The Grapes of Wrath: Selflessness<br />November 24, 2009<br />Humanities 30-1<br />Lacey Pilgrim<br />Mr. Kabachia<br />Selflessness<br />The early 1930’s were a troubling and horrific era for many people, the author John Steinbeck discusses a realistic and tragic story about the distasteful suffering many migrants had to endure in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath, in order to advocate the atrocious actions of our society. In this novel, Steinbeck targets the fact that working as a team and helping each other will lead to success and other great achievements. The individuals who work only for themselves will not achieve much, but those who unite and work together, achieve greatness and make a difference. The character Jim Casy states, “I know this... a man got to do what he got to do."
Steinbeck shows this by entailing that one will not achieve self-fulfillment with the main priority being self-preservation. Steinbeck shows that people need to have selflessness in order to accomplish greatness through the characters of Ma Joad and Jim Casy, and contrasts this by showing the selfishness Connie Rivers has that lead him to failure. <br />Jim Casy was a complex character in the novel. Jim Casy directs everyone through the hardships of the travels to California, by giving wisdom, advice, and guidance to people, despite his own issues with preaching. He could see the goodness in many people and he helped the goodness shine through. He was very thankful that the Joad family took him in and allowed him to tag along on their journey to California, “I wanna do what's bes' for you folks. You took me in, carried me along. I'll do whatever.” Casy shows his true gratitude toward the Joad family by taking the blame for the fight in Hooverville, which kept Tom out of prison, and also kept the Joad family together. Casy illustrates the selfless act of self sacrifice, which brought the Joad’s closer together, accomplishing his goal, because he was looking at the bigger picture.<br />Connie Rivers, Rose of Sharon’s husband, went against the major thematic idea of the novel. When the Joad family came near California, Connie deserted his wife and unborn child because of his selfish and adolescent ways, “If I’d of knowed it would be like this, I wouldn’t of came.” In order for Connie to achieve greatness, he must realize the pain and suffering that greediness and selfishness will leave his family with. They would have to pick up his weight in the family as well as their own. In the end, Connie did not achieve any goals, but through his mistakes, others ability to be selfless shone through, such as Rose of Sharon. When Connie deserted her, she realized that in order to preserve her own life, she must think of others as well, which becomes an obvious trait in her at the end of the novel. The characters like Connie Rivers, who thought only of themselves, were led to failure because they did not look at the bigger picture.<br />Ma Joad overtook Pa’s position in the family, which was to lead the family safely to California. Ma understood that she needed to take action and realized she was the one who had to be the leader, "
Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and super human understanding.” Ma Joad was not only the leader in the family, she also helped the family through their hard times, and whenever they began to feel down on themselves, she would encourage them to make it through whatever it was they were going through. As she said in the novel, “...besides, us folks takes a pride in holdin' in. My pa used to say, 'anybody can break down, it takes a man not to.” Although Ma Joad’s primary goal was to take care of her family, she also nurtured others such as Jim Casy and the hungry children. When she cooked a stew for her family she gave the leftovers to the hungry children, and Jim Casy tagged along with them through the journey and Ma treated him almost like he was one of her own, “She don’t forget nobody.” Ma guided the family through the rough and competitive environment, but her strong will and selflessness were a higher priority than her own self-preservation. As Ma Joad said in the novel,``Rich fellas come up an' they die, an' their kids ain't no good an' they die out. But we keep a'comin'. We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out; they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people.`` Without her leadership and selflessness, the family would have met failure before they even came close to arriving in California.<br />The characters Ma Joad and Jim Casy influenced the family with a positive effect because they were true to the thematic idea Steinbeck created for The Grapes of Wrath. Characters like Connie Rivers do not know the true meaning of working as a team, and unity, therefore they will result in failure. Ma Joad and Jim Casy look at the bigger picture and do what they believe is best for everyone. The both of them knew that a man had to do what he had to do, or nothing would end in achievement. <br />