And also poverty, ex-preachers, Senor Steinbeck The Luddite Who Hates Tractors, thinly veiled socialism, and the Joads killing pigs and leaving on a half-car-half-truck-THING. With a dog.
It's hard for me to formulate thoughts without the big picture of the whole book, and I don't remember anything from when I read it in high school, so I offer you Scattered First Impressions:
1. I hate to be preached to by an author, even in the form of an EX preacher. Look, I wrote a character who USED to be a preacher, so it's not preaching when I use this character as a mouthpiece for myself, right? RIGHT? (not right) I also realize this is a personal preference and not necessarily an objective problem with the book. But on the other hand, Steinbeck isn't known for having a light hand, is he?
2. Well hello, sexism. I appreciate that it's historically (and geographically, while we're at it) accurate, but it rankles nonetheless. The scene where the ex-preacher asks Ma if he can come with them and she turns to Tom because he's a man and it's his right to speak first? All that "and the women went about their business because the men didn't have breakdowns, which meant everything was cool" stuff. EGADS.
3. Steinbeck! He is good with the words and stuff. Some of his sentences are alive. The passages about the dust feel DUSTY and WINDY and HOT. He is a WIZARD, HARRY. It is heart-wrenching.