Steinbeck's purpose in this section of text is to highlight the contrast between Elisa's lack of femininity early in the story and the feminine confidence the farm's visitor elicits.
Elisa's face is described as "strong" early in the text, much as her husband describes the life she coaxes out of the ground. It is noted that her figure looks "blocked and heavy." She wears a man's hat pulled down low, covering her face and further covering any hints of feminine softness. She wears heavy leather gloves over her hands which dig in the earth and whose "power" seems too much for the scissors she manipulates. This power likely originates in Elisa's frustrations in being nearly invisible in her society and even in her own home. She has no children. Her efforts to be her husband's partner in ranching are not appreciated. Her desires to see more of the world are touted as inappropriate desires.
Yet this strange tinker awakens a part of Elisa's spirit that has gone unnoticed and underappreciated...
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