How can Jim Casy be understood as a Christ-like figure?
The character of Jim Casy moves from being an energetic preacher to shunning God. He then becomes something of an apostle. Finally, as his initials "J.C." suggest, the character becomes Christ-like.
The home everyone once knew in this rural section of Oklahoma is gone. For the few people who remain, the need for a leader grows stronger. Casy, like the Apostle Paul, reluctantly assumes the mantle of leadership. While he can never again embrace the former evangelical role many in his community expect from him, Jim Casy becomes more and more Christ-like until eventually, like Christ, Casy dies a martyr’s death.
As the novel opens, Tom Joad finds the former preacher resting under a tree. Tom does not recognize the old family friend at first; Casy reminds Tom how they know one another
"I was a preacher," said the man seriously. "Reverend Jim Casy—was a Burning Busher. Used to howl out the name of Jesus to glory. And used to get an irrigation ditch so squirmin' full of repented sinners half of 'em like to drowned. But not no more," he sighed. "Jus' Jim Casy now. Ain't got the call no more. Got a lot of sinful idears—but they seem kinda sensible."
Despite Casy’s disillusionment, evidence of his good moral character is presented early on. Casy listens patiently to Muley Graves, the lone resident of the now-deserted land that Tom had once called home. Muley tells Tom and Casy about the plight of the people, of the disrespect for their land,their families, and their homes. The injustice of it all ignites passion in Casy, perhaps really for the first time. It is as if he is experiencing his own private Pentecost:
Jim Casy had been staring at the dying fire, and his eyes had grown wider and his neck muscles stood higher. Suddenly he cried, “I got her! If ever a man got a dos of the sperit, I got her. Got her all of a flash!” He jumped to his feet and paced back and forth, his head swinging. “Had a tent one time. Drawed as much as five hundred people ever’ night. That’s before either you fellas seen me.”
Because the reader knows Casy, unlike a lot of traveling preachers, has no monetary or self-aggrandizing motives, it is easier to trust him as the landscape, and the family, changes.
Casy's development as an apostle continues as the family prepares for their frightful journey into the unknown. When it is time to head out, and it is decided that Casy will accompany the family, Ma asks...
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