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Steinbeck employs Jim Casy to articulate some of the novel’s
major themes. Most notably, the ex-preacher redefines the concept
of holiness, suggesting that the most divine aspect of human experience
is to be found on earth, among one’s fellow humans, rather than
amid the clouds. As a radical philosopher, a motivator and unifier
of men, and a martyr, Casy assumes a role akin to that of Jesus
Christ—with whom he also shares his initials. Casy begins the novel
uncertain of how to use his talents as a speaker and spiritual healer
if not as the leader of a religious congregation. By the end of
the novel, he has learned to apply them to his task of organizing
the migrant workers. Indeed, Casy comes to believe so strongly in
his mission to save the suffering laborers that he willingly gives
his life for it. Casy’s teachings prompt the novel’s most dramatic
character development, by catalyzing Tom Joad’s transformation into
a social activist and man of the people.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Grapes of Wrath!