Hymn+Novel

The battle Hymn of the republic was the inspiration for John Steinbeck when he was choosing a title for his book, now known as The Grapes of Wrath. The song goes:

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Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

(Chorus)

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.

(Chorus)

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

(Chorus)

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

(Chorus)

This hymn and the book have a lot of similirities but there are also some incongruancies. First, both pieces allude to Christianity. It is obvious in the song that it is talking about a heist and referring to Him as their savior. In the Grapes of Wrath, Casy is described and viewed as an archetype of Christ. He sacrificed himself multiple times for the family, and especially for Tom. When Tom hit the policeman, Casy went prison for him because Tom would have gotten a longer sentence because he left his parol. He also was killed, his dying words being, “You don’ know what you’re a-doin’,” a direct parallel to what Christ said on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” There are also differences in that the hymn has a tone of courage, valor, bravery, strength, and hope. At this point in the book, a lot of the family’s hope is gone. They are being separated and picked off: Grandpa and Grandma have died, Noah left, Connie left, Uncle John gets drunk and tries to leave, and Tom leaves the family to hide from the police. It is interesting to note the similarities and differences between these to literary works.

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