Irony in the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Many of the events in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck do not result in the expected manner. Although the Joads seem to be traveling in hope, irony seems to conquer several situations. There are three types of irony: in dramatic irony, the reader sees the characters mistakes, but not the character. In verbal irony, the author means something rather than what is said. Irony of situation is when there is a paradox between the purpose of an action and its result. By observing several situations during the novel, such as the events of the Weedpatch Camp, the death of Casey, and Chapter 29, much irony can be distinguished.
During the stay of the Joads in the Weedpatch Camp, there exist groups of people condemning others of sin. This includes Elizabeth Sandry and the Jesus-lovers. For example, Ms. Sandry speaks to Rose of Sharon about her baby as live tumor. Instead of congratulating the young woman of her child, the dysfunctional lady accuses the innocent girl of sin. In addition, Ms. Sandry explains that if evil continues, her baby will be a miscarriage like several other mothers. The words of the dark old woman are ironic to the situation because it is unusual for a person to curse a pregnant woman. Therefore, dramatic irony explains the words of misery instead of love. Furthermore, similar people called Jesus-lovers search for sin during the many dances of the Weedpatch Camp. These dances are supposed to be times of relaxation and fun. Instead the Jesus-lovers search for the opposite:
"In front of the tents the Jesus-lovers sat and watched, their faces hard and contemptuous. They did not speak to one another, they watched for sin, and their faces condemned the proceeding." (457)
In other words, more dramatic irony can explain the doings of the watchful group. First, they search for evil in meaningless fun while filling guilt into the people of the camp. Also, the condemners just watch what occurs instead of making change. Therefore, it seems as though they are enjoying and willing to see "sin". To sum up, they are guilty themselves, and it is ironic how the Jesus-lovers see hate instead of love. In all, irony remains as these people misunderstand situations of joy.
The instance of Casey's death in Chapter 26, the comparison of the Biblical allusion to Jesus' death becomes ironic in situation. As Jim Casey waits in front of a tent of the labor organizers, a group of angry men approach with pick handles. Apparently, the men are outraged at the pay of the peach picking camp, for the price is not sufficient to support families with food. Filled with wrath, these 30 men club Casey in the head, killing him instantly. Beforehand, Casey speaks:
"Casey stared blindly at the light. He breathed heavily.
'Listen,' he said. 'You fellas don' know what you're doin'. You're helpin' to starve kids.'" (527)
The irony of the situation is that Casey works to keep the...