Biblical Symbolism inTHE GRAPES OF WRATHCaptivity, journey and Promised Land • Characters and their biblical allusions • Biblical quotes and their connections to the novel
Literary Device: ALLUSION • An expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly • The Grapes of Wrath has many characters and plot components paralleled with biblical persons and narratives
Structure of the Novel • The three part structure of the novel (readying for the journey, the journey, and the arrival) echo exodus account which includes captivity, journey, and thepromised land. • The Joads' story is a direct parallel with that of the Hebrews. Just as the Hebrews were captives of the Pharaoh, the Joads' arecaptives of their farm. • Both make long and arduous journeys until theyreach their promised land. Israel is the final destination for the Hebrews and California plays the same role for the Joads.
Rose of Sharon -- Rosasharn • Hibiscus syriacus:more commonly named the Rose of Sharon, is mentioned frequently in the Bible • It is a medium-sized ornamental shrub. The flower that eloquently blooms on this shrub retains the most significance. The flowers are large and showy. It is common in certain countries • In the romantic book Song of Songs, this flower is compared to a humble, young woman (ordinariness) • While this flower is common and ordinary throughout the Bible, Rose of Sharon in The Grapes of Wrath, emerges, ironically, as an extraordinary individual, as seen by her remarkable act of generosity at the end of the novel (gives hope to the dying man)
Mary becomes the mother of all the earth, renewing the world with her compassion and love Madonna and Child
Pietá: picture or sculpture of Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ on her lap or in her arms
Ruthie • From the Book of Ruth -- She was a foreigner, but was very patient and ended up marrying royalty because of her character. • How does this connect with the novel? • (HINT: It has to do with the Land of Milk & Honey…think of Sally from Wright’s “The Man Who Saw the Flood”)
Book of Job and the Joads • 12 including Connie (12 disciples) • 18th book from Old Testament - The biblical story makes an example of people whose faith is tested through struggle. • Satan visits God and God permits Satan to test Job. • Satan destroys all of Job’s material possessions and family to test Job’s faith in God • Job’s faith remains strong despite his misfortunes and internal struggles. • How is Job’s experience analogous to the Joads?
Noah and the Flood • Joad car (packed w/ possessions) = Noah’s Ark in Genesis (crammed w/ animals). Intended to start a new life with the basics of survival. • Flood = Dust Bowl (Man vs. Nature) • Struggle for survival • Noah Joad follows the river on his own and can’t bear to stay with his family (Ch. 18) • Noah spent 40 years afloat on the Ark separated from the world
Other Biblical allusions… • California = Canaan (Promised Land of the Israelites; “Land of Milk & Honey”) • Joads, like the Hebrews, go through many trials to reach California (the Promised Land) • Insect references/description of changing land similar to the Exodus plagues (locusts, disease of livestock, etc.) • Book of Exodus: Migrants = Hebrews • Displaced; in search of the Promised Land
Other Biblical allusions… (cont.) • Connie Rivers = Judas Iscariot • Connie abandons family at critical moment in Ch. 20 -- told Rose just before he left he would have done better “if he stayed home an’ studied up tractors” -- allusion to farmer-turned-tractor driver of Ch. 5 (betrayal) • Judas betrays Jesus Christ to Jewish authorities for 30 pieces of silver
Jim Casy = Jesus Christ • JIM CASY: • voice of modern faith • not a hypocrite even though he is a sinner • arrested without premise, much like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane • Takes blame for Tom Joad, like Christ for humanity. • When Casy leaves the narrative after the Hooverville scuffle, he is wondering how he can help “the people” • When Casy returns in Ch. 26, he is a determined organizer of migrant workers; nomadic and clear-minded (like Christ!)
Casy & Christ (cont.) • Jim Casy and Jesus Christ both changed the authority of the common man’s ability to rise above oppression • Casy struggles with his life’s purpose; Jesus struggles with his (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14: 32-42, Luke 22: 39-46.) • Jim arrested in Hooverville camp; Jesus arrested in Garden (Matt 26: 47-56, Mark 14: 43-52, Luke 22 : 47-50) • Jim teaches Tom; Jesus teaches his disciples (Matthew 6:5-15, Luke 11: 1-13) • Casy’s last words in novel: “You fellas don’ know what you’re doin’”; Christ’s final words: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Tom Joad as an Apostle of Jim Casy • Returns home from McAlester Prison like Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) • Even though he is a murderer, he evolves to be a devout follower and an advocate for JC • Tom Joad = early Christians, carrying on Christ’s message after he is gone • At the beginning of the novel, Jim Casey talks much and acts rarely; Tom is nearly mute and acts as if by instinct. At the end of the novel, Tom is constrained to act by his exile and is forced, like Casey, to think • When Ma ask Tom what he’s going to do after he leaves the family, he says “What Casey done.” (419)
Casy’s Doctrine • Casy: “…maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe that’s the Holy Sperit -- the human spirit -- the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.” (Ch. 4) • Casy believes in the unity of mankind -- to offend others is to offend yourself • Christ: “Love thy neighbor as thyself”
Significance of Title: “Grapes of Wrath” • Book of Revelations: St. John’s divine vision of the future of mankind; last book in New Testament • “So the angel swung his sickle on the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the Wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden through the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs” (Revelations 14: 18-19) • Dust Bowl oppression the wrath of the dispossessed and displaced masses (like God’s divine justice) • Workers’ justice and “deliverance from evil” achieved through cooperation (i.e., family, organized labor, compassion) • See explanation in reading packet.
Journal 7bWhy use biblical allusions? Why does John Steinbeck use biblical allusions to the narratives and themes of the Old and New Testament to tell the story of the dispossessed farmers and migrant workers of the Great Depression? Is he promoting religion and Christianity in general?
There are infinite types of allusions. Steinbeck chooses the Bible as frame of reference for a reason. Bible has complex and developed doctrines attached to references. Even personally, John Steinbeck was a Bible scholar since he had to know the Bible well to criticize established religion. Steinbeck drew part of his work from the American Transcendentalist literary movement (like Nathaniel Hawthorne 104 years before him). “Casy, he use to talk a lot. Use ta bother me. But now I been thinking what he said an’ I can remember all of it. Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul, an’ he foun’ he didn’ have no soul that was his’n. Says he foun’ he just got a little piece of a great big soul. Says a wilderness ain’t no good, ‘cause his little piece of soul wasn’t no good less it was with the rest, an’ was whole.” Why biblical allusions?, cont…