The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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When Jim Casy early on in The Grapes of Wrath speaks of the "sperit," does this foreshadow the future struggles of the migrant workers?

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Early in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, a preacher named Jim Casy explains his calling and conversion to a new kind of social gospel:

"I says, 'What's this call, this sperit?' An' I says, 'It's love. I love people so much I'm fit to bust, sometimes.' An' I says, 'Don't you love Jesus?' Well, I thought an' thought, an' finally I says, 'No, I don't know nobody name' Jesus. I know a bunch of stories, but I only love people. An' sometimes I love 'em fit to bust, an' I want to make 'em happy, so I been preachin' somepin I thought would make 'em happy.'"

These words are relevant to future struggles of the migrant workers depicted later in the book. The relevance of Casy’s words includes the following:

  • Casy has adopted a kind of religious calling that distinguishes him from traditional, conventional preachers of the Christian religion. Such traditional preachers were often seen as representatives and defenders of the very persons who helped oppress migrant workers. Rather than serving the institutional church, with which he has no affiliation, Casy instead serves his own conscience and, through such service, also tries to serve people who are unfortunate and downtrodden. He tries to live by the spirit of Christianity rather than according to its mere letter. He tries to serve less by preaching and teaching than by his active, individual example.
  • The fact that Casy identifies the spirit of religion with “love” suggests that to him doctrinal and denominational differences between or within religions are less important than what they have in common, which he associates with charity in the fullest senses of that word.
  • It’s important to note that Casy says he loves “people,” not groups. In...

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