There are two main characters in The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. Those characters are Tom Joad and Ma Joad. Well, I guess now is as good a time as any to start actually analyzing them, since thats what a character analysis is for. Ma Joad is the focal point for the entire family. She is the driving force behind the family’s ability to get through even the roughest times. She never lets anyone know of any doubt or pain that she might have, as even the slightest show of weakness could cause a mild panic in the family. Even though she is a very strong character, she is a somewhat flat, static character.
She doesn’t really change during the course of the story, she pretty much just stays the same. Her character is developed through indirect characterization. You see her affect upon her family by their doing whatever she says, practically all the time. Ma is also a protagonist, in the sense that she is the center of the family. Tom is almost an equally important character, and is also the first character seen. Right from the beginning of the story, he seems to be the “black sheep”, due mostly to the fact that he has spent some time in jail for manslaughter.
His characterization is done mostly indirectly, through his family’s response to his being out of jail (really trusting people, aren’t they? ). He is also developed, to a lesser extent, directly, by his attitude of “one foot before the other” kind of living. He is a round, dynamic character. In the beginning, he is thinking, more or less, only of himself, and doesn’t consider the “bigger picture”. By the end of the story, he has come to accept Jim Casy’s views on the world in general, and plans to organize the people against the money hungry employers, even though Jim himself has already been killed because of those same beliefs.