The two film works presents different themes although the plots appear different in most cases. The works relate to families involved in road trips within the destinations for the families involved that is Hoover's and Joad's family being California. However, despite the similarity in the destination of the two families, they have different business within California with the Hoover's family attending a beauty pageant and Joad's family that takes on a road trip in search of work. "Maybe we can start again, in the new rich land- in California, where the fruit grows. We'll start over" (Steinbeck). Therefore, the pursuits for the two families are extremely different despite the numerous similarities. Nevertheless, the families share several major themes or elements that relate to family. Comparative analysis of the two families and their structures can assist in the establishment of the family relations that exist within the two films, considering that the authors of the two works have similar storyline but different focus points of thematic messages. Family relations appears as a dominant theme within the two films, with each family demonstrating conflicting family relations that are analyzed through rhetorical strategies and probes into cinematic elements.
According to Steinbeck's film The Grapes of Wrath, Ma serves as the clan's head and the main decision maker in the light of his position within the clan system (Steinbeck). Ma is considered the responsible individual on the accounts of the Joad's clan. Similarly, Little Miss Sunshine presents Sheryl Hoover as the individual responsible for Hoover's family. The two characters are distinct in the light that both ends utilize female characters for the maintenance of the family relations although the female characters presenting the family relations are different. Steinbeck utilizes the conventional system for the maintenance of family ties while Jonathan utilizes the contemporary approach to family systems, considering that the conventional family system has failed.
Sheryl takes on the family roles and maintenance of the family ties since the main decision makers have neglected their roles as seen with the junkie father and the unemployed husband (Dayton and Faris). Nevertheless, Sheryl is effective in the maintenance of the required family relations as she brings the devastated family members closer and enables them become a single family unit. Sheryl lingers as a palisade of strength for the family throughout and bears an instrumental role for the success of their journey into the beauty pageant.
The family relations in Little Miss Sunshine appear broken at the initial stages with each of its members having faint perspectives on their lives, and concentrating on their goals rather than family relations. Most members of Hoover's family are more concerned about their life goals, and these have negative influences on the family relations. However, Sheryl is the only member without the unreachable goals, and she serves as the family arbitrator. She tries to reconcile the entire family after previous experiences with the brother who tried committing suicide.
Instead of the father serving as the arbitrator, he tries to validate his long held nine-step success path. Richard has forgotten the family roles due to concentration on his unyielding nine step program (Dayton and Faris). He tries applying the nine step program to all events within the family, and only offers critics instead of reconciling the family differences or assisting the family members get into the right success route. Richard keeps asserting the winning and loses that the family members have underwent throughout their existence and fails to direct them towards the success path. Richard's obsession with his program is the element that facilitates the fading family relations since he loses focus on important family elements. Richard's views on life contribute to the poor family relations since the family considers him unreliable. He only criticizes the family members through the utilization of his nine step program that he fabricated long ago.
Dwayne's focus on the flight-school entry and the resolution to detach from family throughout until he realizes the flight-school entry goal is another element that undermines the family relations. Dwayne detaches from family since the family only offers undeserving criticism especially through the father through the nine-step program. The repelling character of Richard is a crippling element towards the family relations. The homosexual attribute is a repellent character that makes Frank have faint relations with family, and this may be a contributor to his suicidal nature. Frank has poor relations due to his sexuality and the poor relations make him realize that he lives a lonely life. The events make Frank seek suicide as the ultimate actions are family-related and concern family relations. Olive is the other character affected by faint family relations. Olive's obsession with beauty pageant cripples her abilities to relate effectively with the family (Dayton and Faris).
However, the road trip improves the family relations since it helps the characters realize that life has its complex sides. The road trip assists Frank realize that one has more to live for other than the obsession with the sexual partner. The revelation that Dwayne is colorblind makes him realize that breaking family relations on the accounts of life goals cannot make one more successful. In addition, the failure of Richard's nine-step program upon the loss at the beauty pageant offers the realities about life that life relies on other elements other than the nine-step program. It also helps Richard realize that life experiences cannot be based on winning alone. Furthermore, Olive realizes the realities about life and the unpredictability of life events (Dayton and Faris). The road trip mends the family relations within Hoover's although Sheryl is viewed as the facilitator of the transformation, considering that she is the only character who focuses on family relations.
Similarly, Ma Joad plays an identical role within the Joad's family where she serves as the pillar of the family. Ma maintains the family relations through resolution of ills within the family and arbitrates on the family arguments that the other family members sparkle. Her role in the delivery of judgment on family matters progresses with time and serves as the cornerstone as the family progresses to California on the family road trip. Although Ma Joad contributes greatly to the preservation of family relations, Pa Joad offers support and tries to maintain his position within the family. Pa Joad offers the plan about relocating to California and the family embraces the idea (Steinbeck).
However, Pa Joad cannot impart the necessary authority considering that hardships become extreme for him. Pa Joad tries to assume the role he bears on the family, but the muddled thoughts coupled with the frequent quandaries undermine his roles within the family. Pa Joad continues being persistent on his role and demonstrates commitment towards protecting the Joad's clan. While in California, the existing unemployment with an influx of migrant workers makes Pa Joad helpless, and he later turns into contemplation (Steinbeck). Consequently, Pa Joad loses focus on family leadership as the protector. Ma Joad notes the transformation and even informs him although she later offers critics on Pa Joad helplessness. The failures in family relations within Joad's family are quite evident when the family reaches California, and Pa Joad becomes unfocused with intense thoughts (Steinbeck).
The family relations started breaking with the deteriorating capabilities of Pa Joad regarding the leadership roles awarded within the family. His failure to protect the family from flooding prior to the incidence is one of the episodes that demonstrate the falling family relations. This is because Pa Joad starts following directions from Ma Joad without considerations and neglects the roles of being the family leader. Although the challenges that emanate from the road trip experiences strengthen most characters including Tom and Rose of Sharon, the challenges offered considerable pressure to Pa Joad who later dies. The two figures are the cornerstones of the Joad's family tight relations, considering that the deaths influence the overall family relations at the end of the film.
Even though the Joad's family possesses good family relations, they neglect the grieving moments after the demise of Pa Joad and burying at the roadside (Steinbeck). They conduct the event unceremoniously because the family lacks resources for an honorable funeral and have to fight for the survival other than concentrating on Pa Joad's demise. This implies that the burying of the old man at the roadside is a strategy for concentrating on the upcoming life events and the influence of poverty generated through the resettlement of landowners from their land pieces.
Jim Casy is another contributor to the standing family relations within Joad's family, considering that he drives Tom Joad towards spirituality making Tom better despite the previous misgivings and jail time. He unifies the family and motivates them towards good as evident with the conversion of Tom into a social activist and savior among the migrant workers (Steinbeck).
The family relations in the two families are antagonistic considering that Hoover's family transforms from a family with poor family relations into a family with good family relations. The road trip contributes to the improvement in the family relations for Hoover's family. Contrary, the family relations for Joad's family deteriorate throughout the road trip. The muddled thoughts and demise of Pa Joad contribute to further deterioration of family relations. The family relations continue to break as the location of Tom is revealed by Ruthie. However, the family relations are kept intact through the efforts from both Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath and Sheryl in Little Miss Sunshine.