Steinbeck's Biblical Allusion in The Grapes of Wrath


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Biblical Allusion in The Grapes of Wrath


A popular literary technique that can be found in a number of literary works is the biblical allusion.  John Steinbeck perfects this technique in his novel The Grapes of Wrath by introducing a character who is symbolic of Jesus Christ.  This character, Jim Casy, not only shares initials with this biblical figure, but he also grows thoughout the novel as a speaker, a mediator, an organizer, and, most remarkably, a martyr.

At the advent of the novel, Jim Casy is quick to protest that he is no longer a preacher.  Nevertheless, evidence of his innate speaking ability is brought forth when he explains his thoughts and ideas to Tom.  For example, Casy remarks that “maybe there’s jus one but soul an everyone’s a part of it,” immediately foreshadowing his future decision to unite with other migrant workers.  Casy’s allusion to Jesus Christ serves as the force behind Tom’s character as it changes throughout the novel from self-absorbed to one who thinks about the future and what he can do to help.  Also, Casy utilizes his organizational skills when he unites some of his fellow “reds”, and they discuss the changes that need to be made.  In this very scene of the novel, deputies begin to harass the men and Casy cries out, “You don’t know what you’re doing.  You’re helpin’ to starve children.”  This is the final stage of Casy’s symbolism to Jesus  he is killed while preaching what he believes and therefore becomes a martyr for all the migrant workers.

Casy’s symbolic death can be easily predicted.  At one point he goes as far as telling Tom that “there’s gonna be sumthin dat changes the whole country” “Not no one knows bout it yet, but they will.”  Clearly, Steinbeck created this biblically alluded character for a certain purpose - to plant the concept of unity among the migrant people.

Comments

 I agree that you have done well with this essay and it is not easy to find fault with it.  However, you might look at the following sentence: "Casy’s allusion to Jesus Christ serves as the force behind Tom’s character as it changes throughout the novel from self-absorbed to one who thinks about the future and what he can do to help.

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"  In this sentence there is a problem with common references to "character" and the implied person of Tom.  In other words, character does not equal Tom grammatically speaking or logically, for that matter.  Tom's character has to be seen as a subset of Tom in mathematical terms.  I hope you see my point.


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