Resilience In Always Going And Going, By John Steinbeck

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“Ever’body’s askin’ that. What we comin’ to? Seems to me we don’t never come to nothin’. Always on the way. Always goin’ and goin’,” Casy stated in chapter 13 of the Grapes of Wrath. The end of the novel is strange, and incredibly open-ended. It is never revealed what happens to the Joads or who finally makes it in the end. It isn’t even known if the starving man actually survives. The final act and image in the novel is also a bit out there, with Rose of Sharon suckling this grown man to keep him alive. The consecutive question is obviously what does this mean? Why did John Steinbeck choose to end his novel in this manner? Perhaps some of the best writing and classics leaves endings open to interpretation. However, there are clear messages …show more content…
Rose of Sharon, though malnourished herself, gives aid to a dying man in a flooding barn. The world is falling apart around the Joads, yet they remain steadfast, and continue surviving. More than that, they continue helping and assisting, despite being in a grim situation themselves. In ways, Steinbeck’s choice to have a grown man breastfed by an unknown woman who lost her baby is a perfect to wrap up the novel: it demonstrates the harsh reality of life, while simultaneously representing the beauty of human nature, especially maternal nature. He also challenges his reader with this last image, as well as challenging the reader with the ambiguous ending. “Steinbeck wanted his readers “to participate in the actuality.” The final scene induces more than participation. The selfless act of the hitherto self-centered Rose of Sharon, a kind of agape at once disturbing and Transcendentally communal, can have the effect of silently accusing the novel’s readers—especially squeamish or repelled readers—of selfishness and complacency in the face of abject misery,” avers Patrick J. Keane. For one to react with repulsion to the final scene of this novel in many ways automatically reflects upon the reader as lacking compassion and understanding: to be repulsed by an act of such selflessness can be nothing but selfish. Not to mention that in many ways, this is not unnatural, especially in such circumstances. "Steinbeck championed the guy often stuck in the middle, left out, marginalized, powerless," said Shillinglaw. "And how many of us, at one time or another, have not been there? He really seems to understand the pain, the loneliness, the anxiety and alienation of people.” (As reported by Clay Latimer) This is unmistakeably clairvoyant in The Grapes of Wrath, as well as at the ending. However, despite all this pain and alienation, the Joads last on; and

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