Emersonian Over-Soul In The Grapes Of Wrath Essay

Emersonian Over Soul In The Grapes Of Wrath Essay

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The Grapes of Wrath, written by literary genius John Steinbeck, is about an Oklahoman family named Joad that is forced off it s farm and must travel west in search of work and food. The story takes place during the depression of the nineteen thirties and 250,000 more migrants join the Joads on route sixty-six. The travelers are treated inhumanly and encounter many hardships. From these hardships an unspoken unity was formed. The poor gave gifts to each other despite having very little for themselves, they stood up for each other, and they all became one family. Those actions and more represent the Emersonian Over-Soul. The Emersonian Over-Soul is a Transcendentalist belief derived by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Over-Soul is a oneness between man, nature, and God. The Grapes of Wrath is rich with examples of the Emersonian Over-Soul. Jim Casy, the government camp, and Tom Joad are three examples of the oversoul depicted in the novel. The first mention of an over-soul is by Jim Casy. Casy is an ex-preacher who has, as he says it, lost his calling. When Tom Joad first meets Casy they talk and Casy explains a thought of his. He says, I figured about the Holy Sperit and the Jesus Road. I figgered, Why do we got to hang it on God or Jesus? Maybe, I figgered, 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. (24). This shows the belief that all humans are part of one soul, not individual souls. During grace at Uncle John s house Casy says, I ain t sayin I m like Christ But I got tired like him, an I got mixed up like him, an I went into the wilderness like him, without no campin stuff There was the hills, an there was me, an we wasn t separate no more. We was one thing. An that one thing was holy. (88) This quote mirrors Emerson s thought that man can become one with nature, if man was to discard technology. Jim Casy sacrificed himself for his beliefs by being killed while heading a strike at Hooper Ranch to better the lives of his people. Even though Jim Casy dies, his thoughts live on through Tom Joad. Tom is the protagonist and changes his personal views as the story unravels. In the beginning, he thought only of himself. But during the course of the novel he becomes a central figure in the family and starts to care more about them, and then at the end, Tom inherits Casy s ideas. When he is in the cave with his mother he mentions Casy and says, I been thinkin what he said, an I can remember-all of it. Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul, an he foun he didn have no soul that was his n. Says he foun he jus got a little piece of a great big soul Funny how I remember. Didn think I was even listenin . But I know now a fella ain t no good alone. (462) This shows that he now believes in the one huge soul theory. Tom also goes on and says, 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? God, I m talkin like Casy. Comes of thinkin about him so much. Seems like I can see him sometimes. (463) Tom states that he has dedicated his life to helping the poor like himself, and has become Casy s disciple at the end of the story. One last example of the Emersonian Over-Soul is the Weedpatch Government camp. The migrants lived peacefully together by laws enforced by them. The camp shows how every can work together and live as one immense family. The following is an excerpt form the dialog between Tom Joad and a Weedpatch guard: Tom- You mean to say the fellas that runs the camp is jus fellas campin here? Guard- Sure. And it works. Tom- You said about cops Guard- Central Committee keeps order an makes rules. Then there s the ladies. They ll call on your ma. They keep care of kids an look after the sanitary units. If your ma isn t working, she ll look after kids for the ones that is working, an when she gets a job why, there ll be others. (316) Tom shows disbelief that the camp works, and the guard explains how everyone helps each other out, either by working or watching children and keeping the place clean. While in the cave with Ma, Tom alludes back to the government camp and says, I been thinkin how it was in that gov ment camp, how our folks took care a theirselves, an if they was a fight they fixed it theirself ;an they wasn t no cops wagglin their guns, but they was better order than them cops ever give. I been a-wonderin why we can t do that all over. Throw out the cops that ain t our people. All work together for our own thing-all farm our own lan . (462-463) This shows that Tom believes in the power of people when united, which can represent the Emersonian Over-Soul. The Grapes of Wrath is a classical novel that has many elements related to Ralph Waldo Emerson s concept of an Over-Soul. Jim Casy is an embodiment of the Over-Soul by that he continuously, until killed, reiterates his view of the Holy Sperit . Tom is Casy s disciple and he lives on after Casy to carry on and implement his philosophy. The Emersonian Over-Soul is perfect for this story because if the migrant workers would have worked together and became one soul or voice, then their lives could have been better in California.

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