Biblical Allusions in the Grapes of Wrath Research Paper

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Biblical Allusions in the Grapes of Wrath

The purpose of the present paper is to discuss Steinbeck's book "The grapes of wrath." The main focus of the analysis is represented by the biblical allusions in the novel. It must be underlined that both the old and the new testament have been used as a source of inspiration in order to write the book. Many of the characters for example have been symbolically created to recall figures from the Bible. The degree of resemblance may vary, but the many times the source of inspiration is obvious.

A strong connection could be established between the Joad family and the book of Job. The Hebrew bible from the eighteenth century, also known as the old testament tells the story of Job who was a true believer. When the devil visits god, he tells him about the strong faith of this man.

He speaks about his moral integrity and the fact that he would continue to keep his faith regardless of what happens to him. At this point Satan suggests to temp the man, and god allows him to do so with the condition that no physical harm is to be done to him. Satan will have the poor Job loose all of his earthly possessions and his family as well. The dramatic changes in Job's life make him suffer a great deal, but he continues to believe in god's omnipotence and omnibenevolence.

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Analyzing the book under discussion it is very easy to establish a connection between the Book of Job and the Joad family. The great depression was a very hard period for everybody in the United States. The Joad family lost everything, just like Job. However they continued to keep their faith.

We could interpret the great poverty as a test from god or from Satan. Just like Job the family is deprived of all the earthly possessions. In dealing with this dramatic loss they still continue to keep the faith, demonstrating their moral integrity. The Joad family can be considered to be a symbol of the Hebrew people who underwent more or less the same dramatic situation.

Research Paper on Biblical Allusions in the Grapes of Wrath Assignment

The old testament tells the story of the Hebrew people. The story ca be divided into three main episodes, according to the most important events which occur. These are the captivity, the journey and the arrival to the promised land. We could make a direct analogy with the events from the life of the Joad family.

While the Hebrews were caught as prisoners of the pharaoh, the Joad family remained trapped on their farm. Once they get out of there they have to make an extremely difficult journey just like the one that the Hebrews took. The final destination was Israel and from this point-of-view, it is safe to say that California is for the Joads the same thing that Israel was for the Hebrews, that is the promised land, the destination and the goal, the symbol of happiness and the possibility to improve one's life and escape the hardship sent by god.

The biblical allusions do not end here. For example, the Hebrew people was organized in twelve tribes. When the Joad family starts the journey there are twelve members who leave. It is more than obvious that there is a correspondence between these aspects and that the number twelve was not chosen by chance. The name Noah is also a biblical allusion to the bible character.

The character of grampa is another allusion to an episode from the bible, that is the story of the wife of Lot. Lot's wife was supposed to leave the town where she had lived. Not only was she supposed to leave it, but in doing so she was told not to look back if she wanted to avoid her very own fatal destruction. Under these circumstances the place that she leaves from can be interpreted as a symbol of the past.

However she does not resist temptation and she looks back. Her gesture can be interpreted as the impossibility to focus on the present only. She needs the past as a point of reference and this will contribute to her destruction. Grampa will not be transformed into a pillar of salt like Lot's wife, but his attachment to the past is similar to hers. And just like this type of attachment contributed to her death, it will also contribute to his.

Another biblical allusion can be found in the character of uncle John. He can be compared to the biblical character called Ananias. What makes them similar is the selfishness. The analogy is even stringer as they perform the same action of withholding money from the common funds. Not only are they selfish, but they are also greedy. Another thing that they have in common is the capacity to admit their sins. By doing this they get closer to god and to forgiveness.

Tom Joad has been considered to be the incarnation of a saint as well. The similarities between him and Moses are striking. Both of them have the role of a leader. While Moses leads the Hebrew people Tom will lead the Joad family. Both of them have killed someone and both of them have been away, came back and took on leadership roles.

In addition both of them have a younger brother. Both of hem manage to take their people to the desired destination. In addition, before doing so they are presented with negative reports from people who have already been there, but they refuse to take them into consideration.

It must be underlined that the parallels are most often incomplete and that Steinbeck does that on purpose. His goal is to suggest that the main idea was not the exodus, but something else. Just like it has been already mentioned, the sources of inspiration have been both the old and the new testament. Jim Casy for example can be paralleled to Jesus. Even the initials of their names are the same.

Both of them spend a period in the wilderness in order o find and face themselves. Only after that do they assume the leadership roles that they also have in common. Both of them sacrifice for a reason that they believe in. both of them change the idea regarding both justice and religion. Both of them become a very powerful example of behaviour through their own. From a certain point-of-view they can both be considered to incarnate concepts which influence the ideological settings of their times.

Christ influenced the Jewish school of thought before the new testament and Casy's message influenced the journey of the Joads. Both the Joads and the Hebrews have difficulties changing their lives. They are so used to things from the past that it takes them a while to accept change. Casy just like Christ represents that change.

The Rose of Charon is a further biblical allusion. Mary, through her very own condition became in a sense the mother of all the people. Her most important attributes besides purity are love and compassion. We can see an analogy with the scene of the Madonna and the child. Critics have suggested that giving life to a stranger is to be paralleled to giving body and wine in a symbolical manner.

The gesture can be interpreted as an acceptance of Casy's message and the embrace of change. The scene is very powerful and has a strong emotional impact on the readers. The sacrifice is to be interpreted symbolically. We can interpret it as a renouncement to the past and the old values and beliefs. In the bible the breakdown with the old attitudes can be interpreted as appoint of climax too.

Regardless of all the complex imagery and symbols in the bible, the main message that is communicates is that we must have hope in the future and the future world. In the same manner Steinbeck suggests that despite the dramatic crisis, a new world is to be born and people must have trust in it. Under these circumstances, the novel becomes more than an instrument through which the writer communicates his opinions regarding society and social values. The novel is a medium through which Steinbeck transmits his religious beliefs according to which the traditional religious views must be modified in order to allow the contemporary man to save himself.

Noah, in the bible, is supposed to built an arc and put couples of animals on it. Only the being who will embark his boat will manage to survive the flood. The purpose of the flood is to clean the world of all the negative elements, to purify it and to prepare it for a new beginning, a new world. The exact same thing happens in the grapes of wrath and the great depression plays the same role as the flood.

Juts like in the bible, the solution is love. The much desired salvation does not come from power, but from the power of sacrifice and love. The rose… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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