The Grapes of Wrath, a novel by John Steinbeck, exposes the desperate conditions under
which the migratory farm families of America during the 1930's live under. The novel tells
of the Joad family's migration west to California through the great economic depression of
the 1930's. The tries and tribulations of the Joad family stretches to a greater concern for
the family of man than for a selfish concern of themselves.
The Joad family begins their westward journey in Oklahoma, a place where many
men and women became migrant farmers. These people received the name "Okie" because
of their place of origin. The Joads traveled in two heavily loaded and packed-up trucks.
The first sign of the family's selfish behavior is the death of grandpa Joad. He was a man of
great pride, and though he longed to taste of the grapes of California, his stubbornness not
to leave home may have caused his death, but his lack of concern for his family shows that
he did not care for much else other than himself and the farm.
Yet along the trip there are many members of the family that stand out in self-
conceit. One person is Tom Joad, one of Ma and Pa Joad's children. He has recently been
released from prison and seems to be concerned only for himself. He wakes each morning
only wanting work for money and food for his stomach. But throughout the novel Tom
learns many lessons, especially of those by Jim Casy, his old preacher-friend. Jim Casy, a
man representative of Jesus Christ in both his initials "J.C." and in his beliefs. The preacher
is the one character that throughout the novel always knows what he must do: to help
those less fortunate fight in anyway possible in order to get what they deserve. Tragically,
Jim Casy is killed by a police officer while trying to protect Tom. From this incident, Tom

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Joad learns that he must lead the crusade that Jim had died for. In this movement of
Tom's, he finally understands what it means too help someone other than himself.
Another key player in the novel is Ma Joad. A strong woman and the true leader of
the Joad family she, too, has her faults. Though she does not care so much for her own
well-being, she in turn performs selfish acts for her family. At every chance she gets, Ma
Joad is ready to help her kin, but it is not without price that she does so. In the first
portion of her journey, Ma Joad turns away a hungry, young couple. But as she continues
on her journey, she sees more and more how the Okies are forced to live and how they
must endure such sufferings. Towards the end of the novel, the Joad family is in a broken-
down and pest infested camp. In this place Ma Joad makes a soup for the family to eat.
But the aromatic smell of good food travels through the camp bringing to Ma Joad nearly
fifteen starving children, all of whom haven't seen or smelled such delicious victuals in
quite a long time. In that moment, with the eyes of the young ones staring up at her, Ma
Joad acts in a completely selfless manner. She feeds all the children before her family even
gets a taste. That simple action showed that every single person could find some decency
in themselves to help others.
Lastly, one of the "whiniest" of the lot-- Rose of Sharon, who complains of her
pains and pregnancy and anything else she could possibly whine about-- stands for the
majority of the family's selfishness. Her husband, Connie, takes each day in stride, trying to
deal with her incessant complaining. But finally one day Connie falls to his own selfish
nature and walks out on his wife and un-born child. This only adds to Rose of Sharon's
long list of complaints. She causes all the members of the family to become quite annoyed
with her, for on many occasions she is said to be whining constantly. But Rose of Sharon
is not a complete disappointment. Towards the finale of the novel, Sharon gives birth-- but
to a still-born and shriveled baby boy. This catastrophe is due to Sharon's malnutrition.
But in the very conclusion of the novel, the Joads arrive upon a near-dead man lying in a
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barn. It is apparent that he will die without aide. Then, without any goading from
bystanders, Rose of Sharon lies next to the man