Pa Joad is a good, thoughtful man, and he plans the family’s trip to California with great care and consideration. The hardships faced by the Joads prove too great for him, however, and although he works hard to maintain his role as head of the family, he complains of muddled thoughts and finds himself in frequent quandaries. Until the very end, Pa exhibits a commitment to protecting his family. His determination to erect a dam is a moving testament to his love and singleness of purpose. When his efforts begin to fall short, however, Pa despairs. In California, his inability to find work forces him to retreat helplessly into his own thoughts. As a result, he becomes less and less effective in his role as family leader, and Ma points this out directly. Upon leaving the Weedpatch camp, she boldly criticizes him for losing sight of his responsibility to support the family. By the end of the novel, further diminished by the failed attempt to prevent the family’s shelter from flooding, he follows Ma as blindly and helplessly as a child. Pa’s gradual breakdown serves as a sharp reminder that hardship does not always “build character.” Though the challenges of the Joads’ journey serve to strengthen Ma, Tom, and even Rose of Sharon, they weaken and eventually paralyze Pa.
More characters from The Grapes of Wrath
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