Study Guide

The Grapes of Wrath Religion

By John Steinbeck


Chapter 4
Reverend Casy

[Casy:] "Before I knowed it, I was sayin' out loud, 'The hell with it! 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.'" (4.35)

Does the way in which landowners kick families off of their land and the way in which they pay families dismal wages count as "stuff people do"? Does this book believe in ideas like "good" and "bad," "virtue" and "sin?"

[Casy:] "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." (4.16)

How do people use religion in this novel? Does Casy become any less spiritual even though "the sperit" isn't in him anymore? Who do you think is the most spiritual character in The Grapes of Wrath?

[Casy:] "Just Jim Casy now. Ain't got the call no more. Got a lot of sinful idears – but they seem kinda sensible." (4.15)

Casy seems to fight against the black-and-white, good-or-bad nature of religion. He likes to swim in the grey areas in between.

[Casy:] "Here I got the sperit sometimes an' nothin' to preach about. I got the call to lead people, an' no place to lead 'em." (4.25)

Casy seems like a very wise character, a man full of interesting things to say. And yet, he is very quiet around the Joads. Unlike Ma Joad, who always seems to know what to do in a situation, Casy seems more perplexed. He thinks less about the details of life, and more about the larger philosophical questions that plague humans.

[Casy:] "I figgered there just wasn't no hope for me, an' I was a damned ol' hypocrite. But I didn't mean to be." (4.27)

Does the fact that Casy is a hypocrite (a.k.a. doesn't do as he preaches) make him less of a spiritual leader, less of a positive force?

Tom Joad

[Tom Joad:] "Maybe all men got one big soul ever'body's a part of." (4.41)

Why do you think Tom Joad is so taken with Casy's belief in one giant human soul? What exactly does Casy mean by "one big soul?"

[Tom Joad:] "What the hell you want to lead 'em someplace for? Jus' lead 'em." (4.25)

Ma Joad seems to us to be a fantastic example of someone who can lead without knowing where she is leading her people. Do you believe that in order to be a leader you have to know where you headed, or do you think a leader has a different purpose?

Chapter 6
Reverend Casy

[Casy:] "Maybe I can preach again. Folks out lonely on the road, folks with no lan', no home to go to. They got to have some kind of home." (6.108)

Casy genuinely wants to help people. His intentions are good, and his heart is big. Does the fact that he slept with women when he was a preacher make him lose his credibility as a spiritual leader?

Chapter 10
Reverend Casy

[Casy:] "All that's holy, all that's what I didn' understan'. All them things is the good things." (10.39)

The details of everyday life are holy to Casy – not people's dreams, aspirations, or goals, but the nitty-gritty details of living.

Chapter 12

Where does the courage come from? Where does the terrible faith come from? (12.46)

Families continue to forge ahead in their quest for a new life in California. They seem to get their faith and their courage from one another.