the great mother in grapes of wrath
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The Great Mother in Grapes of Wrath. Henderson.

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Presentation Transcript
the final scene

“For minute Rose of Sharon sat still in the whispering barn. Then she hoisted her tired body up and drew the comfort around her…Her hand moved behind his head and supported it. Her fingers moved gently in his hair. She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously.”

  • Evocative of both The Pieta and Madonna and Child imagery
  • Goes way deeper – and way older – than, as C.S. Lewis might say, “mere Christianity”
The final scene
the incident of the earth mother feeding by the breast is older than literature
“The incident of the Earth Mother feeding by the breast is older than literature.”

~ John Steinbeck

earth goddess great mother

Pagan cultures identify with the earth

  • “Feminine principle focuses on seasonal cycles of birth, growth, death, and renewal
  • The fecundity and compassion of the earth goddess manifest her as a maternal figure
  • Physical & spiritual sustenance
Earth Goddess/ Great Mother
minoan snake goddess

Found in the ruins of ancient Minoan civilization on Crete, ca. 1600 B.C.E.

  • Domestic goddess
  • Snake associated with renewal (sheds its skin)
  • Possible progenitor of Astarte, Ariadne, Aphrodite
Minoan Snake Goddess
echoes elsewhere

Feminine/divine triads can be found in nearly every culture and mythology

  • Hinduism: the Triumurti is comprised of Brahma (creator); Vishnu (preserver); Shiva (destroyer)
Echoes elsewhere
application to angry grapes

In The Grapes of Wrath, the Great Mother manifests herself both in the positive and negative aspects of nature:

    • Soft sunlight/scourging drought
    • Gentle rain/destructive flood
    • Food and shelter/famine and deprivation
Application to Angry Grapes
womb to tomb

“In her transformative character, the Great Mother is a force for change in the individual and society; this change may involve growth or destruction, rebirth or death, for both are within her domain.”

i am the resurrection and the life

The nourishing breast is the most elementary symbol of the Great Mother’s life-giving quality.

  • “On the most basic level, the Great Mother as the giver of life or death appears as the personification of the Earth itself.”
  • The giving of the breast as act of communion
“I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
more motifs to consider

Cyclical = primitive, matriarchal life

  • Linear = modern, patriarchal life
  • Religious ecstasy is akin to sexuality
  • The stick – masculinity, utility, aggression
  • The river = femininity, flowing, sustaining, continuity, perpetuity
  • The FINAL SCENE embodies the Bible’s 3 main symbols of PURIFIED ORDER:
    • Old Testament deluge
    • New Testament stable
    • Continuing ritual of communion
More motifs to consider