A Grown Woman

The air, tainted with the dissipation of the dust and lacking the gentle accommodation of the pleasant flavor of atmosphere desired by the migrants, stood in defiance against the optimism dwelling in the hearts of the Joads, whose survival as a unit owed itself to the collaboration of the strugglers as a whole in order to achieve the common goal: existence. Only together could the group exist, and they had created a type of understanding bliss, where old traditions had been lost and the experience had renewed the souls of the experienced. And they existed in this understanding bliss, while the tainted air stood in defiance, while the sun raged, while the discomforted dust became comprehended, while the lack of food became comprehended, while the lack of drink became comprehended, while the lack of options became comprehended, while the mere lack of comprehension evolved into forged optimism. With the emergence of the false hope came a naïve approach to the obstacles of life, and the remaining Joads had fallen beyond the boundaries of reality as the thought of success had engulfed them all like a predator engulfs its prey.
The tides had shifted to favor the improbable, to the extent that upon the pedestal of the family stood a woman, to where the youthful bride had become a mother, and to where the man who claimed of an inflexible destiny had been destined to change the world. The members of the group, Rose of Sharon, Ma Joad, Pa Joad, Ruthie, and Winfield, had survived thus far with the leadership of Ma Joad, who, after Pa’s failure to assemble the family in a common cause, assumed the role of the head of the family. Rose of Sharon had transformed into a mother who, after the death of her newborn child, came to possess the common trait of all mothers which makes them understanding of the various situations they face in fulfilling their maternal roles. Tom Joad, forced to leave after the exposure of his murderous actions, had departed from his earlier stance towards the future, where he claimed it was a waste to ponder upon the future and that man should take life one present moment at a time. Inspired by the words of Jim Casy, Tom realized that, even though man can not change his future, he can work to make the future better.
The sun raged further. The dust discolored the air. The water became less accessible and more valuable with every step, with every cough, with every breath. The group stood outside the abandoned barn. Winfield sat perched on his feet, moving his stick about the ground, constructing designs of different types of characters. Pa stood with his back to the barn, scanning the horizon for any sign of further nourishment for the group. Ma approached her husband slowly, as if she had been ashamed of her leadership. Pa turned to look at her, with a look of desperation.
“What you reckon we do next? We ain’t got nothin’ to eat or drink. We ain’t got no jobs and we ain’t gonna’ get money from the skies. We jus’ got this barn as shelter, but we gotta’ move on cuz’ we’re gonna’ need to sooner or later. What do ya’ reckon we do next?” Pa looked back to the horizon with frustration, feeling he had wronged his family. Ma looked to the sky where a flock of birds had flown by. She looked back at her children and the starving boy, and she turned to face Pa.
“We jus’ gotta’ stick together. This family’s fallen apart, and all we got is each other, now. ‘F we stick together, we’ll be all right. We’re a-goin’ to be all right.” She looked down and Pa turned to her. “Jus’…” She looked up at him with tears in her eyes, and spoke, “Jus’ don’t leave on us. The family’s already fallen apart. Don’t you go on without us, now. We need ya’ more’n you ‘magine. Let’s stick together, now.”
Pa looked down at her with a renewed sense of management. He embraced her as tears fell from the corners of his eyes. Gazing into the distance, he said, “I ain’t a-gon’ leave. Don’t worry. You’re all I got now. I ain’t a-gon’ leave.”
From inside the barn appeared Rose of Sharon and the man, who felt embarrassed for the action he had received. She felt relieved of her work, as if she had fulfilled her task as a mother. The crowd gathered around them.
“What’re we gon’ do now, Ma?” asked Winfield.
“We’re gon’ have to leave as soon as possible. We’ve gotta’ reach some water and food. There’s gotta’ be a place somewhere here. We jus’ have to find it.” Her glance fell upon Rose of Sharon. “How are you feelin’? Are you all right?” Rose of Sharon smiled and nodded her head.
“I’m hungry. I need somethin’ to eat, Ma.” said Ruthie.
“We all do, Ruthie.” said Rose of Sharon. “Let’s find somethin’ to eat first. Then we can talk ‘bout eatin’. We jus’ gotta’ work together, meanwhile.”
“She’s right.” said Ma. “Right now we’ve jus’ gotta’ stick together. We’re all one piece, an’ if we don’ stick together, we’re gon’ break apart. The best thing for us to do is help each other.”
“Let’s move on, then.” said Pa.
“You folks go ahead. We’re jus’ gon’ hol’ ya’ll back. Me n’ my son’ll stay right her.” said the man.
“No, you’re comin’ with us. Ain’t no way we’re gon’ let you stay.” Ma explained. “We’re all one piece. We ain’t gon’ let you stay.”
“No, it’s all right, it really is. You folks go on.”
Ma looked at him with amazement. “You ain’t gon’ survive without us. You can fight it all you want, but that’s the truth. I ain’t gon’ let you stay.”
An expression of defeat crossed his face. The group started walking to the next destination. After about a mile, the man stopped.
“I ain’t a-gon’ any further. I can’t. Ya’ll go ahead.”
“You’ve gotta’ come with us. You ain’t got nothin’ you can eat or drink. What you gon’ do to survive?” Ma expressed a look of worry, as if the man was a member of her own family. Indeed, she had felt that way. All people who struggled were her people, and they were one and the same. To Ma, people were not related by blood as much as they were by their struggle.
“No. I’m a-gon’ stay right here with my son. You folks can go on. We thank ya’ for ur help. We really appreciate it, we really do. Ya’ll are good folks. We need more folks like you in this country. We appreciate all your help, but we can’t go no further. We’ll stay right here. If I have to die here, then so be it. We thank ya’ll again.” He held his son close and, despite Ma’s further efforts to convince the man, he refused to go along.
The family moved along and arrived at an abandoned house, where they decided they would rest for the night. It was a small, white house with delicate brown roofs. A canopy rose over the entrance to the house, which was located on the left side of the façade. As the family entered, the door creaked, as if it desired seclusion rather than inclusion. Upon entrance, there was a narrow hallway which led to a brown wooden staircase, and to the right of the staircase was a small kitchen. To the left of the staircase was a small room with a radio and an old couch. Pa walked to the radio and turned the switch, and an optimistic tune could be heard. The vocalist sang of a struggle she encountered and overcame in order to achieve success. Winfield fell into a slumber on the left side of the couch, with his head propped up against the armrest. Pa walked to the couch and sat carefully, so as not to wake Winfield. He leaned his head back and a smile appeared on his face. “This is nice,” he said as the sound of the tune reverberated through the room. “This is how it ought to be. This is nice.”
Upstairs, Ma and Rose of Sharon sat in a room which seemed as if it belonged to the parents of the family that dwelled there before. They were sitting on the mattress, which had been exhausted over the years from over-usage. “Ma,” Rose of Sharon began. “I feel renewed. When I was able to feed that man, it made me feel kinda’ happy inside.” She was awed at the wonder she found. “It was the best feelin’ I ever did have.”
“That’s a good thing, Rosashar’n. You became a real mother then. That’s a good feelin’.”
“When I saw that baby, Ma, I felt guilty. I felt real guilty inside, like I’d been responsible for it. But you know what I learned? Sometimes, things happen that you ain’t gonna’ like. But you jus’ gotta’ get along with it cuz’ nothin’ happens except that God wants it to happen. That baby done changed my life. I feel renewed.” Tears fell from her eyes as she spoke and Ma listened with maternal love, the love that can not be found except in a mother’s eyes. Rose of Sharon expressed and Ma listened. “I feel happy.” She looked up at Ma. “Even though Connie’s gone and I don’t got a baby no more, I feel real happy, like these things worked for the better. And that’s what I learned, too. That whatever happens, it’s only for the better. God knows what’s best for us. We don’t know nothin’ if u really think about it.”
“I’m real proud of u, Rosashar’n. You really have changed into a mother. I’m sure you’ll be a good mother.” Rose of Sharon’s head rested on Ma’s lap, and Ma ran her fingers through Rose of Sharon’s hair. “Get some sleep now, Rosashar’n. We gotta’ move quick and find somethin’ to feed on.” Ma rose from the bed and walked out of the room. Rose of Sharon stretched her legs out on the mattress and she rested her head on the pillow.
“Rose of Sharon?” She looked in the direction of the voice calling her. Ruthie was standing in the doorway, in a sympathetic stance much different from her usual posture.
“Yeah, Ruthie?” Rose of Sharon brought her feet back to the floor. Ruthie walked toward the bed and sat next to Rose of Sharon.
“I’m sorry about your baby.” Ruthie said with compassion in her tone. “And I’m sorry about Connie, too.”
“Ruthie, when you get older, you’ll find that sometimes life don’t turn out the way u want it to, but there ain’t nothin’ you can do ‘bout it. You’ll see when you’re older, Ruthie. You’ll see.”
Ruthie thought for a while about the words of her sister. “Don’t it hurt? Knowin’ that your husband’s gone and your baby ain’t alive. Don’t it hurt, though?”
Rose of Sharon smiled. “Sometimes you gotta’ hurt in order to improve. When somethin’ happens that you don’t like, jus’ live on with it, cuz’ it’s for the better. ‘F you complain ‘bout your life, that’s a sign that there ain’t no understandin’ in your heart. It means there ain’t no understandin’ of your position and God’s position. What happens is cuz’ of him, and he knows what’s best for us.”
Ruthie sat and pondered upon her sister’s wise words again, and she understood Rose of Sharon’s words. “I was scar’d for you. I was scar’d you was gonna’ leave us to find Connie or somethin’. You ain’t gonna’ leave, are you?”
“No, I ain’t gonna’ leave. I learned a lot of things on this journey, Ruthie. One of them things is that you gotta’ stick with your family in times of stress. There ain’t a better way to survive or to die than with your family, cuz’ they’re the ones that really love you.” Rose of Sharon looked out the window into the dark sky. She smiled and said, “You know, Ruthie. Life is beautiful. You’ve gotta’ love life, cuz’ it’s beautiful. Maybe there are some people that don’t like it when there’s others that are lovin’ life. That’s why they go on and mess everything up. They’re the darkness in the world. And all the beautiful things is the light. Family, flowers, the sky, the ground, the trees, the birds, the monkeys, love, all o’ them things is beautiful. When you learn to love the beautiful things in life, you got this light in your heart. And there ain’t no darkness thas’ gonna’ get in your heart, cuz’ the light is shinin’ so bright. And that light is the thing that can’t no one take from ya’.”
Ruthie climbed onto the bed and fell asleep next to Rose of Sharon, who lay staring at the ceiling, surprised upon her words. She realized at that point the maturity which she had been encountering. She had transformed into a true mother. Before falling into a deep, dreamless sleep, tears fell from her eyes, and she smiled at the ceiling.

A Grown Woman


Joined January 2008

  • Artist

Artist's Description

This is an additional chapter to the Grapes of Wrath that I decided to write for a project for my English Class.

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