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Essay/Term paper: The grapes of wrath

Essay, term paper, research paper:  The Grapes of Wrath

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"The Downing Sun: Jim Casy Vanessa Cromer John

Steinbeck passionately describes a time of unfair poverty,

unity, and the human spirit in the classic, The Grapes of

Wrath. The novel tells of real, diverse characters who

experience growth through turmoil and hardship. Jim Casy-

a personal favorite character- is an ex-preacher that meets

up with a former worshiper, Tom Joad. Casy continues a

relationship with Tom and the rest of the Joads as they

embark on a journey to California in the hopes of prosperity

and possibly excess. Casy represents how the many

situations in life impact the ever-changing souls of human-

beings and the search within to discover one's true identity

and beliefs. Casy, however, was much more complex than

the average individual. His unpredjudiced, unified, Christ-like

existence twists and turns with every mental and extraneous

disaccord. Jim Casy is an interesting, complicated man. He

can be seen as a modern day Christ figure, except without

the tending manifest belief in the Christian faith. The initials of

his name, J.C., are the same as Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus

was exalted by many for what he stood for was supposed to

be , Casy was hailed and respected by many for simply

being a preacher. Casy and Jesus both saw a common

goodness in the average man and saw every person as holy.

Both Christ and Casy faced struggles between their ideals

versus the real world. (Despite Casy's honesty, goodness,

and loyalty to all men, he would not earn a meal or warm

place to stay. Although Jesus had many followers, still others

opposed his preaching until the very end. ) These prophets

attempted to disengage man from the cares of the world and

create a high spiritualism that stemmed joy from misery. (All

the migrants found pleasures along their trips and kept their

hope and spirit throughout the journey. Thanks to Jesus, the

saddest, dullest existence has had its glimpse of heaven.)

Casy once remarked, "I gotta see them folks that's gone out

on the road. I gotta feelin' I got to see them. They gonna

need help no preachin' can give 'em. Hope of heaven when

their lives ain't lived? Holy Sperit when their own sperit is

downcast an' sad?" Casy wished to reach out to others in

spite of his own troubles. He wanted to give them sprit, hope

and rejuvenate their souls. Jesus too felt that need and can

be considered "the great consoler of life." The Life of Jesus

by Ernest Renan tells of Pure Ebionism, which is the doctrine

that the poor alone shall be saved and the reign of the poor

is approaching. This secures a definite parallel to Jesus

Christ and not only Jim Casy, but the entire book, The

Grapes of Wrath. The rich people, banks, owners, and

institutions have taken control of the country and nature, but

as the book says, "And the association of owners knew that

some day the praying would stop. And there's an end." This

means that these people will always carry on, one day they

will take action, there will be a fight, and quite possibly an

end to the misfortune and a reign of prevailing prosperity.

Christ once said, "When thou makest a dinner or supper, call

not...thy rich neighbors...But when thou makest a feast, call

the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be

blessed." John Steinbeck and Jim Casy along with many

other migrants believe in charity, helping others and an end

to the insatiable appetite for money and self-indulgence.

When Casy is saying grace in chapter eight, he compares

himself to Jesus: "I been in the hills, thinkin', almost you might

say like Jesus wen into the wilderness to think His way out

of troubles." Casy was beginning to feel confused, troubled

and stressful about his faith, but when he went into the

wilderness and rediscovered nature, he was a new man with

a new-found faith. (Eventually Christ was no longer a Jew

and strayed from the traditional Hebrew idea of God. Casy's

beliefs did not precisely follow Christianity.) Like Christ,

Casy was jailed and later aroused the antagonism of the

people in authority and was brutally slain. He died, like

Christ saying to his crucifiers, "You don' know what you're

a-doin." Jim Casy was similar to Jesus Christ but his

personality traits did not end there. Jim Casy's personality is

one of the most unprovincial, nonjudgemental in the world.

He believed that every one is created equal no matter what

their physical differences, political class, or position in the

world might be. He shows this by never uttering a hurtful

word at anyone, sacrificing his own welfare to picket and

raise the wages of other workers, and not faltering when he

or his groupmates were called derogatory names. Jim Casy

was forever grateful to the Joads for travelling with him and

talked of going off by himself to pay them back several

times. He once said, "I wanna do what's bes' for you folks.

You took me in, carried me along. I'll do whatever." Casy

never asked for money while he was preaching because he

knew the position his listeners were in, even though he was

also desperate for money. Casy said in chapter four, "I

brang Jesus to your folks for a long time, an' I never took up

a collection nor nothin' but a bite to eat." Since Casy

believes that we all have a small part of a larger soul, and

everybody is holy, we are therefor equal. As Tom said, "one

time he went out in the wilderness to find his soul, an' he

foun' he jus' got a little piece of a great big soul." Once and

for all stating equality, and universal holiness. Casy is also a

harmonious man. He believes in unity and that because

people are all part of something greater than themselves, we

should help one another out, and work together because

otherwise we are all lost. "Why do we got to hang it all on

God or Jesus? Maybe,' I figgered, 'maybe it's all men an' all

women we love: maybe that's the Holy Sperit- the human

sperit- the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul

ever'body's a part of." He thinks that people working in

cooperation is holy: "When they're all workin' together, not

one fella for another fell, but one fella kind of harnessed to

the whole shebang -- that's right, that's holy"(pg 71). Tom

once said Casy recited to him Ecclesiates 4: "Two are better

than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him

that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help

him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but

how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him,

two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly

broken". Tom Joad also said, "maybe like Casy says, a fella

ain't got a soul of his own, but on'y a piece of a big one. ...

I'll be ever'where—wherever you look." Casy was a

Christ-like, unprovincial, and harmonious man albeit he still

had personal conflicts. Although Jim Casy has always

seemingly been a man of God and Jesus, he battles with his

faith throughout The Grapes of Wrath. He feels like he is

contending with the very ideals he has spread to others-

traditional ideals of God and Jesus. Casy started to question

his own beliefs and what was said in the Bible. Casy lost

many hours of sleep just thinking about this, and went

through many days without even speaking. He began to have

doubts about God, Jesus, and about the afterlife altogether.

He went from a man of God to a man of everyone. Casy

once said,"An I says, 'Don't you love Jesus?' Well, I thought

an' thought an' finally I says, 'No, I don't know nobody

name' Jesus. I know a bunch of stories, but I only love

people.' " After Casy challenged his inner belief of God and

Jesus, he began to openly accept and tolerate unorthodox

behavior. In fact some of Casy's new beliefs not only

questioned the basic belief in God and Jesus, but also the

content of the Bible and what a regular preacher (or

ex-preacher) would say or do. Casy felt you should not

judge anyone but yourself, where as the Bible openly

condemns certain situations, labels, sexual orient, behavior,

and practices. Casy believes you should do what you feel

and doesn't believe in right or wrong. Casy once said, "I

didn' even know it when I was preachin', but I was doin'

some consid'able tom-cattin' around." He told of times when

he lacked responsibility, filled girls up with the Holy Spirit by

his preachings and then continually took them out with him to

"lay in the grass." He once said, "There ain't no sin and there

ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do. It's all part of the

same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and

some ain't nice, but that's as far as any man got a right to

say." A hedonistic moral code that tells of pleasure before

rules and presumes to deny punishment is highly unusual for

a one-time preacher. Casy struggled with his personal inner

faith, and also his actions and speeches that defied what a

regular man of the faith would do. The inner being of Jim

Casy was evolving and furthermore conflicting when he

metamorphisized from a man of thought to a man of action.

Towards the beginning of the book, Casy spent many a night

sleep- deprived and many a day mute philosophizing to

himself. "Say, Casy, you been awful goddamn quiet the las'

few days...you ain't said ten words the las' couple days, "

Tom said. Even Casy himself had trouble speaking at all:

"Now look, Tom. Oh what the hell! So goddamn hard to

say anything." He remarked early on in the book, "There's

stuff goin' on an' they's folks doin' things...An' if ya listen,

you'll hear...res'lessness. They's stuff goin' on that these folks

is doin' that don't know nothin' about- yet. They's gonna

come somepin outa all these folks goin' wes'...They's gonna

come a thing that's gonna change the whole country." Later

in the book Casy stops predicting "a thing" and takes part of

this revolution by striking outside a peach-picking plant. He

had spent a lot of time pondering the environment at hand,

but he finally turns his anti- authority feelings into physical

actions when he kicks a cop causing trouble in Hooverville.

Casy later goes on to spontaneously take the blame for the

fight and was sent to jail, sacrificing his own well-being for

others. On top of Casy's struggles with himself, he also faced

exterior conflicts with the rest of the world. Jim Casy came

across conflicts between himself and the rest of society. He

attempted to organize the migrants but saw great difficulty.

After Casy was let out of jail he (and other wise men)

picketed outside a peach-picking camp for higher wages.

Although he managed to organize those few men, and kept

the wages at a reasonable price while on strike, he could not

persuade the others inside the workplace to join him. "Tell

'em [the people who are picking peaches] they're starvin' us

an' stabbin' theirselves in the back. 'Cause sure as cowflops

she'll drop to two an' a half jus' as soon as they clear us out,"

Casy said referring to the fact that unless the people in the

camp did something- like went on strike- they would 'stab

themselves in the back' because the wages would go back

down. However, the people in the camp only cared about

the five they were making at the time and nothing else.

Casy's attempts at organizing failed not only because the

people cared specifically for what was happening at the

present time, but also because they were afraid to organize.

As soon as there is a recognized leader cops throw him in

jail or threaten him. People put the migrants down and used

derogatory terms to attempt to control them. Society wanted

to keep the migrants moving, leaving it impossible for them

to organize. There was once a man who started to unite the

people in jail. Later the very people he was trying to help

threw him out, afraid of being seen in his company. His

attempts at uniting fail eternally when he tells a cop he is

starving children and the cop smashes his skull with a board.

Jim Casy encounters more external difficulties when he

crosses paths with cops. In chapter 20, Floyd, John, Tom

and Casy have a physical fight with a deputy. In an unrelated

incident, an officer threatened to set fire to the camp Casy's

friends were staying at. When Casy was trying to organize

some men, cops were continually breaking them down. "We

tried to camp together, an' they [cops] druv us like pigs.

Scattered us. Beat the hell outa fellas. Druv us like pigs...We

can't las' much longer. Some people ain't et for two

days,"said Casy. "Cops cause more trouble than they stop,"

Casy also mentioned. Thus is a man who has seen animosity

and enmity and has not been afraid. In conclusion, Jim Casy

is a rather Christ-like, harmonious, unprovincial, somewhat

realistic charcter who has seen the challenges of

organization, authority, his own faith, reception from others,

and his own ever- changing personality. This man can be

looked at as a martyr, ethical, sacred individual, and yet

ironically "Okie", hobo, or virtue-less bum. However The

Grapes of Wrath and Jim Casy are undisputed symbols of

hope, dreams, spirit and the oneness of all humanity. To me

personally, Jim Casy is a role-model to any one who aspires

to think original thoughts. I find his defiance of organized

religion thought-provoking and inspiring. His ideas of nature

are prophetic and his selfless love of people beautiful. Jim

Casy's essence of understanding, dreams, love, hope and

belief in an almighty holiness can be summed up in one

quote, "An' Almighty God never raised no wages. These

here folks want to live decent and bring up their kids decent.

An' when they're old they wanta set in the door an' watch

the downing sun. An' when they're young they wanta dance

an' sing an' lay together. They wanta eat an' get drunk and

work. An' that's it- they wanta jus' fling their goddamn

muscles aroun' an' get tired."  

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