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The Battle Hymn of the Republic



Tom, Ma, and Rose of Sharon

“He hath sounded fourth the trumpet that shall never call retreat” Battle Hymn


“He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,  He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave” Battle Hymn


“Here’s Tommy talkin’ like a growed-up man, talkin’ like a preacher almos’.” (313) Grapes of Wrath


            In the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the song references God and his role as the leader of the people. In the lyrics, they say that he is “coming”, that he is the “honor to the brave” men, and that he will never stop fighting for the good of the world. These parts of the song really connect to Tom Joad and the change that he goes through during the difficult time of traveling to California. Tom becomes more and more like a preacher and because of this more like Jesus. Pa points this out to Ma, when the two are talking in the car about how much they would have liked Granma and Granpa to have seen the beauty of California. Tom acts very mature and explains to his parents that Granma and Granpa wouldn’t have seen it the way that the young people, especially Ruthie and Winfield, see the world. Tom is “coming” and he is ready to fight if he needs to, and he is willing to get into a battle to save his family, just like Jesus was willing to die for his family and everyone else in the world.



“Let the hero born of women crush the serpent with his heel.” Battle Hymn


“A rattlesnake crawled across the road and Tom hit it and broke it and left it squirming.” (314) The Grapes of Wrath


In both the Battle Hymn and The Grapes of Wrath, a serpent is mentioned and in the same kind of context in each one. In the song lyrics, they refer to a serpent being crushed by the heel of the hero born of women and in the story Tom runs over a snake with the car and he is a kind of hero to the family at times born of his mother. This idea goes along and connects to the bible because the hero born of women is like Jesus and the serpent is like Satan. Jesus, many times, tries to crush Satan and get rid of the bad in the world and this is what Tom is kind of trying to do. Serpents are seen as bad and evil and with Tom running over the snake, in the novel, it can be seen as him making an attempt to kill of some bad in the world.



“They grew to be units of the camp, units of the evenings and the nights.” (265) The Grapes of Wrath


“And now the groups was welded into one thing, one unit, so that in the dark the eyes of the people were inward, and their minds played in other times, and their sadness was like rest, like sleep.” (272) The Grapes of Wrath


“ Battle Hymn of the Republic” (The name of the song itself)


The Republic that is mentioned in the title of the song, The Battle Hymn, connects to The Grapes of Wrath because of the way that the people are referred to as one body in both of the pieces. The Republic can be seen as the turtle that is mentioned in the start of the novel because of the way that a turtle is made up. The way that a turtle looks is like little blocks all working together in one body and each protecting each other. The turtle that is like the Republic is also very much like all the migrant farmers and their families in The Grapes of Wrath. The people in the novel became one unit, during the night, at their camps and they shared everything together in the hours where they weren’t traveling. In the interim chapters of the book, these seem to represent the Republic too because they way that they are written without dialogue. These chapters are to show that most of the people are feeling this way, or they are going through these events and it is not just one family. This goes along with the idea that the migrants are like the Republic because they are all feeling one kind of sadness, they are all going through one kind of struggle and they are all meeting up with the same obstacles. 



“The cars of the migrant people crawled out of the side roads onto the great cross-country highway, and they took the migrant way to the West. In the daylight they scuttled like bugs to the westward; and as the dark caught them, they clustered like bus near to shelter and to water. And because they were lonely and perplexed, because they had all come from a place of sadness and worry and defeat, and because they were all going to a new mysterious place, they huddled together; they talked together; they shared their lives, their food, and the things they hoped for in the new country.” (264) The Grapes of Wrath


“I have seen Him in the watchers of a thousand circling camps, they have builded Him an alter in the evening dews and damps…” Battle Hymn


“In the morning the tents came down, the canvas were folded, the tent poles tied along the running board, the beds put in place on the cars, the pots in their places. And as the families moved westward, they technique of building up a home in the evening and tearing it down with the morning light became fixed…” (267) The Grapes of Wrath


In both the Battle Hymn of the Republic and The Grapes of Wrath, the idea of people moving on together and sharing their ideas, food and lives together can be seen. In the song lyrics, they say, “…[in] a thousand circling camps, they have builded…an alter in the evening dews and damps…” and in the novel, Steinbeck explains how all of the migrants meet together at night. These people share their lives and their stories in order to better connect with eachother. All of the people on “on the same boat” so they know what each family is sort of going through. They are like circling camps because they take down their tents each morning, like routine, and pack up everything in their specific places in order to move on to another location where they will all meet up again. In the Battle Hymn the circling camps that are being referred to are groups of men moving on to go to fight. This is like the families in The Grapes of Wrath because they are all moving on westward in order to fight to live. 



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By RH and MB