The Grapes of Wrath Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

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Please explain Tom Joad's change in thinking from the beginning to the end of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The overall transformation of Tom Joad’s way of thinking is toward greater introspection and, paradoxically, toward greater identification with humanity at the broadest level. The reason that these two apparent contradictions mesh together is his new concern with the spiritual dimension. As he puts it, each person’s “soul” is only a “little piece of…the one big soul that belongs to everybody.” Moreover, while this transformation seems religious in nature, Tom comes to understand how his spiritual convictions articulate with his social commitment. Because he commits horrible deeds, including killing two men, his path is overall one of redemption. The crime for which he was convicted and incarcerated occurred before the book’s action began, so the first the reader sees of Joad is the man who emerges from prison. It is possible that prison had hardened as well as isolated him, so the man he becomes has much in common his pre-prison self.

Both through associating with his...

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