The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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What opinions does Casy espouse about sin and "bad words" in The Grapes of Wrath?    

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Casy is speaking from personal experience here. When he was a hellfire evangelical preacher, he used to engage in all kinds of sinful practices, and no matter how hard he prayed, it never seemed to make any difference. He just kept right on committing one sin after another. So, Casy figures that maybe such behavior isn't really sinful at all; it's just the way that people are. He draws the radical—and from a Christian standpoint, heterodox—conclusion that there's no such thing as either sin or virtue; there's just stuff that people do.

By the same token, Casy doesn't think there are such things as bad words, either. Again, they're just words that people use. In themselves, the words are nothing; what really matters is the intent behind their use. This means that the simple uttering of a cuss word doesn't tell us anything about the goodness of the person who utters it. As is the case with his unique take on sin, Casy is showing us here that true religion is a matter of the heart, not a collection of rigid laws and conventions governing people's behavior.

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Bruce Bergman eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Casy says that profanity is necessary at times as a means of letting a person vent. Regarding sin, Casy comes to the conclusion that sin is just "things people do". 

This is a radical opinion for the time - and it is today too, for that matter - and it marks Casy as a free-thinking, liberal who is striving to establish his own philosophies on behavior, morality, and religion. These traits are certainly not negatively presented and seem, in the abstract, to represent Steinbeck's social values rather precisely as he tended toward a position of social progressivism. Casy, in this regard, is a champion of Steinbeck's positive views. 

He is honest, compassionate, and courageous. Casy’s new “religion” is based on love and a belief in each person’s soul as well as an all-inclusive soul, the “Holy Spirit” of humanity.

Casy struggles to put these things together into a coherent system of thought, but he is always gathering in new information from his experiences, which makes the process dynamic but also difficult and troubling for him. 

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