AP English 11
28 March 2014
Steinbeck’s Philosophical Theory and Influences
The Grapes of Wrath, a story of the Joads’ journey from Oklahoma to California in search of the American dream during the Great Depression era. Thousands upon thousands of people had to pack up and leave the land that they were born and raised on due to the Dust Bowl and the banks foreclosing on acres and acres of property. Having lived through this time period, John Steinbeck, the author of the novel The Grapes of Wrath is no stranger to the conditions these people lived in. Traveling with migrant farm workers for a few years in Salinas California, John adopted a very specific ...view middle of the document...
The oversoul is the idea that every individual is eternally connected with every living thing in the universe (Carpenter). Jim Casy clearly translates the philosophy in a sentence; “What do we got to hang it on God or Jesus? Maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe that’s the Holy Sperit—the human sperit—the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of” (Steinbeck 76). Being an old preacher, he looks at this concept in a religious way. He views the Holy Spirit as the oversoul, connecting everyone divinely.
In addition to Jim Casy, Noah Joad is another example of transcendentalism within The Grapes of Wrath. Another key aspect in the philosophy of transcendentalism is nature. Nature is the focal point of transcendentalism; specifically how nature connects with the soul. Noah is the eldest child of all the Joad’s. When the family finally reaches California, they stop along the Colorado River to camp and regroup before continuing on. This is where Noah decides that he will not continue along any farther, and that he has fallen in love with the fresh, cool water. Tom Joad tries to convince him otherwise, to which Noah replies, “No. It ain’t no use. I was in that there water. An’ I ain’t a-gonna leave her. I’m a-gonna go now, Tom—down the river. I’ll catch fish an’ stuff, but I can’t leave her. I can’t.” He crawled back out of the willow cave. “You tell Ma, Tom.” He walked away” (Steinbeck 209). Noah finds something in the Colorado River that he can not part with for the entire world, which demonstrates how important nature was to Noah and his soul. He gave up his life and family to live in nature, which is an excellent example of nature within transcendentalism. Steinbeck used characters such as Jim Casy and Noah Joad to show and express his personal philosophy on transcendentalism through their actions.
Another strand of John Steinbeck’s philosophical theory is humanism and the love of all people. The movement of all the major characters in the novel from a religious-based to a humanity-based philosophy of life supports the concept of humanism found in Steinbeck’s philosophy. Although the men in the novel such as Tom Joad and Jim Casy have the most drastic transition between ways of thinking, the women in the novel embody humanism the most, especially the mother figures. Most of their actions are out going and predominantly selfless. The most understanding and loving of all is Ma Joad. She is the epitome of the concept of loving one’s neighbor. She is the first to extend comfort and nourishment to strangers. Her selflessness and willingness to help people is seen in her welcoming Jim Casy into the family. Ma says, “Why, we’d be proud to have you. . . But if they’s room I’m pretty sure we’ll be proud to have ya” (Steinbeck 94). Ma later says “A preacher is a nice thing to be with us. He give a nice grace this mornin’” (Steinbeck 102). Saying this to the family members convinced the men to let Jim Casey tag along to...