The central character of the novel, he is a recently released inmate imprisoned for murder who returns home to find that his family has lost their farm and is moving west to California. Tom is a plainspoken, forthright and direct man, yet he still retains some of his violent tendencies.
The mother of Noah, Tom, Rose of Sharon, Ruthie and Winfield, Ma Joad is a woman accustomed to hardship and deprivation. She is a forceful woman who is determined to keep her family together at nearly all costs, yet remains kind toward all, even sparing what little the family has for those even less fortunate.
Although Pa Joad is the head of the Joad household, he is not a forceful presence. Without the ability to provide for his family, he recedes into the background, playing little prominent role in deciding the fate of his family.
A morose man prone to depression and alcoholism, Uncle John believes himself to be the cause of the family's misfortune. He blames himself for the death of his wife several years ago, and has carried the guilt of that event with him.
Rose of Sharon
Tom Joad's younger sister, recently married to Connie Rivers and pregnant with his child, Rose of Sharon is the one adult who retains a sense of optimism in the future. She dreams of a middle-class life with her husband and child, but becomes paranoid and disillusioned once her husband abandons her when they reach California.
The shiftless husband of Rose of Sharon, Connie dreams of taking correspondence courses that will provide him with job opportunities and the possibility of a better life. When he reaches California and does not find work, he immediately becomes disillusioned and abandons his pregnant wife.
Tom's older brother, he suffers from mental disabilities that likely occurred during childbirth. He leaves the family to remain an outsider from society, supporting himself by catching fish at the nearby river.
Tom's younger brother, at sixteen years old he is concerned with cars and girls, and remains combative and truculent toward the rest of the family. Out of the Joad family, he has the most knowledge of cars, and fears that the rest of the family will blame him if anything goes wrong. He dreams of becoming a mechanic, and becomes engaged to Aggie Wainwright by the end of the novel.
One of the two small children in the Joad family, it is Ruthie who reveals that Tom is responsible for the murder at Hooper Ranch, forcing him to leave his family to escape capture by the police.
The other small child in the Joad family, Winfield becomes severely ill during the course of the novel from deprivation, but survives his illness.
An energetic, feisty old man, Grampa refuses to leave Oklahoma with the rest of his family, but is forcibly taken on the journey after he is drugged by the other family members. Soon afterward, unable to bear leaving the area where he had long lived, Grampa dies of a stroke.
Granma Joad does not survive much longer than her husband. She becomes severely ill on the journey to California, and dies not long after they reach the state.
Reverend Jim Casy
A fallen preacher who too often succumbed to temptation, Casy left the ministry when he realized that he did not believe in absolute ideas of sin. He espouses the idea that all that is holy comes from collective society, a belief that he places in practical context when, after time in jail, he becomes involved with labor activists. Casy is a martyr for his beliefs, murdered in a confrontation with police.
Muley is a crazy elderly man who reveals to Tom Joad the fate of his family. Having lost his home and farmland, his wife and children left Oklahoma for California, but Muley decided to remain, where he attempts to elude the police for his constant trespassing and live outside of society.
She and her family aid the Joads when Grampa Joad has a stroke, and decides to continue with the Joads on the way to California, for the two families can help each other on the way. She falls ill at the first camp where the two families stay, and remains there with the rest of her family, facing the possibility of arrest for trespassing.
He is a half-crazed old migrant worker driven bull-simple' from continued torture by the California police.
He befriends Al Joad and tells the Joad family about work opportunities and about the government camp at Weedpatch.
Timothy and Wilkie Wallace
These two brothers are Weedpatch camp residents who take Tom to find work when they arrive at the government camp.
The contractor who hires Tom and the Wallaces, he warns the men about the intruders who will interrupt the dance at the government camp.
She is the head of the Ladies Committee at Weedpatch who gives Ma Joad a tour of the facilities.
She is the assistant to Jessie Bullitt and formerly the head of the Ladies Committee who frequently bickers with Jessie over insignificant details.
He is the manager of the camp at Weedpatch who treats the Joads with an unexpected respect.
She is a fundamentalist zealot who complains about the alleged sin that takes place at the government camp, including dancing, and frightens Rose of Sharon with her admonitions about sin.
He is the elected head of the Central Committee at Weedpatch who advises Tom and the other men on how to deal with the situation at the Saturday dance.
He is the head of the Weedpatch entertainment committee who defuses the problem of the intruders and the police during the dance.
She is the young woman to whom Al Joad becomes engaged.
The Grapes of Wrath Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Grapes of Wrath is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Even early in the journey the Joads suffer a tragic loss, if one less significant than an actual family member. The family dog becomes the first victim on the journey. Its early demise, dying before the Joads even reach the Oklahoma border,...