Of Wrath By John SteinbeckIt is said that everything is done for a purpose, and if that purpose is notobvious, it could be evident within oneself. In The Grapes of Wrath, by JohnSteinbeck, the story not only entails the tale of the tragically poor, but alsoan uplifting sense of discovery. The story tells not only of the physicaljourney to California, but of the characters’ spiritual travels as well. Byexamining the lives of Jim Casy, Tom Joad, and Ma Joad, one will see theenlightening changes that mark their lives through the depression. Jim Casy’sjourney is an astounding one.
He begins his life as a preacher, yet decides oneday that his work is invalid; sinful, in some way. He says to Tom, “‘I usedta get the people jumpin’ an’ talkin’ in tongues, an’ glory-shoutin’ till theyjust fell down an’ passed out. . . An’ then – you know what I’d do? I’d take oneof them girls out in the grass, an’ I’d lay with her. Done it ever’ time.
ThenI’d feel bad, an’ I’d pray an’ pray, but it didn’t do no good. Come the nex’time, them an’ me was full of the sperit, I’d do it again. I figgered there justwasn’t no hope for me, an’ I was a damned ol’ hypocrite. But I didn’t mean tobe.'” (Page 28) He decides that he is not noble enough to continue hiswork, and grows distempered when others ask him to preach the word of God. Hespends his time with the Joad family gratefully, but little else.
He does noreal work to help them out; he spends most of his time thinking to himself.Although Casy repeatedly confesses his guilt for doing nothing for the family,he makes no real efforts to contribute, and remains on the sidelines. However,when Tom trips a policeman that was threatening to take everyone to the station,Casy takes the blame. “Casy turned to Al. ‘Get out,’ he said. ‘Go on, getout – to the tent.
You don’t know nothin’.’ ‘Yeah? How ’bout you?’ Casy grinnedat him. ‘Somebody got to take the blame. I got no kids. They’ll jus’ put me injail, an’ I ain’t doin’ nothin’ but set aroun’.’ Al said, ‘Ain’t no reason for-‘ Casy said softly, ‘If you mess in this your whole fambly, all your folks,gonna get in trouble.
I don’ care about you. But your ma and your pa, they’llget in trouble. Maybe they’ll send Tom back to McAlester.'” (Page 342) Casyfurther strengthens his morals by becoming a rebel against the authorities. Heleads a strike against a pay decrease out of a peach farm, and when men come todo him in, he doesn’t step away, but simply pleads his case. “‘Listen,’ hesaid. ‘You fellas don’ know what you’re doin’.
You’re helpin’ to starve kids.”Shut up, you red son-of-a-bitch.’ A short heavy man stepped into the light. Hecarried a new white pick handle. Casy went on, ‘You don’ know what you’re a-doin’.'”(page495) Even as he sees the man means to do him harm, he stands his ground.
He goesfrom a man who felt he had no role to play in life to a martyr for the poor andhungry. His journey is one of courage and light. Tom is a rough edged man at thebeginning of the novel. He has killed a man, and yet, seems to feel no remorse.His reasoning behind the slaying is also less than dignified.
“‘I been inMcAlester them four years.’ ‘Ain’t wanting to talk about it, huh?’ (Casy asked)’I won’t ask you no questions, if you done something bad -‘ ‘I’d do what I done- again,’ said Joad. ‘I killed a guy in a fight. We was drunk at a dance.
He gota knife in me, an’ I killed him with a shovel that was layin’ there. Knocked hishead plumb to squash.’ Casy’s eyebrows resumed their normal level. ‘You ain’tashamed of nothin’ then?’ ‘No,’ said Joad. ‘I ain’t. I got seven years, accountof he had a knife in me. Hot out in four – parole.
‘” (Page 33) He seems toperceive his misconduct as a ritual of life everyone must undergo, and this lackof conscience shows one with little character or worthiness. However, when hefinds his family at his Uncle John’s place, he dedicates his life to helping outthe family and himself. He works on the car, towards finding work, and tocomfort Ma when she seems to need it. His personality lightens as he becomes avital part of the Joad clan. However, when he finds Casy striking out, andwitnesses his death, his natural instincts come out, and he kills Casy’sassassin, thereby getting himself into even more trouble than he was in beforefor breaking his parole.
“Tom looked down at the preacher. The lightcrossed the heavy man’s legs and the white new pick handle. Tom leaped silently.He wrenched the club free. The first time he knew he had missed and struck ashoulder, but the second time his crushing blow found the head, and as the heavyman sank down, three more blows found his head.
” (Page 495) The repeatedblows demonstrate a lack of control possessed by Tom, yet, his manner forkilling the man are slightly more justified than the man at the dance. Thedifferences between the two killings already demonstrate an enlightening ofTom’s character. When Tom goes to tell his mother that he cannot stay for fearof the family, his words show his complete metamorphosis. “‘Tom,’ Marepeated, ‘what you gonna do?’ ‘What Casy done,’ he said. .
. Ma said, ‘How’m Igonna know about you?’ ‘Well, maybe like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul ofhis own, but on’y a piece of a big one – an’ then -‘ ‘Then what, Tom?’ ‘Then itdon’ matter. . . Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll bethere. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed,why I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ – I’ll be in the way kidslaugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready.
An’ when our folks eatthe stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build – why, I’ll bethere.'” (Page 537) He decides to dedicate his life towards the fight ofthe hungry and oppressed and cares little for trivialities any longer. Hisjourney is a spiritual one that could not have been assessed without Casy’shelp. Ma Joad is a character that can be over looked due to her sex and seemingminimal interaction in the novel. Can be over looked, but shouldn’t be. Marepresents the spiritual glue that binds the family through triumph and turmoil.
In the beginning, Ma is seen as the typical housewife; she cooks, cleans andlooks after the children. She is a somewhat docile creature that follows herhusband’s word with little question. Her first stand against the men in thefamily is the first real threat of the family splitting apart.
When a neighbor’scar breaks down, Tom offers to fix it and have the family move on. Ma grabs ajack handle and states she will not go; that she will hit her husband if hetries to make her. “Pa looked helplessly about the group. ‘She sassy,’ hesaid. ‘I never seen her so sassy.’ . .
.Tom said, ‘Ma, what’s eatin’ on you?What ya wanna do this-a-way for? What’s the matter’th you anyways? You gonejohnrabbit on us?’ Ma’s face softened, but her eyes were still fierce. ‘You donethis ‘thout thinkin’ much,’ Ma said. ‘What we got lef’ in the worl’? Nothin’ butthe folks.
We come out an’ Grampa, he reached for the shovel-shelf right off.An’ now, right off, you wanna bust up the folks -‘” (page 218) She fightsagainst the norm in order to preserve her family, who is all she has left. Hereshe gains respect.
“The eyes of the whole family shifted back to Ma. Shewas the power. She had taken control.” (Page 218) Her strength throughoutthe ordeal is amazing. She hides her pain and anguish from the others and dealswith their problems rather than hers.
She even lies with Granma’s corpse inorder to get the family across to California. “‘I was afraid we wouldn’ getacrost,’ she said. ‘I tol’ Granma we couldn’ he’p her.
The fambly had to getacrost. I tol’ her, tol’ her when she was a-dyin’. We couldn’ stop in thedesert. There was the young ones – an’ Rosasharn’s baby. I tol’ her.’ .
. . Thefamily looked at Ma with a little terror at her strength.
Tom said, ‘JesusChrist! You layin’ there with her all night long!’ ‘The fambly hadda get acrost,’Ma said miserably.” (Page 294) Her dedication to the family is remarkable.She becomes dedicated to their new lives, and develops a new insight on life.”‘You got to have patience. Why, Tom – us people will go on livin’ when allthem people is gone.
Why, Tom, we’re the people that live. They ain’t gonna wipeus out. Why, we’re the people – we go on.'” (Page 360) Her strength andpower unfold throughout the story and her journey is one of survival. Sheevolves to become the strongest pillar in the Joad family.
Steinbeck’s TheGrapes of Wrath is a novel that enables one relate to the struggles ofhumankind. Yet it is his evolution of the characters that takes on a greatimpact as one can witness the transitions in a human’s whole being that occursafter heartache and misery unfold. Through Casy’s, Tom’s and Ma’s own spiritualjourneys, one can see that there are brighter things that arise from tragedy.That although situations may be at their bleakest, one adapts, and may even turnout better than he or she started out. It is a shame that horrid situations arethe ones that urge people to change their lives, but it is at least enlighteningto see that the majority of these changes are for the better.English Essays