The dialogue in The Grapes of Wrath was a bit hard to get my head around at first, but I suppose I got used to it soon enough. It’s actually really grown on me. I quite like it now. Half worried it’s slipping into my own way of talking, but half don’t mind that it is.
There’s something about the way they speak in TGW that feels more honest and genuine. Unpretentious. You mean to say something so you say it, and you don’t dress it up with fancy words, and you don’t even worry about getting all the words in line with grammar and such. (I still have to spell things correctly, though. Can’t let myself spell words incorrectly when I’m writing.) Here are some things that people said in The Grapes of Wrath that kind of made me smile a bit, or warmed my heart a bit. Kind of made me think that someone who says stuff like this can’t be too bad.
“Aim to” (usually in response to a question like “Are you working around here?”)
“I sure thank you for it”
“Proud to meet ya”
“I’d admire to” (usually said in response to questions about whether they can work/help/etc)
They’re just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. They’re probably the main ones, anyway.
The Joad family had a good sort of philosophy too. There was a lot of emphasis on the importance of family, and sticking together (especially from Ma Joad). So much resilience and courage and strength of character in them, and it came through in the sort of things they said. Here are some quotes:
“Up ahead they’s a thousan’ lives we might live, but when it comes, it’ll on’y be one. If I go ahead on all of ’em, it’s too much. …it’s jus’ the road goin’ by for me.”
– Ma Joad to Al when he asks if she’s scared of leaving home and going somewhere new, p129
Tom Joad also talked a bit about “just putting one foot in front of the other”. (It was a bit of a recurring theme, especially since they had nothing going back.) But it’s true: sometimes there’s just no point sitting and worrying about something; you just have to get started doing the thing.
“Take your breath in when you need it, an’ let it go when you need to.”
– Ma Joad to Rose of Sharon when she was worrying about Granma, p219
As the story progressed, Ma Joad seemed more and more like the proverbial rock of the family. She knows the ins and outs of everyone in her family, knows when trouble’s astir, knows how to fix things and keep everyone going. She was fierce and mean when she had to be, but nurturing and gentle the rest of the time (like a lot of mums, I suppose).
“It don’t take no nerve to do somepin when there ain’t nothin’ else you can do.”
– Tom Joad as they set out across the desert just before entering California, p231
Tom had a way of defusing an argument or a tense situation as well. He seemed pretty insightful and perceptive, not to mention resourceful and good at talking with people. If you were going to drive across the country with no idea what you’re getting yourself into, he’d be the one you’d want behind the wheel.