Themes of Unity in the Grapes

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John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, is a moving account of the social plight of Dustbowl farmers and is widely considered an American classic. The novel takes place during the depression of the 1930s in Oklahoma and all points west to California. Steinbeck uses the Joad family as a specific example of the general plight of the poor farmers. The Joads are forced off of their farm in Oklahoma by the banks and drought, and they, like many other families of the time, head out for the promised land of California. They endure much hardship along the way, and they finally make it to California only to find that work is scarce and human labor and life are cheap. Tom Joad, the eldest son in the family, starts the book freshly out of jail and slowly evolves from selfish goals to a sense of an ideal worldly purpose in uniting people against injustice. Jim Casy, an errant preacher who is accepted into the Joad family early into the story, changes his beliefs to include all people in a sort of oversoul, as he helps to organize the workers to battle the extreme injustice done onto them by the farm owners and discriminating locals. Whereas the Joads start out as one family, by the end of the story their family becomes one with other families who are weathering the same plight of starvation and senseless violence. In The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck emphasizes the power of groups over the individual’s power to survive poverty and violence through character evolution, plot and the use of figurative and philosophical language. Tom Joad begins the novel with self-seeking aims, but with the ex-preacher Jim Casy as a mentor, he evolves into an idealistic group leader. Tom first meets Jim on his way home from jail. There begins a lasting friendship with the verbose preacher, who is going through a belief makeover and steadily moving toward the Emersonian oversoul including all people in a general spirit of human love and kinship. Tom is steadily...
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