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In creating the character of Rose of Sharon, Steinbeck
relies heavily on stereotypes. We read that pregnancy has transformed
the girl from a “hoyden”—a high-spirited and saucy girl—into a secretive and
mysterious woman. Time and again, Steinbeck alludes to the girl’s
silent self-containment and her impenetrable smile. This portrayal
of pregnancy may initially seem to bespeak a romanticism out of
keeping with Steinbeck’s characteristic realism. However, Steinbeck
uses such seemingly trite details to prepare Rose of Sharon for the
dramatic role she plays at the end of the novel. When she meets the
starving man in the barn, she becomes saintly, otherworldly. Her capacity
to sustain life, paired with her suffering and grief for her dead
child, liken her to the Virgin Mother and suggest that there is hope
to be found even in the bleakest of circumstances.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Grapes of Wrath!