Illustration of the back a man in a hat and overalls looking towards the farmland

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

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The Grapes of Wrath Characters

The main character in The Grapes of Wrath are Tom Joad, Jr., Jim Casy, Ma Joad, and Rose of Sharon.

  • Tom Joad, Jr. is an ex-convict who joins his family in moving to California in search of economic opportunity. After Jim Casy's death, Tom devotes himself to helping others.
  • Jim Casy is a preacher who joins the Joad on their journey. He is killed while trying to help migrant workers organize.

  • Ma Joad is a resilient woman who is devoted to her family.

  • Rose of Sharon is the Joad's pregnant eldest daughter. She symbolically represents motherhood, fertility, and hope.

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List of Characters

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Tom Joad Jr.

Tom Joad Jr. is the second son of the Joad family. He is passionate and impulsive. Initially self-centered, Tom proves to be the most dynamic character in the story and greatly changes throughout its events. At the beginning of the novel, Tom is released from McAlester Prison after having been incarcerated for four years in prison for killing a man in self-defense. Although Tom regrets having killed the man, he says that he knows he could do it again. (Read extended character analysis of Tom Joad.)

Jim Casy

Jim Casy is a former preacher and friend to the Joad family. He is a kind and thoughtful man, who spends a great amount of time reflecting on his actions and the world around him. He engages constantly in an internal struggle with his ideologies. Near the end of the novel, Casy becomes a strong and influential man of action. (Read extended character analysis of Jim Casy.)

Rose of Sharon (Rosasharn)

Rose of Sharon, called “Rosasharn,” is the eighteen-year-old elder daughter of the Joad family. At the beginning of the novel, she is married to Connie Rivers and is pregnant with his child. Rosasharn is selfish and mostly concerned with her own needs and her child. She is womanly, demure, and serious. Despite her hardships, Rosasharn grows as a character and eventually learns to care for others over herself. (Read extended character analysis of Rosaharn.)

Ma Joad

Ma Joad is the matriarch of the Joad family. She is described as heavyset, calm, and wise. Ma is the healer, arbiter, and nurturer of the family. As such, she keeps the family together through her calm nature and ability to find humor. She understands that if she wavers, the family will fall with her. (Read extended character analysis of Ma Joad.)

Minor Characters

Tom Joad Sr. (Pa)

Tom Joad Sr., or Pa, is the patriarch of the Joad family. Initially a strong father figure, he is unable to provide for the family as life becomes more difficult. He finds that he cannot get a job and support the family like he used to. Disheartened, Pa steps down from being a leader of the family. In his place Ma takes over as the leader of the Joad family.

Granma Joad

Granma is similar to her husband and just as mean. She is religious and follows Christianity with a ferocious sort of violence. She is only able to get along with her husband through bickering and fighting. Granma survives the trip west for longer than Grampa does. However, she eventually becomes sickly and dies. Ma Joad pretends that Granma is still alive after her death in order to get the family quickly across the state border into California. After Ma Joad finally tells the family of her death, they leave Granma’s body at a coroner’s, because they are unable to afford a proper burial for her.

Grampa Joad

Grampa is described as ragged, lean, and quick. He is a mischievous, childlike, and angry man, who tells dirty stories and talks, eats, and drinks too much, if he can. Grampa refuses to go with the Joad family when they decide to leave west for California. The family ends up drugging him to make him sleep, and they take him along while he is unconscious. Grampa, however, becomes very sick early on in their travels. When he dies, the family is unable to afford a proper burial and illegally buries him in an unmarked grave.

Uncle John Joad

Uncle John Joad is Pa Joad’s older brother. He lives alone and is viewed as a little wild. Uncle John was happily married in his youth. However, when his wife got sick, he didn’t call for a doctor. After she died from what turned out to be appendicitis, Uncle John blamed himself. He became strange, reclusive, and wild.

Uncle John tends to wander and is found in odd situations. Tom claims that each year only makes Uncle John “stringier and meaner.” Although he is viewed as a nuisance with his odd, paranoid behavior, Uncle John is very generous, and gave the Joad children gifts as they grew up. The Joad family initially resides at Uncle John’s farm after being kicked off their land.

Connie Rivers

Connie Rivers is the young, nineteen-year-old husband of Rosasharn. He is good and hard-working, and he and Rosasharn are happy together. He is proud of Rosasharn but slightly fearful of her since her personality changed once she became pregnant. Connie becomes disappointed once the family is in California, because they have found few job opportunities. Connie is unable to handle the pressure when Rosasharn tells him that they need to have a house before the child is born. Connie claims that he’ll buy her a house after he starts earning money. He then leaves. After Connie has been gone for a while, the Joad family decides to leave the camp. Rosasharn is convinced he’ll return and wants to wait instead of moving again. Tom and Ma convince her that Connie will find them later. The family leaves, and Connie never returns to Rosasharn.

Noah Joad

Noah is the eldest son of the Joad family. He is calm and introspective, often reflecting on his surroundings. He never gets angry and is unable to understand why people feel that emotion. He rarely speaks, and when he does, he speaks slowly. Noah is intelligent and capable, but he is listless in nature and his appearance is described as slightly misshapen. When Ma was giving birth to Noah, Pa panicked and pulled on him, changing his head and body shape. Pa is ashamed of this and hasn’t told anyone, but he treats Noah nicer than the others as a result. Noah is with the Joad family when they begin their road trip, but when they stop before the California border at the Colorado River, Noah decides that he wants to stay and live by the river. He believes that he won’t starve if he stays by the river. Tom is unable to convince him to stay with the family, and Noah leaves.

Al Joad

Al is the second-youngest son of the Joad family. He looks up to Tom and tries to act like him. He both admires and fears Tom's having killed a man and spent time in prison. Al is only a teenager, but because he excels at fixing cars, the family allows him to be responsible for caring for the car and for driving it. Near the end of the novel, after having faced many hardships, the Joad family ends up staying in boxcars. While living in the boxcar, Al meets Aggie Wainwright, the daughter of the family the Joads share a boxcar with. Al is pushed to marry Aggie Wainwright after going on several dates with her.


Ruthie is the twelve-year-old daughter of the Joad family. She is young, but understands that she will be coming of age soon. She acts seriously and tries to be ladylike in her manners. When the family is living near a cotton farm in a boxcar, Ruthie accidentally reveals to the other children that her brother Tom just killed a man in an altercation. This results in Tom having to leave the family and go into hiding.


Winfield is ten years old and the youngest of the Joad children. He is wild, childish, and silly.

Muley Graves

Muley Graves is one of the Joad family’s neighbors in Oklahoma. Graves, described as lonesome and coyote-like, is small, quick, and suspicious. Graves finds Tom Joad and Jim Casy in the beginning of the novel at the abandoned Joad family home. He explains to the two men where the Joad family went and updates them on what has been happening to the families and land. Although almost everyone is leaving to go west, Graves refuses to leave Oklahoma.

Graves is passionate about his land and home, claiming that he’ll kill some of the landowners if they try to kill him. Tom and Casy consider his refusal to go west as insane. Graves is stubborn, and he feels that he can’t leave his land just because he’s told to; he only would have left Oklahoma if he could have made the choice himself.

Ivy Wilson

Ivy Wilson is Sairy Wilson’s husband. Ivy is middle-aged and kind. The Wilsons meet the Joads when they stop to camp along the road. Ivy and his wife invite the Joads to camp with them. The Joads offer them aid with their broken-down car, and Ivy is grateful for it. He and Sairy travel with the Joads until Sairy becomes too ill to travel.

Sairy Wilson

Sairy Wilson is Ivy Wilson’s wife. She is camping with Ivy when the Joad family pulls up and camps alongside them. She is thin, middle aged, and sickly, although her voice is low and lovely. Sairy is kind and invites Grampa to her and Ivy’s tent to rest when he feels sick. After Grampa dies, Sairy helps Ma wrap his body in one of her quilts to prepare him for burial.

Sairy and Ivy join the Joad family while traveling. However, Sairy’s health declines, and she and Ivy are unable to go farther with the Joad family. Sairy knows she is dying, but she doesn’t want to tell her husband. She asks Casy to pray for her, but he says he is unable to.

Floyd Knowles

Floyd Knowles is a migrant worker whom Tom and Al meet at a camp in California. Floyd wants to guarantee wages for himself and other destitute workers. When a contractor comes to the camp and tells the men that there’s work in the next county, Floyd is skeptical. Since Floyd knows that it’s illegal for a contractor to recruit workers without a license, he asks the contractor for a license to prove that there are proper wages. The contractor doesn’t show a license and claims that Floyd is a “red” and a troublemaker. When the deputy joins the discussion, he decides that Floyd is a criminal and tries to arrest him. Floyd punches him and runs away. Floyd is saved from being shot and jailed when Jim Casy kicks the cop in the neck. Jim Casy then goes to jail in Floyd’s place.

Jim Rawley

Jim Rawley is the manager of the government-run Weedpatch camp. He is kind and caring toward the people of the camp. 

Ezra Huston

Ezra Huston a migrant worker that leads the Central Committee, a group that helps regulate what happens at the Weedpatch camp.

Timothy and Wilkie Wallace

Timothy Wallace is the father of Wilkie Wallace. Like the Joad family, he is a migrant worker living in poverty. He and his son meet Tom at the Weedpatch Camp run by the federal government and help Tom find a job.


Thomas is a farmer and the boss of several migrant workers, including Timothy and Wilkie Wallace. He tells the Wallaces and Tom about how the Farmer Association and The Bank of the West have lowered wages for migrant workers. He also warns the men about a fight that will be staged at one of the camps’ dances. Because Thomas warns the Wallaces and Tom in advance, the local police force’s plans to clear out the camp fail.

Aggie Wainwright

Aggie Wainwright is the teenaged daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Wainwright. She goes on several dates with Al Joad. Her family pushes her to marry Al in order to avoid bringing the family shame.

Mr. and Mrs. Wainwright

The Wainwrights are a fellow migrant family that bonds closely with the Joads. They allow the Joads to share a boxcar with them and encourage Al Joad to marry their daughter Aggie.

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Tom Joad Jr.