How we cite our quotes:
The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot. (1)
Now there's an image. With Steinbeck's sweeping, wide-angle opener, we're immediately placed in a rural valley where the residents don't have much exchange with the outside world. When you add to that the fact that Elisa spends most of her days alone at her ranch house, it makes for a pretty strong sense of solitude.
Elisa Allen, working in her flower garden, looked down across the yard and saw Henry, her husband, talking to two men in business suits. (4)
Elisa's big entrance. It's not the most exciting of character introductions, but the key here is that Steinbeck swiftly and immediately creates the understanding that Elisa is alone. Not only is she physically alone, she's also separate from the workings of the ranch, which are solely a male domain.
His eyes were dark, and they were full of the brooding that gets in the eyes of teamsters and sailors. (33)
There seem to be a lot of eyes in this story. We know what Elisa's eyes look like, and their expressions. And now we get a glimpse at the tinker's eyes. Are they dark because he, like teamster and sailors, lives a lonely existence? Is there something more sinister going on?