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Rose of Sharon

The Allusion

How does Steinbeck connect Rose of Sharon to Grapes of Wrath?

Rose of Sharon is mentioned only one time in the Bible, and it is within the Song Of Solomon, otherwise known as the Song of Songs. Rose is "a lily of the valleys", a plain girl amongst the bigger things is life, much like Steinbeck's character. Not only does the allusion pertain to Rose of Sharon, but its influence can also be seen throughout The Grapes of Wrath in it's passages and plot line. 
        "Ruthie felt the might, the responsibility, and the dignity of her developing breasts" (Steinbeck 129).This quote does not pertain directy to the character Rose of Sharon but it does correspond to the Song of Solomon. Ruthie is the youngest of the Joad woman, bold-headed and highly competetive. The woman says "We have a little sister, and she has no breasts" (8:8), paralleling the description of her pride in her changing body. It seems that Steinbeck has directly based much of the course of the family's journey on the Song of Solomon; it's influences are constantly surfacing throughout the novel.
        The Song is adorned with descriptive passages of the natural components of spring imagery, and the male speaker often alludes to fruit, animals and other objects when speaking about his love. "Oh, may you breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, and your kisses like the best wine" (7:8). Steinbeck does not use this form of imagery in describing his characters so much as the narration, most commonly, of the background chapters not concerned with plot. Chapter 25, one such background section, opens with: "The spring is beautiful in California. Valleys in which the fruit blossoms are fragrant pink and white waters in a shallow sea. The first tendrils of the grapes, swelling from the old gnarled vines, cascade down to cover the trunks. The full green hills are as round and soft as breasts" (Steinbeck473 ). An image of life and beauty overtaking the dull trees set against a rolling hillside is painted for the reader through Steinbeck's words, or, rather, his rendition of them. Concentrating only on literary aspects, this passage can be inferred as a metaphor for Rose of Sharon's slow transformation towards motherhood. The glow and beauty she has come to possess through the child within her has covered up the plainness that previously existed there. "The centers of the blossoms swell and grow and color: cherries and apples, peaches and pears, figs which close the flower in the fruit" (Steinbeck 473). This phrase can be seen as relating to Rose's growth, physically, as the child matures and her stomach expands. A larger connection can be made, however, when looking at the Song of Solomon. The first section from Chapter 25 creates the same image and is extremely similar to a section in the biblical tale, and seems as though Steinbeck simply re-worded it in his novel. "The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance" (2:12). Not only do the passages in the Song of Solomon resemble those in Steinbeck's novel, but the characters within the two and their experiences mirror eachother.
      There are many parallels between Rose of Sharon in Grapes of Wrath and the woman in the Song of Solomon. Both lose their lovers -- Rose losing Connie and the woman who cannot find her lover. "Connie shouldn' of left me...He shouldn' of went away" (Steinbeck 366). In the Song of Songs, the woman has lost her lover, "I sought him, but found him not. I called him but he gave no answer" (3:1-2). The only difference is that the male lover does return, with the news that "Solomon had a vineyard at Ba'alha'mon; he let out the vineyard to keepers; each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver" (8:11). If Steinbeck were to continue with his story, Connie would surely return for Rose and tell her that he has found work where a large salary was promised and they could search for their future together.
      When Rose of Sharon has her epiphany (explained in the Theme section), the readers see a scene similar to Song of Songs. "Rose of Sharon went down on her knees and crawled deep into the brush" (Steinbeck 579). Rose of Sharon is fufliling her role of following in the steps of women as she nears her labor. She reminds us that she is beautiful, for this is the same scene in Song of Solomon when the woman refers to herself "as a lily among brambles" (2:2). Steinbeck inserts yet another biblical reference in Rose of Sharon's plight when her child is delivered. Although her baby is stillborn, Uncle John clearly defines this baby's purpose when he pushed the baby in its box down the flood's current and shouts, " Go on an' tell 'em. Go down in the streer an' rot an' tell 'em that way...Maybe they'll know then" (Steinbeck 609). The "Okies" have suffered loss, death, poverty, and rejection. Uncle John hopes that  the dead baby will tell the rest of the people of their suffering and will deliver them from their bondage. This is the exact image seen in Exodus with the birth of Moses. Rose has birthed the "deliverer" for her people and fufills a greater purpose in her life, later augmented by her behavoir in the barn.

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Product of West Morris Central High School 2004: Meaghan C. Sara M. Katie P.