This is the most disturbing image in the novel and since it is the last, readers will remember this for eternity. To elaborate, Rose of Sharon feeds the man with the breast milk meant for her dead child because the man is too weak to digest solid food. Having witnessed the birth of her stillborn child, she nourishes an old man back to life, who would have died had it not been for Rose of Sharon’s extraordinary efforts. This is just an extremely overpowering use of imagery by Steinbeck. This image really shows how hopeful people are and gives a sense of relief that there is a chance that things will get better for the Joad family and all the other migrants as well.
This image also sheds light on Rose of Sharon’s character; she is a very loving and tender hearted person. The reason she feeds this man may have been because Ma had asked her to do so but she could have easily said no but she did not say no; she did the unimaginable. This shows her courage and love towards humanity.
Another very different approach that Steinbeck took to add power to this novel was to write these journal-like historical entries. These are scattered throughout the novel. Since this novel is based on historical events, these journal-like historical entries give general background information about the events that took place. These events will usually occur in the following chapters as well and they usually involve the Joad family.
In chapter seven Steinbeck describes the event where all the migrant families are buying cars for their journey to California. We understand that the car salesmen are trying to cheat the migrants into buying junk vehicles:
Watch the woman’s face. If the woman likes it we can screw the old man. Start ’em on that Cad’. Then you can work ’em down to that ’26 Buick. ‘F you start on the Buick, they’ll go for a Ford. Roll up your sleeves an’ get to work. This ain’t gonna last forever. Show ’em that Nash while I get the slow leak pumped up on that ’25 Dodge. I’ll give you a Hymie when I’m ready.
We see in this chapter that the used-car salesman are trying to sell the worst used cars because they start out by showing the Cadillac and work their way down to a Dodge. They also have devised many ways of cheating the families who are purchasing a car for the long journey to California. The car dealerships do things such as fill the car engines with sawdust to quiet down the noisy transmissions as the narrator says, “Sounds like bustin’ bottles. Squirt in a couple quarts of sawdust. Put some in the gears, too” (65). They also replace good batteries with bad ones right before the customer gets the car.
Later in the next chapter the novel’s main characters go through the same process of buying a car for their journey. They are obviously cheated as well but Tom’s younger brother Al, who knows a bit about cars, helped him pick out a car. These chapters with background information are really important because it helps to understand the situation the migrants are in, which in turn, adds power to the theme because ultimately the reader will likely remember that forever after they finish reading the novel. As opposed to, if it was mentioned normally the reader would not really think that these events are important and it just would not have the same kind of intensity.