Even so deeply ingrained and so useful for

Even though Steinbeck
placed the time of the story in the past, but it is possible to detect today’s
events in the novel. As Luche Li points out:” Through his work of fiction and
nonfiction, Steinbeck has offered us a broad range of views with which we can
reflect on American ethics.” (63)

World War I and II left
people with severe physical and psychological effects. This pushed them into seeking
calmness more and more. According to Danielle Woods:” Americans built a defense
mechanism against the fear of the Cold War and its predicted effects, they
attempted to seek calmness through building and maintaining stable family. Once
World War II ended, American men and women were eager to marry. (3)”. Both men
and women played their traditional social roles. There had been a period when
there were growing needs of economic markets, thus women were significant part
of the labor market. But after world wars there had been significant modifications
on women’s role in her family and society. Women were supposed to be obedient daughters,
wives and devoted mothers. As Estelle B. Freedman mentions: “The ideology of
“true womanhood” was so deeply ingrained and so useful for preserving social
stability in a time of flux that those few women who explicitly rejected its
inequalities could find little support for their views.” (25)

So, women’s aim was
mainly finding the right man to marry and develop into a birth giving machine. Women
developed a belief that having many children and thus building a large family
was a virtue and a source of comfort. As Luce Irigaray in her article “The
bodily encounter with the mother” remarks: “The maternal function underpins the
social order and the order of desire, but it is always kept in a dimension of
need. Where desire is concerned, especially in its religious dimension, the
role of maternal–feminine power is often nullified in the satisfying of
individual and collective needs. Desire for her, her desire, that is what is
forbidden by the law of the father, of all fathers: fathers of families,
fathers of nations, religious fathers, professor–fathers, doctor–fathers,
lover– fathers, etc”. (414)

After wars, the society encouraged
having more children who promise a brighter future. So, women’s most
significant role is to give birth and be dependent upon their husbands. Women
who tried to seek independence and work, were seen unsuitable as wives and
mothers.

As a response to this
condition, Women’s movements in 1960s that were known as Second-wave feminism
in the United States emerged. This time was very sensitive and determinant in
the implementation of the feminist main principles that its roots lied in the
main attitudes in patriarchal society in the past. According to The Cambridge
History of Literary Criticism:

 “On the political front, the sixties were a
radical period. Many women were active in socialist movements but found that
their claims were openly disregarded and that they were washing the dishes
while their male colleagues were discussing radical politics. Being pressurised
to return to a type of femininity, which serviced male interests, after they
had held responsible positions during the war and feeling disappointed by leftist
politics, women felt that they had to join forces. As an attempt to counteract
age-old strategies of silencing female interests, women’s groups began to
spring up in the sixties and seventies.”(197

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