The Grapes of Wrath
By: John Steinbeck
In the Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck uses characters in his novel to symbolize religion. Jim Casy is the moral spokesman of the novel and is often considered a Christ-figure. The initials of his name, J.C., are the same as Jesus Christ, and like Christ, he wanders in the wilderness. In Christ-like fashion, Casy sacrifices himself when he turns himself in to save Tom after an altercation with a deputy. John Steinbeck uses allusions, foreshadowing, and a combination of similes and metaphors to express his beliefs on religion through a novel that only took him 100 days to write.
John Steinbeck characterizes Jim Casy as someone who redefines the concept of holiness. He is also referred to as a "Burning Busher" (23). This particular allusion helps the reader identify Jim Casy's role as Jesus Christ. The "Burning Busher" is an allusion to the burning bush, which is where Moses was chosen to lead his people out of Egypt. This is similar to Casy's life as a preacher when he was supposed to lead his people to a better life. Jim Casy was a traveling preacher who was troubled by sinful pleasures. He struggles with the concepts of the Holy Spirit and realizes that sinful behavior will not be accepted in traditional worship. Jim Casy describes his actions with girls as "holy vessels" (22). Casy would take girls out into the grass after sermons and do things that were against his preaching’s. His hypocrisy and acts of sin lead to his decision to step down as a preacher and focus on his new perspective on religion and what the Holy Spirit really is. Jim Casy also resembles Jesus such that he paraphrases his last words similar to Christ’s. Just before taking a blow to the head, Jim Casy says, "you don't know what you're a-doin" (386). Jim Casy dies trying to save the people, just like Jesus in the bible. This is also an indirect attempt to show the people that he has changed his ways and is expressing his new religion.