The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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Tom Joad Jr.

Extended Character Analysis

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.

Tom’s Relationships

Tom’s father, Pa Joad, loses the motivation to lead his family early in the story when he is unable to get work and provide for them as he had before. So, Tom becomes a leader within the family alongside his mother, Ma Joad. While Ma Joad is the matriarch that holds the family together, Tom does his part to help keep the family going as well. Tom is also looked up to by his younger brother, Al Joad, who believes Tom is tough and mysterious for having killed a man and gone to jail.

Tom builds the biggest relationship outside of his family with Jim Casy. Whereas Tom is intuitive and pragmatic, Casy is gentle and reflective. Together, the characters represent two aspects of humanity: action and philosophy.

At first, Tom feels that Jim Casy talks too much; he doesn’t understand much of what Jim Casy reflects on. As the story progresses, Tom begins to understand Casy’s philosophy. Tom learns to focus on the needs of all those around him instead of focusing solely on his own needs. He learns the importance of working for the benefit of the community rather than for his own interests, a theme that Steinbeck explores throughout Grapes of Wrath.

Tom’s Character Arc

Tom is the most dynamic...

(The entire section is 451 words.)