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In Response for the Human Spirit


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In Response for the Human Spirit

  1. 1. In Response for the Human SpiritBy Breanna NielsenHumanities 30-1/Mr. Kabachia/ November 6, 2009<br />In the novel, The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbach demonstrates the role self preservation plays in response to contending demands. Throughout the novel, the characters are forced to decide between meeting their personal needs, or the needs of society. Examples of the role that self preservation plays in response to these demands are demonstrated through the Monster and the Tractor Drivers, the protagonist, Tom Joad, and Jim Casy. The Monster and the Tractor Drivers are more concerned for their individual needs, therefore causing self preservation to be the deciding factor in their response. When the readers are first introduced to Tom Joad, it is understood that he possesses only self interests. But as his character develops throughout the novel, Tom transforms by sacrificing the concern of his personal well-being, in response to meet the needs of his society. Jim Casy however, completely sacrifices the preservation of himself by giving up his life in response to the demands and needs of others. These characters demonstrate that a response to competing personal and social demands is controlled by the role self preservation plays in their lives.<br />Steinbach demonstrates that the Monster and Tractor Driver’s main concern when responding to contending demands is the maintenance of their self preservation. Early into the book, the Monster is described, “they breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don’t get it, they die the way you die without air, without sidemeat” (pg. 43), as well as, “...the bank gets orders from the east. The orders were, ’Make the land show profit or we’ll close you up’” (pg. 52). These quotes support that the Monster must choose to evict the tenant farmers in order to improve its chances of showing profit and being successful, rather than allowing the tenants to keep living and working on the land, while losing money. The monster’s response to the competing demands proves that the concern for self preservation was the key factor in its reaction. The Tractor Drivers also support the same response, “he got his orders from the bank. The bank told him, ‘Clear those people out or it’s your job’” (pg. 52). In response to these competing demands, the tractor driver maintains his personal-well being by taking the job and forcing the tenant farmers to leave their homes, rather than not obeying his order and being forced to leave his home just like everyone else. Steinbach provides these characters as examples of the role self preservation can play when responding to competing demands, but demonstrates his personal opinion of the proper response through Tom Joad and Jim Casy. <br />Tom Joad’s development throughout the novel demonstrates the role Steinbach feels self preservation should play when responding to contending demands. As Tom is introduced, he demonstrates his current interests of only being concerned for himself. But as his character develops and is influenced by the teachings of Jim Casy, Tom gains a new response to demands concerning his self preservation. Proof of Tom’s character transitioning is demonstrated in chapter 28, when Tom echoes the teachings of Jim Casy to Ma, “‘two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lif’ up his fellow, but woe to him that is alone when he falleth for he hath not another to help him up’” (pg. 570). This quote demonstrates that Tom is taking on the role of Jim Casy. Later into Tom’s conversation with Ma, she reveals her concern that he could die like Jim Casy. Then he also states, “Well, maybe like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big one...Then it don’ matter...I’ll be ever’where— wherever you look. Whereever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Whereever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’- I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build- why, I’ll be there” (pg. 572). In this quote, Tom assures his mother that regardless of whether he lives or dies, his spirit will continue on in the lives of others, both triumphant and tragic. He also creates the understanding that Steinbach purposely portrays, that an individual’s response should be towards the common good of society and will in turn, benefit his own personal well-being.<br />Steinbach used the development of Jim Casy to illustrate his own perception of the role self preservation should play when responding contending demands. Early into the introduction of Jim Casy as a character, he states, “I figgered, ‘maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe that’s the Holy Sperit— the whole shebang. Maybe all men got on big soul ever’body’s a part of’” (pg. 32), which suggests that Casy believes the well-being of himself is maintained by preserving the lives of society as a whole. Steinbach provides more evidence of Casy’s outlook in chapter eight, when Casy says grace for the Joad’s breakfast, “but when they’re all workin’ together, not one fella for another, fella, but one fella kind of harnessed to the whole shebang— that’s right, that’s holy” (pg. 110). This prayer from Casy supports the concept that in response to personal and social demands, Casy achieves personal well-being by the existence of a personal well being for all of humanity. As a result of the role self preservation plays in Casy’s life, near the end of the novel, he willingly gives up his life in response to the demand to save the suffering labourers. Steinbach also portrays his belief of the role self preservation should play when responding to competing demands by showing Jim Casy’s sacrifice of his life for the good of others which, because of his socialist beliefs, allows Jim to achieve a personal well-being as well. <br />Steinbach demonstrates to his audience, two varying responses to contending demands through the examples of the Monster and the Tractor drivers, Tom Joad, and Jim Casy. The Monster and the Tractor drivers, responded to maintain their personal well being, where as Tom Joad, from the influence of Jim Casy, as well as Jim Casy as an individual, showed their response towards the demands of others and putting the society’s needs before their own, which in turn benefited their personal-well being because they contributed to the human spirit. <br />