The Grapes of Wrath Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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In The Grapes of Wrath, how can one discuss Jim Casy as a socialist messiah or Christ figure?

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Casy's beliefs and actions paint him as Christ-like socialist messiah.

Casy embraces tenets of socialism in how he speaks for those who are economically challenged.  Through his teachings, he represents the socialist idea of power coming from the bottom up. He poses a significant threat to those in the position of economic power. Casy articulates a socialist vision when he speaks of inclusivity, moving away from an economically stratified reality: "’maybe it’s all men an’ all women… all men got one big soul and ever’body a part of. Now I sat there thinkin’ it, and all of a suddent- I knew it. I knew it so deep down it was true, and I still know it.” Casy's socialism is evident in his emphasis of a social order devoid of economic class interests. As he dies, he is labeled a "Red," reflecting how Casy is seen by those in the position of economic power.

Casy understands his role as a leader of people. In doing so, he demonstrates the qualities of a messiah. Casy knows that he has "the call to lead people" and does not forsake his responsibilities of leadership. His final actions, taken in the name of starving children, underscore a messiah-like commitment to his followers.

With the initials of "J.C.," Steinbeck is deliberate in making Casy a messianic, Christ-like figure. When Casy is about to be killed, his words are Christ-like in nature:  "Listen," he said. "You fellas don' know what you're doin'. You're helpin' to starve kids."  ]This is very similar to Jesus's call on the cross that the people who crucified him "know not what they do." Like Jesus, Casy decries material possessions. He is direct in saying that he "never took no collections" when he preached "in barns an' in the open." Casy follows Jesus's example in not valorizing a traditional approach to spiritual identity. In these ways, Steinbeck makes Casy a socialist messiah who is very similar to Jesus Christ.

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