Christ Figure Essay

The Grapes of Wrath, written by John Steinbeck, has many different characters who are affected by their journey to California during The Great Depression. The character Jim Casey is the most significant Christ figure in The Grapes of Wrath. He sacrifices his life to help others escape their misery. The Joads are a family that is struggling with The Great Depression. The Joads’ preacher, Jim Casey, is a Christ figure who sacrifices his life to help The Joads escape their misery.

Throughout The Grapes of Wrath , Jim Casey helps The Joads in various ways. Jim Casey is caring and compassionate towards The Joads when he takes them into his house after he found Rose of Sharon breast-feeding her starving baby brother (Steinbeck 70). From then on, Ma Joad could see that Jim was good; she would always remember the “kind face” (73). Jim tells The Joads about how there isn’t enough jobs in the east for everyone (75), which persuades The Joad’s to continue their journey west.

The Joads continue their journey, and The Joad’s find Jim Casey on the side of the road with a broken leg (88). The Joads take him into The Weedpatch Camp, where he is healed. After The Joads leave The Weedpatch Camp without Jim Casey, Mr. Rawley finds him and asks if he would like to move back to The Weedpatch Camp or go to his friend’s place in Phoenix (135-136). Jim Casey chooses not to go to The Weedpatch Camp because he knew he could never pay them back for what they have done for him.

Jim Casey decides that it would be better for him to die then become a burden on The Joad Family. He was going west just as The Joads were. The Joads find Jim Casey dead on the side of the road while they are driving in The Redlands (144). The Joad’s believe that Jim Casey died seeing California, “on the edge of this great country… ‘. The Grapes of Wrath ends with The Joad Family finding their own piece of land to settle down on just as Jim Casey had found his. Jim Casey is a Christ figure because he sacrifices himself for The Joad Family.

He cares about TheJoads enough to help them leave behind their misery. The Weedpatch Camp did not want him back after he was healed because they felt like they couldn’t pay him back for what he did for them previously, so instead of The Weedpatch Camp Jim Casey dies on The Joad’s journey west. The The Grapes of Wrath implies that The Joads were able to find The Promised Land just like Jim Casey had found his own piece of land, which he would never get credit for since he was already dead.

The Grapes of Wrath is a story that easily lends itself to religious symbolism and parallels, as The Bible’s Old Testament contains many such stories. The events in The Grapes of Wrath parallel those found in The Old Testament just as well as its characters do, Jim Casey being no exception to this rule. Jim Casey and The Joads meet at the start of The Grapes of Wrath when Tom decides to visit with his old friend before departing for California with his family.

The two preach together and trade stories about their pasts until nightfall arrives, whereupon Jim insists that he sleep over instead of driving home late at night after having consumed an excess amount of alcohol. The next day they share breakfast while discussing more personal matters before The Joads leave to make the long, arduous trek West. The first instance of Jim Casey’s Christ-figure nature is seen when The Joads drop him off after breakfast, as he wishes them well and they begin their journey to California.

However, this may not be the only time we see Christ-like characteristics in Jim; throughout The Grapes of Wrath, there are many occasions that evoke a certain picture of The Messiah: one whose followers view him as The Son Of God and revere him as such. So it is with Jim Casey for The Joads. The fact that Ma Joad announces from atop the truck on their way out of town that “this here’s Jim… He was a preacher once,” (Steinbeck 32) establishes Jim with The Joads as a religious figure.

The Joads do not see Jim and The Preacher (and The Savior? as two separate identities; they are all one in the same person with The Grapes of Wrath ‘s migrant family, which is established when Casey tells The Joads: “You think I like to preach this stuff? ” (32) The question implies that preaching about such things is uncomfortable for Casey (which means he doesn’t willingly seek out this role). Still, he fulfills it regardless. Another indicator that Casey does not seek out the role of Jesus in Steinbeck’s novel comes in his reaction upon learning of Grampa’s death.

When The Joads arrive at The Weedpatch Camp and Tom tells Casey of Grampa’s death, Casey replies: “He was an old man. The kids come first” (164). The preacher does not mourn his friend’s passing… The reason for this is that Jim has put The Joads’ situation before even the death of someone so dear to him. This shows that Jim cares more about The Joads than himself or those close to him. He feels no need to help himself when he can better help others, as seen during The Grapes of Wrath ‘s many instances where Casey denies himself food in favor of helping others find sustenance.

The third indication that Jim represents a Christ figure in Steinbeck’s novel comes in The Grapes of Wrath ‘s ending, wherein Steinbeck writes that Jim’s voice is “faint and tired… The voice of an old man” (313). The fact this sad ending occurs on the cusp of The Second Coming makes it clear how Jim has sacrificed everything for The Joads/the migrant community at large. Had he not taken on this sacrifice, there would have been no reason to write about Jim having an old voice because The Joads would have found work and made lives for themselves after leaving The Weedpatch Camp.

The last instance where Jim seems to represent a Christ figure in The Grapes of Wrath is during his final scene with Rose of Sharon, which evokes the crucifixion of The Christ. The scene takes place shortly before Casey’s death, as The Joads have just learned The Preacher is dying and they come to say their goodbyes. The first part of the scene has Rose of Sharon offering Jim water from a bottle, which he accepts gratefully. Then Jim asks Rose of Sharon if she believes in The Lord; when she says no, he encourages her to change her answer (a request that would be made by Jesus Himself).

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