John Steinbeck carefully molded his story The Grapes of Wrath to encompass many themes and ideas. He included several Biblical allusions to enforce his message of the migrating families coming together to form a community. Steinbeck alludes to Biblical characters through Jim Casy and Rose of Sharon, events like the familys journey to California and the flood at the end of the novel, and teachings throughout the novel.
The Biblical allusions represented by the characters in the novel are most obvious in the characters of Jim Casy and Rose of Sharon. However, the Joad family is made up of twelve including Connie, much like the twelve disciples that followed Jesus. Connie represents the traitor, the Judas figure who had betrayed Jesus the night of his arrest when he walks out on his family for selfish reasons. Jim Casy is an allusion to Jesus Christ.
They have the same initials and live their lives as examples of their beliefs; Jesus to the world and Casy to Tom. Casy even compares himself to Christ when he says, “I got tired like Him, an I got mixed up like Him, an I went into the wilderness like Him, without no campin stuff” (105). In the first half of the book Casy is thinking and forming his ideas. He changes from a thinker to a man of action when he sacrifices himself for Tom.
When in prison Casy sees the advantage of organizing people to achieve a common goal. When Casy tried to put his ideas into action he, like Christ, aroused the antagonism of the people in authority and was brutally killed. He died, like Christ saying to his crucifiers, “You don know what youre a-doin” (495). Rose of Sharon represents a Biblical allusion towards the end of the novel.
After she gives birth to her stillborn child, she gives life to a starving man by breast-feeding him. Her sacrifice suggests the notion of rebirth through Christs physical body which is symbolized in the ritual of communion. When she tells the man to drink her milk she alludes to the Last Supper when Christ tells his disciples “Take, drink; this is my blood.” Rose of Sharon realizes this man will die without her, in the same way Christ said that without Him people will die spiritually.
Rose of Sharon exemplifies the idea of helping others in need through her actions in the conclusion of the novel. Steinbeck also alludes to events in the Bible through situations among the Joad family. Their journey to California is much like the Israelites journey from Egypt to Caanan. The novel is broken up into three sections.
The first part is the Joads eviction from their farms under the control of the banks and companies which parallels the Israelites slavery to the Egyptians. Both groups struggled under the control of overwhelming forces and left in hopes of a better life. The second part is the Joads journey from Oklahoma across the Panhandle in search of the promised California which parallels the Israelites wandering in the desert in search of the Promised Land. Both groups experienced many troubles, but were forced to rely on each other to survive.
The third part is the Joads arrival to California which parallels the Israelites arrival to Caanan. The journey for the Israelites lasted so many years that only the younger generation made it to the Promised Land. In the same way Granma and Grampa died before they reached the promised California. The flood at the end of the novel is another example of a Biblical allusion used by Steinbeck.
This situation parallels to the Old Testament story of Noahs Ark. In both events, heavy rains cause a flood that results in the families leaving their homes. In the novel, the Joads and the Wainwrights gather their belongings onto a platform and wait out the flood, much like Noah and his family gather on the ark for forty days until the rain stops. These situations show again the importance of unity and helping one another to make it through troubles.
Last Steinbeck alludes to Christs teachings in the Bible to reveal his theme of coming together in the face of weakness to grow and become strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 states, “9 But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This Biblical teaching comes through several times as the Joad family faces struggles and weaknesses, but because they stick together they are made stronger. Steinbecks many allusions to the Bible reflect his personal views about religion and allow him to reinforce his theme of migrant families coming together to form a community to work together. He alludes to Biblical characters through Jim Casy and