” Many characters in “The Grapesor Wrath” exhibit this theme, but it is valiantly apparent in the actionsof the Joads as a family, Tom, Casy, and Rose of Sharon. Although each person inthe Joad family is a separate individual, the family often acts as thought itwere one person. As one might expect the experiences they incur change thefamily personality. At the end of the book the Joads have lost their familyidentity, but they’ve replaced it with something equally worthy: they’ve foundkinship with other migrant families. The Joads merge with the Wainwrights andthe Wilsons, because each family needed the other and the fragmented familybecomes whole again. The members don’t share last names, but they give supportto each other in the form of food, blankets, a kind word, medicine, advice, andeven love.
As Casy says, “nobody has an individual soul, but everybody’sjust got a piece of a great big soul. ” By opening their hearts the Joadstransformed into members of the universal family. Rose of Sharon, the eighteenyear old daughter goes through a miraculous transformation of the heart as thejourney progresses. When the Joads first begin their torrid journey Connie,Roses husband, and Rose set themselves apart from the mundane matters thatoccupy the rest of the family.
They focus solely on the baby and dwell in thefuture instead of the present. They dream of the house they’ll buy for the babyin California, about the car they’ll drive, and about Connie’s schooling andjob. When the going gets tough, Connie abandons his young wife, which may havebeen the turning point in Roses life. As time the birth approaches, Rose ofSharon does a surprising thing for someone in her delicate state, as she insistson picking cotton with the rest of her family. After a few days the baby is borndead and she seems relieved to know that she won’t have to raise a child inawesome poverty. Suffering through childbirth has perhaps opened her eyes.
Throughout the book we have seen her concerned almost exclusively with herselfand her problems. Now she looks out at the world and turns completely about. Inan act of extreme charity, she suckles a dying man with the milk of humankindness. Rose of Sharon discovers that everybody must be treated as family ifthey are to endure.
It’s a message of love, which Rose of Sharon powerfullydramatizes for us in a barn. Jim Casy, one of the three most importantcharacters in the Grapes of Wrath only appears in about one third of the book,yet we rarely forget him. Although Casy was never a Joad, even Tom had statedhe’s close enough to be a Joad. Casy, a former preacher, retreats from organizedreligion because hypocrisy and a weakness for women have forced him to reexaminehis beliefs.
He no longer believes in the individual, but strongly believes that”all men got one big soul everybody’s a part of. ” In Hooverville, Casyat last gets his chance to practice what he has started to preach. Tom trips thedeputy sheriff who wants to arrest Floyd, an innocent man. Casy joins the frayand knocks the man out with a kick to the neck.
When the sheriff returns to haulTom to jail, Casy volunteers to go in Tom’s place: “Somebody got to takethe blame. . . an’ I ain’t doin’ nothin’ but set aroun’. ” Months later we runinto Casy again. Out of jail, he has begun to organize the workers, and in fact,he leads the strike at Hooper Ranch.
He has translated his love for people intoan effort to show them that their strength lies in collective action. Casydevotes his life to the union movement, and later gives it. In effect, Casysacrifices himself so that others may be better off. Tom Joad, the mostimportant character in the “Grapes of Wrath”, is an individual whorealizes the importance of having a heart.
Tom has a quick temper, he killed aman in a drunken brawl, speaks harshly to the truck driver who gives him a lift;scolds the one-eyed man for feeling self-pity; and tells off the fat man whoruns the filling station. Tom doesn’t despise each man, but only because eachfeels defeated by life’s hardships. Tom gives them all a brutally frank peptalk, as though he wants to get them moving again. Tom can’t just throw up hishands and walk away from problems, and he doesn’t want to see others do thateither.
As the Joads wander around California, Tom meets more good people whokeep up the increasingly difficult struggle to live a decent life. From then on,Tom follows in Casy’s footsteps. His concerns extend beyond himself and hisfamily. They now include all downtrodden people. He feels a calling to help inany way he can. Casy’s violent death probably hastens Tom’s decision to work forthe welfare of all poor people.
As he says to Ma just before he leaves thefamily forever, “I’ll be aroun’ in the dark, I’ll be ever’where–whereveryou look. 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. ” Tom may end updead, like Casy, but there is no doubt that he’ll go down swinging.
When we lookat the theme of the education of the heart we can realize that these charactersdidn’t start the journey with the belief that their a part of a great big soul. We can see and realize the gradual yet dramatic transformation of these threecharacters. Casy lives and dies for others, and at the end Tom will walk inCasy’s footsteps. Rose of Sharon soon after follows as she offers her milk to astranger, she wears an enigmatic smile, suggesting that she, too, has discoveredthe joy that comes from opening the heart.