Self Reliance and Other Essays

Emersonian thought in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath 11th Grade

Steinbeck’s characterization of Jim Casy in The Grapes of Wrath stems from Emersonian thought, as expressed in Emerson’s essay “The Over-Soul”. Jim Casy forms beliefs based on the ideas presented in this piece, as evident through his action of quitting preaching, and his understanding that educating others by lecturing them is pointless. This enlightened leader learns to interact with his soul and acknowledge the presence of a spirit greater than man himself. The presence of Emeron’s ideas is forever present in the novel, as Casy is able to hand down these concepts to Tom Joad before his death, symbolizing the universality of “The Over-Soul.”

“The Over-Soul” inspired Steinbeck to create intellectual Jim Casy, the most enlightened character introduced in the novel. When Casy is first presented to the readers, his journey towards discovering his own soul has already started. When, on his walk home from prison, Tom Joad recognizes Casy as the preacher who baptized him, Casy immediately corrects him, saying, “I was a preacher… Ain’t got the call no more. Got a lot of sinful idears -- but they seem kinds sensible.” (20). This statement is the epitome of Casy’s transformation as a character. He disconnects with God and reconnects...

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