Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Passionate and Stubborn with a Hint of Anger
Steinbeck's passion seeps through the chapters that depict the general landscape and life of Dust Bowl America. One could argue that if Steinbeck were to weed out some of his repetitive images and some of his detailed descriptions, the novel would be much shorter and much more concise. However, we get the feeling that Steinbeck wants to load his readers up with detail and with repetitions. It's as though he wants the experiences of reading this novel to resemble the Joads' experience of seeking peace and prosperity.
The Joads are met with obstacles, setbacks, and challenges that make their journey more complicated and grueling than they ever could have imagined. And yet, they continue to fight and to persevere. We almost detect a stubbornness in the way Steinbeck crafts and builds his novel – he doesn't want his readers to miss out on any of the gruesome details, and he wants us to truly recognize the strength of spirit that the Joads have to muster.
In certain chapters that don't feature the Joad family, we see Steinbeck the journalist weigh in on greater societal questions. For example, in Chapter Fifteen, our narrator describes the power of revolution. He seems to attack the bankers and the landowners directly:
If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin, were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into 'I,' and cuts you off forever from the "we." (14.4)
In this moment, our narrator's passionate, emotional nature erupts as he almost threatens an ambiguous power. We know that Steinbeck was truly appalled by what he witnessed at the labor camps when he reported for the San Francisco Chronicle, and we see at times his emotion bubble forth.