In the novel The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, the life of a migrant family,who is forced off their land in Oklahoma and who is in search of employment in California, is portrayed. During the course of the novel, the Joads move from a concern for themselves and their own personal welfare to a concern for all the people of the world. This becomes one of the major themes in the novel. It is traceable through many of the characters such as Jim Casey, Tom Joad, Ma Joad, and Rosa of Sharon. It is also traceable through many different action taken by the Joad family on the whole.
The character of Jim Casy plays a strong role in bringing forth the theme in discussion. Casey is a preacher like none other. He does not preach the orthodox ideas of the Christian religion. Instead, he preaches the Emersonian doctrine of the Oversoul. Tom Joad once recalls that one time Casey went into the wilderness to find his own soul, an he foun he didnt have no soul that was hisn Says he foun he jus got a little piece of a great big soul… his lilttle piece of a soul wasnt no good less it was with the rest, an was whole.
This is part of Emersons views of the Oversoul; mans soul is breaking away from some larger soul and in death this individual soul is reunited with the larger Oversoul. It is through Casys beliefs in the concept of the Oversoul and his prison experience that reveals to Jim that only through the unity and concern for the entire human race will the migrants succeed. Rose of Sharon is another character which can be used to trace the progression of the Joads from a concern for themselves and their own personal welfare to a concern for all the people of the world.
Through out the novel rose of Sharon is shown as a sick and whining girl. It is easy to blame this on the fact that she a pregnant woman who is expected to deliver at any time. However, her attitude and actions show that she is grouchy and irritable beyond limits. Though the family is in great peril she worries only about the effects it will have on her baby. Once the baby is born into the world a blue mummy, everything changes for her. She begins to hold a concern beyond herself and the baby, because it does not exist.
She shows this in the ending of the novel giving life o some stranger who is starving. through this she becomes part of that brotherhood of man which Casy preached about; she becomes part of the Oversoul. The character of Ma Joad is a character which supports the theme in discussion by focusing on the complete opposite. Throughout the novel Ma Joad is worried about keeping the family together. In its literal interpretation it directly contrasts the idea of the Joads moving beyond just a concern for their immediate family to a concern for all of humanity.
Ma Joad is the force which holds the family together. She realizes that they have no home and that the only value and meaning in life is that which they derive from being a family. In spite of this she knows that the family is breaking up. However she stills fights to keep the family together. She wants to keep them together so that they are protected and that can be only done when the family is whole. This can be related to the theme because the reason Ma Joad fights to hold the family together is the reason the family must worry more about the humanity on a whole.
Only when people worry about he human race on the whole will the race be truly protected and will truly be able to succeed. Again it all goes to Casys preaching about the Oversoul. Tom Joad is the main character in the novel. He enters the novel as a man who is just getting out of prison for killing a man and is interested in his own personal comforts and wants. As he tells Jim Casy, Im just gonna lay one foot down before another. He shows that he feels no regret or guilt for having killed a man. As a grown man he values his own individuality very heavily and does like to be pushed around.
All this changes nce he begins to truly listen to the preaching of Jim Casy. When Tom is forced to hide in a cave because he kills a police officer involved in killing Jim Casy, he has lots of time to think over the ideas of Jim Casy. It is during this time that Tom realizes that man cannot live with the single concern for himself, that man must live by joining together with the other men because strength comes from unity. It is here that he has officially gone from his individualistic ideals in the beginning of the novel to devotion to his family and the family of man kind at his own expense.
In the end he excepts the philosophy of Jim Casy bonds himself to carry out the ideas preached by Jim Casy. In his final statement Tom moves away from his family to the family man kind. With the Joads, the journey west is also a journey from the personal concern to a larger concern for all humanity. This is brought about expertly by John Steinbeck through the development of many characters such as Rose of Sharon, Ma Joad, Jim Casy, and Tom Joad. Through the journey the family suffers through many horrors such as losing a new born child and losing grandpa and grandma.