roles that men and women play are clearly delineated.

At times, men must act like women, and women like men in The Grapes of Wrath.