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Religion in The Grapes of Wrath
In The Grapes of Wrath the author, John Steinbeck, presents religion in several ways including the fanaticism of the Sin Watchers, Jim Casy’s parallel character to Jesus Christ, and through the use of symbolism throughout the novel. Through these methods, Steinbeck weaves a web in which religion is presented as a double-edged blade; one can go to the path of being truly a devout, kind person, or one can choose the path of zealously, condemning all who would oppose or go against their views.
The Sin Watchers represent the epitome of religious zeal. They force their ideals upon others, and they point out the sinful ways of their fellow camp-mates. These people Steinbeck presents as evil aberrations who disrupt the otherwise peaceful life at the government camp. The most viewed Sin Watcher was the woman who berated Rose Of Sharon for her “sinful” ways. This horrid woman told Rose Of Sharon that because of the hug-dancing and other fun activities, the baby would be stillborn. Sadly, the baby was born dead, but not necessarily due to Rose Of Sharon’s activities. This woman instilled in Rose Of Sharon the idea that it was her fault that the baby did not survive.
Jim Casy’s actions bore a close resemblance to the actions of Jesus Christ. In the time the book was published, this was viewed as an act of blasphemy. As discussed in class, many of the acts, trials, and tribulations of Jim Casy (along with the ominous JC initials) parallel those of Jesus. Jim Casy represents the epitome of personal reverence, despite his renunciation of preaching.
Throughout The Grapes of Wrath, religious symbols crop up, further explaining the significance of the section. One use of symbolism is that when on the road to California, Tom encounters a snake. Already established in the novel is the fact that to the Goads, California represents a place of great wealth, freedom, and prosperity. It is a Garden of Eden, so to speak. The Garden of Eden had a serpent who brought the Wrath of God upon Adam and Eve. The serpent supplied them with the forbidden fruit. California is forbidden to outsiders and migrants.
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