The Grapes of Wrath

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Jim Casy Character Analysis

Jim Casy is an ex-preacher who knew the Joads as far back as Tom’s childhood. Casy has since given up his religion, because he is afflicted by guilt for having had relations with some of the young women in his congregations. Casy now places his faith in the remarkable power of a united human spirit. Throughout the book, Casy performs several acts of self-sacrifice for the common good: he saves Tom by taking the blame for a scuffle at a Hooverville, and later, he gives his life leading a strike so that peach-picking workers can earn higher wages.

Jim Casy Quotes in The Grapes of Wrath

The The Grapes of Wrath quotes below are all either spoken by Jim Casy or refer to Jim Casy. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Grapes of Wrath published in 2002.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“I says, ‘Maybe it ain't a sin. Maybe it's just the way folks is. Maybe we been whippin’ the hell out of ourselves for nothin’.’…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. 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.’”

Related Characters: Jim Casy (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom Joad has met Jim Casy, a former preacher who believes that he baptized Tom long ago. Casy tells Tom why he left the church: he had been sleeping with girls in his congregation until he began to feel wracked with guilt. Here he explains to Tom the progress in his thoughts concerning his own actions and their relationship to his faith. He does feel that he betrayed the girls' trust, but he also cannot accept that his attraction to them was fully sinful. This realization has made him feel that there cannot be such black and white categories as "sin" and "virtue." Instead, he thinks that there is a more gray area in terms of how humans should act, a gray area that is so complicated that mere humans shouldn't claim to be able to pronounce without doubt what is right and wrong.

Still, Jim Casy's reasoning is clouded by a sense that what he did cannot be entirely excused. His exclamation, "The hell with it!", expresses his frustration with the categories that are available to him, as he searches for meaning that would be more satisfying than the empty-seeming rules and dictates of his religion.

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“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.”

Related Characters: Jim Casy (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

As Jim Casy continues talking to Tom about his struggle with his faith, he strikes a more positive note as he searches for an alternative to the strict categories of sin and virtue that he has long since decided are insufficient. He continues to make use of some of the terms and beliefs that were part of his arsenal as a preacher, but here he uses the idea of the Holy Spirit, for instance, to describe something different than the figure in the Bible. Jim Casy instead develops a notion of an all-encompassing sense of humanity, a community that all can be a part of, and a community defined by love rather than guilt. 

Chapter 8 Quotes

“I ain’t sayin’ I’m like Jesus…But I got tired like Him, an’ I got mixed up like Him, an’ I went into the wilderness like Him, without no campin’ stuff…Sometimes I’d pray like I always done. On’y I couldn’ figure what I was prayin’ to or for. There was the hills, an’ there was me, an’ we wasn’t separate no more. We was one thing. An’ that one thing was holy.”

Related Characters: Jim Casy (speaker)
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

Granma has asked Casy to say grace with the family before they can begin eating. Casy's rigorous Christian belief system has long since eroded, but even as he lacks a confidence in his own faith, he still finds the structures of the religion to be a reference point that gives him a way to process how he acts and what he does. As a result, Casy's grace is rambling and sometimes confusing. He draws on the famous Bible story of Jesus going into the wilderness to pray, and being tempted by demons, to help him explain his own struggles with temptation and his own distancing from society.

Once again, however, Casy attempts to turn to an alternative to the strict catechism of Christianity, one that emphasizes community and common humanity over personal striving. This sense of community is what Casy continues to think of as "holy," even if it has little to do with traditional Christian beliefs. It is ironic but also significant that Casy uses grace - a short ritual that for most people is just something to get through before a meal - as an opportunity for real spiritual questioning.

Chapter 28 Quotes

“But now I been thinkin' what he said, an' I can remember—all of it. Says one time he went out in the wilderness to find his own soul, an' he foun' he didn' have no soul that was his'n. Says he foun' he jus' got a little piece of a great big soul. Says a wilderness ain't no good, 'cause his little piece of a soul wasn't no good 'less it was with the rest, an' was whole. Funny how I remember. Didn' think I was even listenin'. But I know now a fella ain't no good alone.”

Related Characters: Tom Joad (speaker), Jim Casy
Page Number: 418
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom's secret is out, and he will now have to flee the camp in order not to be caught and punished for his crime. As Ma Joad generously gives him much of her savings, they talk about what Tom will do next. The book has come a long way from its beginnings, with Jim Casy's rambling remarks on what he learned since deciding to leave his position as preacher, but it turns out that Casy's words have actually had an enormous impact on Tom - even though even Tom didn't realize that he was affected by them at the time.

Tom too is in search of a bigger, more meaningful community, and he is struck by the recollection that for Jim Casy, isolating oneself in the wilderness is actually no guarantee of goodness. Instead, Tom is convinced that he must try to work with others to enact change. Like Casy, Tom is developing an alternative to the official catechism of the Christian faith he was born with, attempting to understand how humans relate to one another and how they might better connect.

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Jim Casy Character Timeline in The Grapes of Wrath

The timeline below shows where the character Jim Casy appears in The Grapes of Wrath. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...a tree, singing a hymn. The man recognizes Tom, and gives his name as Jim Casy. Casy is a former preacher, and claims to remember baptizing Tom, back when Tom was... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Casy goes on to explain why he has given up being a preacher. He tells Tom... (full context)
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Casy asks Tom about his father, Ol’ Tom Joad, and Tom confesses that he hasn’t heard... (full context)
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...team of horses to drag another family’s abandoned house onto the land. As Tom and Casy crest the hill above the house, they see that it’s been deserted. (full context)
Chapter 6
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Tom and Casy observe that the Joad homestead was quickly and recently abandoned. One side of the house... (full context)
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
An old neighbor, Muley Graves, is spotted as he walks through the cotton fields by Casy and Tom. They speak with him, and Muley talks at length about how he has... (full context)
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...time in four years. Muley somewhat reluctantly agrees to share his food with Tom and Casy. Over dinner, Muley continues to reflect on his connection to the land, remembering the dust... (full context)
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
...that he doesn’t understand how bad it is to be hunted and forces Tom and Casy to hide in the field with him. Once the police have left, Muley beds down... (full context)
Chapter 8
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Tom and Casy continue towards Uncle John’s house. Tom has been awoken early by Muley, who fearfully warns... (full context)
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
The Joad family and Casy sit down for breakfast, and Granma insists that Casy say grace. Casy is uncomfortable speaking... (full context)
Chapter 10
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Casy asks Tom, Ma, and Grampa Joad if he can come along to California with them.... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...for every movable thing in their house. The family holds a conference to decide whether Casy can come with them. Ma Joad overrules her husband’s uncertainty and plays a crucial role... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
The family prepares for the journey. Casy offers to help Ma Joad salt down the meat. She is surprised, since the task... (full context)
Chapter 13
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...him relax in their tent. Grampa’s condition worsens quickly, and he dies of a stroke. Casy, at Granma Joad’s behest, offers a Christian prayer for Grampa, and the Joads throw together... (full context)
Chapter 16
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Tom, Al, and Casy volunteer to stay with the car while the group continues on. Pa supports this plan,... (full context)
Chapter 18
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
Ivy and Sairy Wilson cannot continue with the Joads. Sairy’s health is deteriorating. She asks Casy to pray for her before the family leaves and he does so silently, without invoking... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...reaches California. Ma Joad reveals that Granma’s been dead since before they passed the checkpoint. Casy admires and fears Ma’s willpower; she stayed on the truck all night with Granma’s corpse... (full context)
Chapter 20
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...Tom. The deputy tries to shoot Floyd, but hits a woman instead, crippling her hand. Casy then knocks the deputy unconscious. Casy urges Tom to run away, which Tom does. When... (full context)
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Seeing Casy give himself up to protect Tom causes Uncle John anguish, and John needs to get... (full context)
Chapter 26
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...learn more about the strike outside the compound. He comes across a tent, and finds Casy inside. Casy informs Tom that he’s become an advocate for the workers, and that the... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Men with flashlights approach Casy and Tom. One of them swings a pick handle at Casy, striking him in the... (full context)
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...to the tent. The next morning, he explains to the entire family what happened with Casy. That day, the men go to work while Tom hides in the tent. When the... (full context)
Chapter 28
Humanity, Inhumanity, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Dignity, Honor, and Wrath Theme Icon
Faith and Guilt Theme Icon
Powerlessness, Perseverance, and Resistance Theme Icon
Family, Friendship, and Community Theme Icon
...Tom reveals that in his time alone in the wilderness, he has been thinking about Casy and the preacher’s philosophy. Tom tells Ma that he feels a calling to unite his... (full context)