“Today if anything is trying to hold you back, give no attention to it. Get your hopes up, get your faith up, look up, and get ready to rise up” (Germany Kent). These words of encouragement by Germany Kent advise others to stay sturdy in the toughest of situations. In the novel, The Grapes of Wrath, the author John Steinbeck strongly emphasizes the theme of poverty, unjust, and the human spirit. Based on the migrant workers during America’s Dust Bowl, the Joad family faces many difficult struggles such as hunger and the loss of their home.
Despite the various factors that pushed the family away from each other at times, Ma Joad stands there as a backbone who helps pull the family back together promising to assuage the future in hope of prosperity. Jim Casy is an ex-preacher who ends up coming across Tom Joad; he teaches the family members about the impact of any situation in an individual’s life and the search within, to find out one’s identity. The Joad family is forced to start a new life in California with their heads up in search of better opportunities and new jobs. Expressed through their actions and beliefs, both Ma Joad and Jim Casy exhibit strong leadership that fuels the perseverance of their surrounding characters.
Ma Joad exhibits an immense amount of self-control and selflessness during her family’s frustrations and struggles during their journey. Nevertheless, Ma realizes that the family will only be successful if she remains serene in any situation that approaches her. She does not get furious like the rest of the family, but rather stays tranquil and does not remonstrate with Ruthie when she tells others about Tom’s secret. Warren Motley discusses in his work how Ma Joad acts as a cohesive force within the family to survive the long expedition.
By usurping the patriarch’s role as the head of the family, Ma breaks tradition to achieve what is needed for the family (Motley 6). Before the journey even takes a start, Grandpa refuses not to come in the Joad’s truck, so Ma Joad mixes in sleep time cough medicine in his coffee, which makes him go to sleep. During the journey to California, the family takes a pit stop because of a truck damage. Tom suggests that the rest of the family keep moving forward and that he will see them in California. Ma, however, is desperate to prevent the family from breaking up and insists, “I ain’t a-gonna go” (Steinbeck 168).
Shortly after the Joad family enters the Route 66 to California, Grandma’s health begins to decline. Grandma becomes seriously ill shortly after; therefore, Ma Joad nurses her. In fact, Ma wants the family to cross this strenuous journey and to have unity throughout. She tries to keep Grandma’s death a secret because she knows this will cause the family to be discouraged. When the family pulls their car into the patrol area to cross the border, the officers ask to see Grandma. Ma persuades the officers that Grandma is extremely ill and that she needs serious assistance, letting them pass through. During Rose of Sharon’s pregnancy, Ma stands by her side: providing her food, taking care of her health, and fulfilling her needs. She continuously shapes Rose of Sharon into the independent women she needs to become.
Nonetheless, she nurtures her so later in life she can provide for others. Ma’s sweet voice is expressed to be, “so soft, so full of love, that tears crowded into Rose of Sharon’s eyes” (Steinbeck 110). Rose of Sharon understands Ma because she knows that she is preparing her for all the burdens that come into a woman’s life. Warren discusses the final disastrous chapters where Ma Joad takes in hand the family’s money, handles Ruthie’s betrayal of Tom’s hiding place, finds the family work, leads them away from the flooded railroad car, and finally urges Rose of Sharon to suckle the starving man (Motley 9). Ma Joad is the battery of this family since she always keeps it going in the right direction to achieve their dreams.
This novel discusses many of the diverse characters who experience uncertainty through growth and many hardships. Jim Casy is an ex-preacher who comes across a former preacher, Tom Joad. He performs several sacrifices for the better of the family. During a crime scene when Tom nearly gets arrested, Casy takes the blame and gets arrested for the scuffle in Hooverville symbolizing Casy’s god-like behavior. Casy Jim realizes through the actions and behaviors of the people, when he is in the unemployed and homeless campsite; he realizes that the people do not have sufficient amount of wage to live. His sympathy and desire to better those around him lead him to create a worker’s union: demanding a better pay for the poor migrant workers. In contrast, the employers do not like this so Jim is labeled as “red” which means someone who stirs up many problems. Jim Casy guides Tom to follow his footsteps.
As shown in Chapter 28 when Tom is giving Ma an explanation regarding Jim and his death, he strongly expresses,”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… See? God, I’m talkin’ like Casy. Comes of thinkin’ about him so much. Seems like I can see him sometimes” (Steinbeck, 419). Exhibited from this quote, Casy led people in finding their faith. The critic Rachel McCoppin makes a powerful connection on Jim Casy’s role in the novel: he compares Jim to Jesus Christ in the bible by saying, “Casy does not merely want to preach God’s word, but to experience life’s hardship first hand alongside others–in a way Jesus did as well” (McCoppin 6). Similar to Christ’s sacrifice, Jim ends up dying due to his act of resisting the injustices of the people. Jim’s legacy is passed on to those like Tom who will continue what he has started.
Ma Joad and Jim Casy keep the family glued together through thick and thin. Ma Joad in the novel focuses on one goal which was to put humanity first; she exemplifies this when she kindly asks for Mr. and Mrs. Wilson to accompany the Joad family to California. After a lengthy time in the jail, Jim comes up with ways he can be salutary to earn money for the poor migrant workers. Ma and Jim convey the same perspective when Jim vents, “They’s gonna come somepin outa all these folks goin’ wes’- outa all their farms lef’ lonely. They’s gonna come a thing that’s gonna change the whole country’ (Steinbeck 117).
Through the actions and words of Ma Joad and the preaching philosophy of Jim Casy, the Joad family stays intact throughout their journey to California. Ma Joad believes in togetherness and makes suitable decisions for her family and others accompanying them. Through various examples of Ma’s leadership qualities, Ma always exhorts the family to stay as one because if they are together they can carry out any task given. Jim Casy tries to fight for justice for the workers, but in doing so he gets killed. At first, Tom only cares about himself and focuses on how he can succeed on his own, but soon his thoughts line up with Jim’s. Ma Joad’s selfless acts and Jim’s death gave everyone a new beginning, and a reason to live with hope and endurance.