The Grapes of Wrath Quotes: Biblical, Religion & Promised Land

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson we will examine the religious transformations undergone by the characters in John Steinbeck's ''The Grapes of Wrath'' as they move from Oklahoma to what they hope is the Promised Land of California, by looking at quotes from the novel.


What are your spiritual beliefs? Has there ever been a time when your faith was tested? The characters in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath have always relied on Scripture, but begin to think that true spirituality comes from the collective souls of all people. Scripture refers to sacred writings, in this case the Holy Bible. Let's examine some quotes about religion and spirituality from this novel.

Jim Casy

The character that most represents spirituality in this novel is the former preacher, Jim Casy. Even Jim's initials, J.C., symbolize Jesus Christ. While Casy was well-respected as a preacher near the Joad farm in Oklahoma, he lost the calling. Casy explains to Tom, ''I ain't preachin' no more much. The sperit ain't in the people much no more; and worse'n that, the sperit ain't in me no more. 'Course now an' again the sperit gets movin' an' I rip out a meetin', or when folks sets out food I give 'em a grace, but my heart ain't in it. I on'y do it 'cause they expect it.'' Not wanting to be a hypocrite, Jim leaves the church and spends some time on his own to try to figure out what he believes.

Jim Casy realizes that ''there ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do. It's all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain't nice, but that's as far as any man got a right to say.'' He feels strongly about his new ideas about religion, but knows that his new beliefs don't mix well with the traditional beliefs of the Christian church. Casy explains his insights to Tom, recalling, ''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.' Now I sat there thinkin' it, an' all of a suddent--I knew it. I knew it so deep down that it was true, and I still know it.'' At first, Tom doesn't really understand where Casy is coming from, but over the course of the story he realizes that helping others and working together provide a real spiritual connection.

Moving to California

After the Joad family is tractored off their land by the bank, they decide to move to California. When Ma, Tom's mother, tells him that she is having doubts about the move, Tom says, ''Don't roust your faith bird-high an' you won't do no crawlin' with the worms.'' When Ma asks if this is Scripture, Tom confesses that he confuses scripture with quotes from The Winning of Barbara Worth, a popular book from 1911 set in southern California. Ma laughs and says Pa has the same problem, confusing the Bible with Dr. Miles' Almanac. While the Joads believe in Scripture, they also have other influences and often confuse them.

Just as the Promised Land in the Bible is a place of abundance to which God promised to deliver the people of Abraham, the displaced people begin to view California as the promised land. They think ''how nice it's gonna be, maybe, in California. Never cold. An' fruit ever'place, an' people just bein' in the nicest places, little white houses in among the orange trees. I wonder--that is, if we all get jobs an' all work--maybe we can get one of them little white houses. An' the little fellas go out an' pick oranges right off the tree.'' However, California does not end up being what they had hoped it would be.

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