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“The Grapes of Wrath” Discussion notes.

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1 “The Grapes of Wrath” Discussion notes

2 Discussion notes: Chapters 27-30
By the time we reach the end of the book, the transformation from the single family to the human family is complete: The Joads and Wainwrights live in the same box car. When Al tears down the tarp that hangs in the middle of the boxcar, “the families in the car were one.” Al and Aggie decide to get married, completing the literal and symbolic merger of the two families.

3 Discussion notes: Chapters 27-30
Transformations Emerson’s “Oversoul” has the consequence of living by the truth that humankind is bound to one another with spiritual bonds. We become responsible for what happens to our neighbor and to society in general. This principle is exemplified in Ma, Rose of Sharon, the Wilsons, and the Wainwrights. But nowhere is this manifested more than in Jim Casy and Tom Joad.

4 Discussion notes: Chapters 27-30
The transformation of Jim Casy “Maybe it ain’t a sin. Maybe it’s just the way folks is … There ain’t no sin, and there ain’t no virtue.” “What’s this call, this sperit? An I says, ‘It’s love. I love people so much I’m fit to bust, sometimes.’ “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.” “I ain’t sayin I’m like Jesus. But I got tired like Him, an’ I got mixed up like Him, an’ I went into the wilderness like Him There was the hills, an’ there was me, and we wasn’t separate no more. We was one thing. An’ that one thing was holy.” “An’ I got thinkin … how we was holy when we was one thing, an’ mankin’ was holy when it was one thing. An’ it on’y got unholy when one mis’able little fella got the bit in his teeth an’ run off his own way, kickin’ and draggin’ an’ fightin.’”

5 Discussion notes: Chapters 27-30
All of Casy’s teachings crystallize in his disciple: Tom In prison, Tom learned to mind his own business and to live one day at a time. By the end of the book, he prepares to leave his family to continue what “Casy done”: He dedicates himself to work for the improvement of his people, though it may mean imprisonment or his own death.

6 Discussion notes: Chapters 27-30
“Well, maybe like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big one – an’ then – then it don’t matter. Then I’ll be aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where – wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever 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. See?” (419)

7 That controversial ending
What it reveals: Those who do not share, who continue to be selfish and distrustful, “worked at their own doom and did not know it.” That’s what makes Rose of Sharon’s feeding of the old man with her own breast milk that much more powerful: Saving a life is the most intimate expression of human kinship.

8 That controversial ending
The religious overtones are apparent: the still, mysterious, and lingering quality of the final scene, as “her lips came together and smiled mysteriously” (the last words of the novel), might suggest the subject of numerous religious paintings: the Madonna nursing her child, whom she knows to be the Son of God. It could be interpreted that Rose of Sharon’s child was sacrificed to send a larger message to the world. This is supported by Uncle John sending the dead baby down the river: “Go down an’ tell ‘em.”

9 That controversial ending
What’s more, the name Rose of Sharon comes from the Song of Solomon: “I am the Rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” This name is often frequently interpreted as referring to Jesus Christ. Thus, this final scene could be seen as symbolic of the Eucharist: “Take, eat, this is my body…” Rose of Sharon gains the wisdom that she is doing an ultimate act for humanity: She is sustaining life.

10 That controversial ending
The big-picture message Steinbeck presents is this: The ultimate nourishment is the sharing of oneself and whatever one has to help others: Rose of Sharon symbolizes this by giving the only thing she has to give: literally, her physical self.

11 Test #3: Preview 30 multiple choice questions that cover chapters Five of the multiple choice questions address the “Influences on Steinbeck” Powerpoint notes. Closely review chapters 23 and 25. One essay (10 points): Be prepared to thoroughly discuss your interpretation of the over-arching message of the book, especially the ending: Does it represent the Joads’ complete defeat or humanity’s ultimate salvation? Choose specific examples to cite from the book, which you can use for test, to support your answer.

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