Tom Joad The novel's main character and second Joad son. As the novel opens, he is returning to his family after his parole from the McAlester State Penitentiary. Among the novel's characters, Tom shows the most growth in his realization of the concept of human unity and love.
Jim Casy A former preacher. Concerned with his controversial beliefs about what is sinful and what is holy, he has renounced his calling. Traveling to California with the Joads, he plans to listen to the people and help them. Casy is the spokesman for the author's main theories, including the multi-faceted themes of love and strength in unity.
Ma Joad Wife and mother. Ma is the backbone of the Joad family: strong-minded and resolute. Her main concern is that the family unit not be broken. She is the physical embodiment of Steinbeck's theory of love.
Pa Joad Patriarch of the Joad clan. Pa is a sharecropper whose land has just been foreclosed on by the bank. Somewhat lost and weakened, he leads his family to California in search of work.
Rose of Sharon Eldest Joad daughter. Rose of Sharon is pregnant and married to 19-year-old Connie Rivers. Self-absorbed by her pregnancy, she has many plans and dreams for their life in California. At the novel's close, she represents life-giving force.
Granma and Granpa The couple who first began farming on the land that Pa has lost.
Noah Joad The oldest Joad son. Noah is slow-moving and emotionally distant, perhaps the result of an unintentional injury caused by Pa during Noah's birth.
Al Joad Sixteen-year-old Joad son. Al willingly admits that only cars and girls interest him. He is responsible for the maintenance of the family's truck during the journey to California.
Ruthie Joad The youngest Joad daughter. Ruthie is 12 years old and caught between childishness and adolescence.
Winfield Joad The youngest Joad family member. Winfield is 10 years old.
Muley Graves A Joad neighbor in Oklahoma. Muley has also been tractored off his land. He chooses to stay behind when his family leaves for California, an illustration of the effect of loss on those who have been driven from their land.
Ivy and Sarah (Sairy) Wilson Traveling companions of the Joads. A couple from Kansas, the Wilsons meet the Joads when their touring car breaks down. After Al and Tom fix their car, they travel with the family to the California border. The cooperation between the Wilsons and the Joads exemplifies the strength that is found in persons helping others.
Mr. and Mrs. Wainwright The Wainwrights share a boxcar with the Joads at the end of the novel. Like the Wilsons, their union with the Joads underscores the novel's theme of human unity.
Agnes Wainwright The Wainwright's 16-year-old daughter. She is engaged to Al Joad at the end of the novel.
Ezra Huston Chairman of the central committee in the government camp at Weedpatch.
Willie Eaton Texan in charge of the entertainment committee at the government camp. He and his committee members thwart a staged riot attempt by the Farmers Association.