The Grapes of Wrath Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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What did Casy's death symbolize in The Grapes of Wrath?  

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Casy's death represents several elements in the narrative.  The first is that it shows the lengths that the "owners and their minions" will go to silence the truth from being spoken.  Casy's death is not an accident.  It is a reflection of how violence is used to suppress dissent in an industrialist configuration where the struggle and desire for wealth outstrips the compassion and care for human beings.  At the same time, his death is a representation of the result of the protection of these economic interests.  Casy's death also represents a critical moment for Tom.  He is linked to another human being, a condition that moves from him isolation to collectivization and solidarity,  Tom kills in defense of another human being. This shows that Casy's death has accomplished a change in Tom, something that shows his own care for human beings.  This is a condition that was not in his character at the start of the novel, one where he simply wished to be "left alone."  Now, he is convinced that his calling and his purpose is to be linked to other people and a larger community, something that is brought out in Casy's death.

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