Jim Casy: An Unlikely American Transcendentalist

Essay by Bayouvette1High School, 11th gradeA+, March 2004

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In John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath, Jim Casy is depicted as a philosophical, Christ-like teacher who triumphs over the evils of society. A literal interpretation of Emerson's philosophy gave birth to Casy's new doctrine of Love. As he evolves from a preacher of the old to a practitioner of the new, some believe that Jim Casy demonstrates remarkable similarities to Jesus Christ. These similarities are impressed upon not only Tom Joad, but also an entire group of oppressed workers that had little hope of a better life.

Ninety-three years before Jim Casy, Ralph Waldo Emerson left the church because of his unorthodox views of the religion he was teaching. He then began to teach a new religion; "The world lacks unity because man is disunited with himself...Love is its demand" (Carpenter 9). Casy followed Emerson's path as well as a literal interpretation of his concept of the over-soul.

Jim's American Transcendentalist beliefs are first stated early in the novel while he speaks with his prodigy Tom Joad, "Why do we got to hang it on God or Jesus?...maybe it's all men an' all women we love; maybe that's the Holy Sperit -- the human sperit -- the whole shebang." (Steinbeck 31). Casy becomes, like Emerson, a preacher of loving mankind and appreciating one another. Both of these men believed that "every individual will trust those instincts which he shares with all men, even when these conflict with the teachings of orthodox religion and of existing society" (Carpenter 14).

In keeping with his Emerson inspired beliefs Casy left the church because his beliefs went against what orthodox religion taught. Sex is an evil thing to conventional Christians; Casy disagreed with this interpretation. He often had sex with women after he got them "frothin' with the Holy Sperit"...