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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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Grapes of Wrath!