Read an in-depth analysis of Tom Joad.
Read an in-depth analysis of Ma Joad.
Read an in-depth analysis of Pa Joad.
Read an in-depth analysis of Jim Casy.
Read an in-depth analysis of Rose of Sharon.
Grampa Joad - 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.
Al Joad - om’s younger brother, a sixteen-year-old boy obsessed with cars and girls. Al is vain and cocky but an extremely competent mechanic, and his expertise proves vital in bringing the Joads, as well as the Wilsons, to California. He idolizes Tom, but by the end of the novel he has become his own man. When he falls in love with a girl named Agnes Wainwright at a cotton plantation where they are working, he decides to stay with her rather than leaving with his family.
Ivy and Sairy Wilson - A couple traveling to California whom the Joads meet on Highway 66, just before Grampa’s death. The Wilsons lend the Joads their tent so that Grampa can have a comfortable place to die. The Joads return the couple’s kindness by fixing their broken-down car. Hoping to make the trip easier, the two families combine forces, traveling together until Sairy Wilson’s health forces her and Ivy to stop.
Connie - Rose of Sharon’s husband, Connie is an unrealistic dreamer who abandons the Joads after they reach California. This act of selfishness and immaturity surprises no one but his naïve wife.
Noah Joad - Tom’s older brother. Noah has been slightly deformed since his birth: Pa Joad had to perform the delivery and, panicking, tried to pull him out forcibly. Slow and quiet, Noah leaves his family behind at a stream near the California border, telling Tom that he feels his parents do not love him as much as they love the other children.
Uncle John - Tom’s uncle, who, years ago, refused to fetch a doctor for his pregnant wife when she complained of stomach pains. He has never forgiven himself for her death, and he often dwells heavily on the negligence he considers a sin.
Ruthie Joad - The second and younger Joad daughter. Ruthie has a fiery relationship to her brother Winfield: the two are intensely dependent upon one another and fiercely competitive. When she brags to another child that her brother has killed two men, she inadvertently puts Tom’s life in danger, forcing him to flee.
Winfield Joad - At the age of ten, Winfield is the youngest of the Joad children. Ma worries for his well-being, fearing that without a proper home he will grow up to be wild and rootless.
Floyd Knowles - The migrant worker who first inspires Tom and Casy to work for labor organization. Floyd’s outspokenness sparks a scuffle with the police in which Casy is arrested.
Muley Graves - One of the Joads’ Oklahoma neighbors. When the bank evicts his family, Muley refuses to leave his land. Instead, he lets his wife and children move to California without him and stays behind to live outdoors. When he comes upon Tom at the abandoned Joad farm, he directs the young man to his Uncle John’s.
Agnes Wainwright - The daughter of the couple who shares the Joads’ boxcar toward the end of the novel. Agnes becomes engaged to Al, who leaves his family in order to stay with her.
At the beginning of the novel Tom Joad has just been paroled after spending four years in a state prison. He stops at a roadside cafe looking for a ride when he sees a truck with a “No Riders” sticker on it. Tom’s conversation with this trucker is his first witness to the suppression of an honest working man by the larger more wealthy corporations since his release from prison. The trucker tries to socialize with him at this point but Tom is too absorbed into his own interest in keeping to himself.
Arriving at his house with Jim Casey, Tom visits the abandoned house with one corner having been knocked in by a tractor. His family had been compelled to leave their land through repossession by the large corporations another example in Tom’s life how the larger are trying to control the less fortunate. This land had been his family’s source of pride and livelihood throughout his life with them and it’s loss was the first sizable impact on Tom’s conscience that would lead him to an awakening.
After visiting the land the Joad family had lived on for many years Tom and Jim traveled to his Uncle John’s house nearby. There Tom meets his family as they are making preparations to leave for California. Tom’s family has already sold off every valuable possession they own while living under cramped conditions on old and soiled mattresses in a house not built to accommodate the size of the entire family. Tom realizes that a family cannot survive under these destitute conditions unless they cling together as one unit. Because of this realization Tom becomes protective of his family, leaving casting off portions of his selfishness for the betterment of his relatives.
Tom’s final awakening comes when he meets Jim Casy for the final time outside a work camp in the midst of a strike. There Jim Casy tells Tom that the only way the worker’s can obtain law and order as well as, fair wages, is to unite all the migrant workers together and fight against the larger controlling companies. The statement is driven home when he witnesses Jim Casy’s passive resistance in response to the threatened violence by the cops. As the police advance on Jim Casy he yells towards them, ” Listen, you fellas don’ know what you’re doin’. You’re helpin’ to starve kids.” moments before his head is brutally crushed by a pick handle. Enraged by the actions unfolded before him Tom grabs a pick handle and clubs one of the officers to death before hastily fleeing from the scene.
This event finally made possible the awakening of Tom Joad. He recognized that if a common man were to ever get a fair chance to live their life, they would be forced to do so under a united cause. Tom’s awakening came slowly as he struggled to understand the toils of needing, not only to care for his family but organize the migrant workers into a force where they can achieve fair rights. During the final chapters of the novel Tom recognizes the importance of Jim Casy’s work to unify the people bringing about a final awakening of his conscience.