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Sassy, Fruit-Inspecting Gila Monsters March 12, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in The Grapes of Wrath.
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At the half-way mark for The Grapes of Wrath, I have found a few other points that click or make me go, huh?

Ma Joad is such a powerful character in this story. She keeps everyone going forward, but more than that, she keeps them decent. I don’t me clothed and tucked in, but acting charitable even when they have so little to give. At one point the family was considering breaking into two groups and she would have none of it. They don’t really have a final destination in mind, cell phones were non-existent, message services were really for the big cities; all that means they could very easily loose touch with one another if they were to part ways. Now Pa Tom Joad doesn’t like a woman saying what the family will and won’t do. It ain’t natural. Hmm…..So Ma Joad gets out a nice piece of metal, something I think of as an equalizer. Pa Joad gives up, calling her ‘sassy’. Through that entire exchange, I am eagerly waiting to finally hear what Ma Joad’s first name is. Do we ever learn it? Did I miss it? Why doesn’t she have a first name in the story?

Next up, the Gila Monster. I’m a desert rat and have a secret yearning to see one of these beauties just once in the wild. The preacher goes on about the Gila Monster, using it in a comparison of gripping and not letting go and eventually having to pry the jaws apart. I think it is a cool thing to include this reptile in the story, but I had to scratch my head a little. Gila Monsters are deep desert beasties. The Joads are from Oklahoma, outside the stomping ground of the Gila. I believe the preacher had not been west, so I have to chalk this Gila story up to author’s privilege.

As the family crosses into California from the desert of Arizona, they stop in Needles. I was born a short drive from Needles in Bullhead, AZ. My maternal grandfather lived in Needles, CA for years. His job was a vehicle inspector at one of the fruit and plant inspection points, just like the one described in the book (which was situated in Daggett, CA). Shortly after I was born, my grandfather found a stray dog in a parking lot and gave him to my mom, and he was named Daggett. Too funny. I have to wonder if my paternal migrant worker grandparents happened to pass through my maternal grandfather’s checkpoint on their way to California.