Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- The novel’s protagonist, and Ma and Pa Joad’s favorite son. Tom is good-natured and thoughtful and makes do with what
life hands him. Even though he killed a man and has been separated from his family for four years, he does not waste his time with
regrets. He lives fully for the present moment, which enables him to be a great source of vitality for the Joad family. A wise guide and
fierce protector, Tom exhibits a moral certainty throughout the novel that imbues him with strength and resolve: he earns the awed
respect of his family members as well as the workers he later organizes into unions.
- The mother of the Joad family. Ma is introduced as a woman who knowingly and gladly fulfills her role as “the citadel of the
family.” She is the healer of the family’s ills and the arbiter of its arguments, and her ability to perform these tasks grows as the novel
- Ma Joad’s husband and Tom’s father. Pa Joad is an Oklahoma tenant farmer who has been evicted from his farm. A
plainspoken, good-hearted man, Pa directs the effort to take the family to California. Once there, unable to find work and increasingly
desperate, Pa finds himself looking to Ma Joad for strength and leadership, though he sometimes feels ashamed of his weaker
- A former preacher who gave up his ministry out of a belief that all human experience is holy. Often the moral voice of the
novel, Casy articulates many of its most important themes, among them the sanctity of the people and the essential unity of all
mankind. A staunch friend of Tom Joad, Casy goes to prison in Tom’s stead for a fight that erupts between laborers and the California
police. He emerges a determined organizer of the migrant workers.
Rose of Sharon
- The oldest of Ma and Pa Joad’s daughters, and Connie’s wife. An impractical, petulant, and romantic young woman,
Rose of Sharon begins the journey to California pregnant with her first child. She and Connie have grand notions of making a life for
themselves in a city. The harsh realities of migrant life soon disabuse Rose of Sharon of these ideas, however. Her husband abandons
her, and her child is born dead. By the end of the novel, she matures considerably, and possesses, the reader learns with surprise,
something of her mother’s indomitable spirit and grace.
- Tom Joad’s grandfather. The founder of the Joad farm, Grampa is now old and infirm. Once possessed of a cruel and
violent temper, Grampa’s wickedness is now limited almost exclusively to his tongue. He delights in tormenting his wife and shocking
others with sinful talk. Although his character serves largely to produce comical effect, he exhibits a very real and poignant connection
to the land. The family is forced to drug him in order to get him to leave the homestead; removed from his natural element, however,
Grampa soon dies.