In the novel The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, the life of a migrant family,who is forced off their land in Oklahoma and who is in search of employment in California, is portrayed. During the course of the novel, the Joads move from a concern
for themselves and their own personal welfare to a concern for all the people of the
world. This becomes one of the major themes in the novel. It is traceable through many
of the characters such as Jim Casey, Tom Joad, Ma Joad, and Rosa of Sharon. It is also
traceable through many different action taken by the Joad family on the whole.
The character of Jim Casy plays a strong role in bringing forth the theme in
discussion. Casey is a preacher like none other. He does not preach the orthodox ideas
of the Christian religion. Instead, he preaches the Emersonian doctrine of the Oversoul.
Tom Joad once recalls that “one time Casey went into the wilderness to find his own
soul, an’ he foun’ he didn’t have no soul that was his’n Says he foun’ he jus’ got a little
piece of a great big soul...his lilttle piece of a soul wasn’t no good ‘less it was with the
rest, an’ was whole.” This is part of Emerson’s views of the Oversoul; man’s soul is
breaking away from some larger soul and in death this individual soul is reunited with the
larger Oversoul. It is through Casy’s beliefs in the concept of the Oversoul and his prison
experience that reveals to Jim that only through the unity and concern for the entire
human race will the migrants succeed.
Rose of Sharon is another character which can be used to trace the progression of
the Joads from a concern for themselves and their own personal welfare to a concern for
all the people of the world. Through out the novel rose of Sharon is shown as a sick and
whining girl. It is easy to blame this on the fact that she a pregnant woman who is
expected to deliver at any time. However, her attitude and actions show that she is
grouchy and irritable beyond limits. Though the family is in great peril she worries only
about the effects it will have on her baby. Once the baby is born into the world a blue
mummy, everything changes for her. She begins to hold a concern beyond herself and
the baby, because it does not exist. She shows this in the ending of the novel giving life
to some stranger who is starving. through this she becomes part of that brotherhood of
man which Casy preached about; she becomes part of the Oversoul.
The character of Ma Joad is a character which supports the theme in discussion
by focusing on the complete opposite. Throughout the novel Ma Joad is worried about
keeping the family...