Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’—I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry n’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build—why, I’ll be there. See? God, I’m talkin’ like Casy. Comes of thinkin’ about him so much. Seems like I can see him sometimes.

The death of Jim Casy completes the transformation of Tom Joad into a man ready to take responsibility for the future and to act accordingly. Throughout the novel, Casy acts as Steinbeck’s moral mouthpiece, articulating several of the book’s more important themes, such as the sanctity of human life and the necessary unity of all mankind. In this passage, from Chapter 28, Tom quiets Ma’s fear that he, like Casy, will lose his life in the workers’ movement. Tom assures her that regardless of whether he lives or dies, his spirit will continue on in the triumphs and turmoil of the world. As the Joads are torn apart, Tom’s words offer the promise of a deep, lasting connection that no tragedy can break.