Overall impression so far: Very bleak, but the writing is beautiful and the characters are interesting. The philosophical preaching gets a bit thick in places.
Specifics from this week:
I really like the way the book is structured. The sideways approach to the story, like introducing young Tom Joad through the interaction with the truck driver, is very effective as far as keeping the reader unsure (but not in a bad way) of what is coming. The short chapters that look at the world beyond the immediate view of the Joad family broadens the reader's perspective and provides a break from the mounting tension of the family's problems. There were several small things that I think might be setting up some of the larger themes of the novel.
I loved the chapter about the turtle. I suspect that the journey of the turtle may turn out to be a metaphor for the journey of the Joads to California. I will keep a look out for big trucks trying to run them down and nice ladies who swerve to keep from harming them.
"For a moment he stopped, his head held high. He blinked and looked up and down. At last he started to climb the embankment." (p. 20)
When Muley (as in stubborn as?) is talking Tom and Casy into going into the field to hide from the sheriff he says "An' it all just amounts to what you tell yourself." (p.75). I thought this idea that what is brave, or cowardly, what is going along with the man, or bucking him, is a matter of the way you frame it in your own mind, was probably worth keeping in mind as the journey to Cali. continues.
The question of how the perspective changes the reality of a situation is also there in the way the women are depicted. In the very beginning of the novel, in the chapter about the dust, before we have any specific characters to connect with, Steinbeck describes the men faced with the destruction of their world as being the centers of the family, the ones who will figure out what to do.
"The women knew it was all right, and the watching children knew it was all right. Women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole." (p. 6)But what struck me most about this, was that a few lines earlier the women go out to see if the men are going to break, the women rush to stand beside their men because the man are fragile and might break. It is the women who are watching to make sure they don't have to step in, that the men can do it. The scene where Ma Joad asks Tom whether prison has changed him seemed to echo this early scene. Ma Joad is checking to see if her men (in this case her son) are still whole.