“The Grapes of Wrath”
Discussion notes
Chapters 1-5
Two key characters we’ve met so far: Tom
and Casy. We’ll look at Tom more closely
 It should strike you that Casy’s initials are
 He is certainly a Christ-like figure in this
 It’s not just that he is a former preacher
who “went into the hills thinkin,” much as
Jesus Christ went into the wilderness.
Chapters 1-5
Also consider:
– Casy rejects the notion of sin: “There ain’t no
sin, and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff
people do.”
– His new direction defines the religious impulse
as human love: “What’s this call, this
sperit?...It’s love.”
– This direction also identifies the Holy Spirit as
the human spirit in all mankind: “Maybe all
men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.”
Chapters 1-5
Casy joins the migration not to escape or preach
but to learn from the common human
What he ultimately learns is that man’s spiritual
brotherhood must express itself in social unity.
It’s a moot point to argue whether the novel
promotes specific Christian values because that
depends entirely on your definition of what is
essentially Christian.
Suffice it to say that the novel fuels its social
message with religious fervor and sanction.
Literary element refresher
Diction involves a writer’s selection of language.
Diction may be described as formal or informal,
abstract or concrete, figurative or literal.
Dialect is variation of a given language spoken in
a particular place or by a particular group of
people. A dialect is distinguished by its
vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. If we’re
only talking about pronunciation, we usually use
the term “accent.”
Dialect is applied most often to regional speech
patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by
other factors, such as social class.
Grapes dialect
The story is rich in dialect: language is
unique to its region due to vocabulary,
grammar, and pronunciation.
 Words and phrases from chapters 1-5 of
 “drownded,” “idears,” “Sperit,” “figgered”
“piana” “et”
 “You give her a goin’-over”
 “Touched” (crazy)
The Turtle’s Exodus
The indomitable life force that
drives the turtle, the
toughness that allows it to
survive predators, the
efficiency of nature that uses
the turtle to unwittingly carry
seeds and bury them – all
traits characteristic of the
The Joads, too, will carry their
house (the truck) with them,
survive natural catastrophe,
and see both kindness and
They, too, pick up life in one
place and carry it to another.
Chapter 4: Tom picks up the
turtle as a present for his
younger siblings, talks about
turtles with Casy, and
eventually releases it. The
turtle plods southwest – just
as the Joads will.
Chapters 6-9
7 is a good example
of one of the roles of the
inter-chapters. It adds new
voices – in this case that of a
car salesman who speaks
with the quick pace and
phony tone of a hustler
taking advantage of the
desperate farmers.
Discussion: Chapters 6-9
Steinbeck goes to a
lot of trouble to
describe each
character well before
any real action takes
place. Thus, we can
assume that it is
important to know
much detail about
each of the Joads (and
a few others). This will
help us understand
how they function as a
family unit.
Discussion: chapters 6-9
Jim Casy: Review
– Casy rejects the notion
of sin: “There ain’t no
sin, and there ain’t no
virtue. There’s just stuff
people do.”
– “Maybe all men got one
big soul ever’body’s a
part of.”
– Casy is a thinker in the
first half of the novel; a
man of action in the
second half.
Discussion: Chapters 6-9
Tom Joad
– Main protagonist of the
novel; strong,
responsible, doesn’t like
being pushed around.
– On probation from state
prison; limits his
– Viewpoint transforms
from concern for his
immediate family to
concern for the whole
migrant society.
Discussion: Chapters 6-9
– Refuses to leave the land;
lives like an animal; has
been hunted for more
than two months; lives in
caves and fields; hunts his
own food.
– hates the government
Many disparage Muley for not
heading west with his family:
There is something at work
there that is much stronger
than we can imagine: His
very being is tied to the land.
This is a huge theme in the
book and in Steinbeck’s
writing in general.
Discussion: Chapters 6-9
Ma Joad
– Backbone of the family.
– “Heavy, but not fat; thick
with child-bearing and work”
;“full face was not soft, but
controlled, kindly.”
– The “citadel of the family.”
– Pa and the family “could not
know fear or hurt unless (Ma)
acknowledges it…if she ever
deeply wavers or despairs the
family would fall, the family
will to function would be
– Considered the healer of the
family; the arbiter of
– She fights to keep the family
Discussion: Chapters 6-9
Pa Joad
– Official head of the family.
Hard-working tenant
farmer who is forced out
by elements beyond his
– Only touches Tom on the
shoulder, and very timidly,
after an extended talk
with him. Doesn’t openly
show emotions.
– Doesn’t trust anyone who
writes for no reason.
– Looks dirty and worn;
worn out clothes, saltand-pepper beard.
Discussion: Chapters 6-9
Uncle John:
– “Crazy kind of son-ofbitch – somepin like
Muley, on’y worse in
some ways.”
– Often seen drunk and
visiting whore houses.
– Feels guilty about his
wife’s death; blames
himself for his family’s
bad luck.
– Older than Pa
– Never goes to church;
wants to be off alone;
doesn’t want to get
close to anyone.
Discussion: Chapters 6-9
Granma and Granpa
– Sleep in the barn so that they
aren’t bothered and don’t
– Fighting keeps their
relationship healthy: They
love it (need it) and are
devoted to each other.
– Granpa is “cantankerous,
complaining, mischievous.”
– Attached to the land; too old
to adapt to a new place;
pretends to want to go to
California but doesn’t mean it.
– Granma is “as mean as her
husband”; shot Granpa once
during one of their
arguments, which made him
love her even more.
– Speaks in tongues when the
spirit hits her.
Discussion: Chapters 6-9
Al Joad
– 16 years old; interested in
girls and “billygoatin’”
aroun” at night.
– Handsome, seen
unconsciously as a
younger version of Tom
(although less responsible
at this young age).
– Disappointed that Tom got
paroled rather than
escaped from prison.
– Expert with automobiles;
caretaker of the truck.
Discussion: Chapters 6-9
– First-born son of the Joads;
Pa pulled him out of Ma with
his hands because he couldn’t
deal with Ma’s pain and
– He is not stupid; just strange
and a little slow. Loves family
but feels like an outsider.
Rose of Sharon
– 17 or 18; pregnant.
– Pre-motherhood has changed
her from an immature girl to
a young woman gaining
wisdom. This change isn’t
completed until almost the
end of the novel.
– Rose of Sharon’s 19-year-old
Chapters 6-9: discussion notes
Ruthie and Winfield
– Youngest Joad
children; Ruthie,
12, is on verge of
Winfield is a roughand-tumble, typical
boy, 10.
Discussion notes: chapters 10-11
Transitions and transformations
When the Joads change from farm people to road
people, they have to cast off not only many of
their belongings but their habits and customs as
– Casy salts the pork even though it’s “women’s work,”
according to Ma. “It’s all work,” Casy replies.
– The leadership of the Joads must pass to Ma before the
family can assume its new identity.
– Grandpa refuses to go: To be torn away from his land is
too shattering for him.
Discussion notes: chapters 10-11
The Joad family
 Each person is a
separate individual
with distinct qualities.
Yet, the family often
acts as if it were one
person. It makes
decisions as a group,
travels as a single
unit, and reacts
uniformly to events.
Discussion notes: chapters 10-11
Experience changes the family’s
– Before the Joads leave home,
Grandpa and Granma rule the
roost, at least in name. When the
family breaks ties to the land and
joins the migrant exodus, the old
generation gives way to the new.
– Pa’s authority is fleeting: Ma
gradually takes over, and her
powerful personality and steady
hand are what holds the family
together at this point.
– When Tom plans to remain with
another family’s disabled car until
it is fixed, Ma vows to smash him
with a jack handle if he insists the
family go on without him. She is
then seen as the undisputed
leader of the Joads.
Discussion notes: chapters 10-11
Yet, Ma is already (subconsciously)
beginning to subscribe to a new notion of
family. “I” is becoming “We.” When
isolated families fuse with one another, a
larger family, a Human Family, develops.
 This is also seen when Muley knows he
must share his rabbit with Tom and Casy.
They are hungry: He has food. He must
Test 1: Preview
Covers chapters 1-11
68 total points: 13 multiple choice questions; 7 true
or false; three short answer questions (20 points); 6
identification of speakers and the passages’ meanings
(18); one essay (10 points) that includes a video
Know the characters and their general
Specifically review chapters 1,5,and 9: know the
overall idea or purpose of those chapters
Review the viewing guide for what we have covered of
Steinbeck’s “Biography” so far.

The Grapes of Wrath” - Wayzata School District / …