Essay, Research Paper: Grapes Of Wrath By Steinbeck

Literature: Grapes of Wrath

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John Steinbeck shows the readers many themes in "The Grapes of Wrath".
One of the most apparent is as Steinbeck stated, "The Joads passage through
a process of education for the heart." Many characters in "The Grapes
or Wrath" exhibit this theme, but it is valiantly apparent in the actions
of the Joads as a family, Tom, Casy, and Rose of Sharon. Although each person in
the Joad family is a separate individual, the family often acts as thought it
were one person. As one might expect the experiences they incur change the
family personality. At the end of the book the Joads have lost their family
identity, but they've replaced it with something equally worthy: they've found
kinship with other migrant families. The Joads merge with the Wainwrights and
the Wilsons, because each family needed the other and the fragmented family
becomes whole again. The members don't share last names, but they give support
to each other in the form of food, blankets, a kind word, medicine, advice, and
even love. As Casy says, "nobody has an individual soul, but everybody's
just got a piece of a great big soul." By opening their hearts the Joads
transformed into members of the universal family. Rose of Sharon, the eighteen
year old daughter goes through a miraculous transformation of the heart as the
journey progresses. When the Joads first begin their torrid journey Connie,
Roses husband, and Rose set themselves apart from the mundane matters that
occupy the rest of the family. They focus solely on the baby and dwell in the
future instead of the present. They dream of the house they'll buy for the baby
in California, about the car they'll drive, and about Connie's schooling and
job. When the going gets tough, Connie abandons his young wife, which may have
been the turning point in Roses life. As time the birth approaches, Rose of
Sharon does a surprising thing for someone in her delicate state, as she insists
on picking cotton with the rest of her family. After a few days the baby is born
dead and she seems relieved to know that she won't have to raise a child in
awesome poverty. Suffering through childbirth has perhaps opened her eyes.
Throughout the book we have seen her concerned almost exclusively with herself
and her problems. Now she looks out at the world and turns completely about. In
an act of extreme charity, she suckles a dying man with the milk of human
kindness. Rose of Sharon discovers that everybody must be treated as family if
they are to endure. It's a message of love, which Rose of Sharon powerfully
dramatizes for us in a barn. Jim Casy, one of the three most important
characters in the Grapes of Wrath only appears in about one third of the book,
yet we rarely forget him. Although Casy was never a Joad, even Tom had stated
he's close enough to be a Joad. Casy, a former preacher, retreats from organized
religion because hypocrisy and a weakness for women have forced him to reexamine
his beliefs. He no longer believes in the individual, but strongly believes that
"all men got one big soul everybody's a part of." In Hooverville, Casy
at last gets his chance to practice what he has started to preach. Tom trips the
deputy sheriff who wants to arrest Floyd, an innocent man. Casy joins the fray
and knocks the man out with a kick to the neck. When the sheriff returns to haul
Tom to jail, Casy volunteers to go in Tom's place: "Somebody got to take
the blame... an' I ain't doin' nothin' but set aroun'." Months later we run
into Casy again. Out of jail, he has begun to organize the workers, and in fact,
he leads the strike at Hooper Ranch. He has translated his love for people into
an effort to show them that their strength lies in collective action. Casy
devotes his life to the union movement, and later gives it. In effect, Casy
sacrifices himself so that others may be better off. Tom Joad, the most
important character in the "Grapes of Wrath", is an individual who
realizes the importance of having a heart. Tom has a quick temper, he killed a
man in a drunken brawl, speaks harshly to the truck driver who gives him a lift;
scolds the one-eyed man for feeling self-pity; and tells off the fat man who
runs the filling station. Tom doesn't despise each man, but only because each
feels defeated by life's hardships. Tom gives them all a brutally frank pep
talk, as though he wants to get them moving again. Tom can't just throw up his
hands and walk away from problems, and he doesn't want to see others do that
either. As the Joads wander around California, Tom meets more good people who
keep up the increasingly difficult struggle to live a decent life. From then on,
Tom follows in Casy's footsteps. His concerns extend beyond himself and his
family. They now include all downtrodden people. He feels a calling to help in
any way he can. Casy's violent death probably hastens Tom's decision to work for
the welfare of all poor people. As he says to Ma just before he leaves the
family forever, "I'll be aroun' in the dark, I'll be ever'where--wherever
you look. Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there.
Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there." Tom may end up
dead, like Casy, but there is no doubt that he'll go down swinging. When we look
at the theme of the education of the heart we can realize that these characters
didn't start the journey with the belief that their a part of a great big soul.
We can see and realize the gradual yet dramatic transformation of these three
characters. Casy lives and dies for others, and at the end Tom will walk in
Casy's footsteps. Rose of Sharon soon after follows as she offers her milk to a
stranger, she wears an enigmatic smile, suggesting that she, too, has discovered
the joy that comes from opening the heart.
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