Told almost entirely in dialogue-driven vernacular, it is a haunting depiction of the labouring class of Salinas Valley (California). Through the story of two friends who travel to another town to find petty work, Steinbeck has so imperceptibly painted a grim picture of their travails, hardships and dreams. They are hardworking but wasteful but have aspirations for their future. When one of them, due to his mental weakness, does something terrible at the new workplace, their plans to save up and have a patch of land of their own fall into jeopardy.
The novella could really have been a novel. I’d have liked it to explore the previous lives of the lead characters a tad more to put their current lives in perspective. I was apprehensive, in the beginning, for the good deal of dialogue written in slang or vernacular. But it turned out really well. Come to think of it, it is the dialogue in real life tilt which brings out in full force the essence of the labour class characters. All in all a good, enjoyable read, if not for its literary writing than for its simulated slang.
First published 1937