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This Describes The Use Of Symbolism And Transcendentalism Through The Book The Grapes Of Wrath. It Gives An Overview Of The Term "Transcendentalism" And How Jim Casy Relates To It.

1327 words - 5 pages

John Steinbeck is an author known worldwide for his compelling stories and novels. One such novel is The Grapes of Wrath. This novel was written to expose the plight of those dispossessed from their lands by the Great Depression. Steinbeck uses several literary elements to help relate the story to the reader. In The Grapes of Wrath, as in his other works, Steinbeck relies on the use of symbolism to strengthen and enhance the plot.By far, the most involved example of symbolism is found in the character of the preacher, Jim Casy. Casy not only is a Christ figure but also embodies the belief of Transcendentalism. These are supported by many examples throughout the story. Some of these examples are easily noticed, others require more thought to be understood. The symbolism found in Jim Casy does a great deal to bring together the events that make up the story.That Casy is a Christ figure can be shown in several ways. One obvious (or perhaps not as obvious as it may seem) similarity between Casy and Christ is that they share the same initials, J.C. It was not merely coincidence that Steinbeck chose the name Jim Casy. Initials, however, are not the only thing that Casy and Christ share. Another similarity is that both men went into the wilderness before coming back to the public life. Christ went into the desert for a period of forty days of intense prayer with the Father before coming into his public life of preaching. Casy follows a slightly different, but on the whole, similar pattern. Casy tells the reader that he had been a preacher, but had become unsure of what holy really means. He spent four years away from society, and after spending some time with the Joad family, has fully developed his religious beliefs and transforms his words into action.These words that Casy preaches toward the end of the story are those of Transcendentalism, a belief begun by several prominent American writers in the 19th Century. The Transcendentalists, including such names as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, believed "in the essential unity of all creation, the innate goodness of man, and the supremacy of insight over logic aand experience for the revelation of the deepest truths" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol 11, 894). Casy, by comparison, says in the story, "All that lives is holy" (Steinbeck 157), tying in the belief of the natural goodness found in man. As his beliefs develop, Casy begins to see that all of creation and humankind is united, and that he must not work for the improvement of the souls of individuals, but for the improvement of the total human condition. Transcendentalism differs greatly from mainstream Christianity, but Steinbeck chose to incorporate this belief into the character of Casy for a very important reason. In the time period when this book was written, the Great Depression, the worship of some distant God was not the first thing on the minds of the millions of people who were starving, barely earning enough to keep alive....

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