The Grapes of Wrath

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The Stillborn Baby Symbol Analysis

The Stillborn Baby Symbol Icon
Rose of Sharon’s stillborn baby is a literal representation of the inhumane conditions that the migrant laborers must endure. The failed pregnancy symbolizes the impossibility of cultivating life in the toxic environment of hostility, prejudice, and extortion that the Okies face day in and day out in California. Uncle John sends the baby’s remains down the floodwaters, he hopes that all who see the small corpse will recognize it as a symbol of the oppression and abjection that prevent the migrant workers from living happily.

The Stillborn Baby Quotes in The Grapes of Wrath

The The Grapes of Wrath quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Stillborn Baby. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Grapes of Wrath published in 2002.
Chapter 30 Quotes

“Go down an' tell 'em. Go down in the street an' rot an' tell 'em that way. That's the way you can talk. Don' even know if you was a boy or a girl. Ain't gonna find out. Go on down now, an' lay in the street. Maybe they'll know then.”

Related Characters: Uncle John (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Stillborn Baby
Page Number: 448
Explanation and Analysis:

Rosasharn's baby has been born stillborn, the ultimate sign of how the conditions in which the Joads find themselves afford so little possibility for life. Here, Uncle John puts the dead infant into a box and sends it down the current. He knows that, as things stand, the baby's death will remain unknown and unacknowledged by the world outside the desperate migrant camps. By sending it down into town, he hopes that the body will bear witness to the desperation of these workers, and their despair in the face of apathy and inhumanity on the part of other people. If others finally "know," perhaps, Uncle John will have done his part in sharing these people's experiences with the world, and in helping to change their reality, even if only slightly and slowly.


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