One of the aspects of John Steinbeck’s writing that makes him so memorable and appealing is the way he is able to capture voice and movement of characters in vivid settings. This is apparent in Chapter 2, which takes place in a truck stop.
In the 1930s, the initial description of Tom’s clothes would have tipped a lot of people off that Tom is an “ex-con,” as convicts, just released from prison, were issued a new but typically ill-fitting suit as well as a pair of (usually) poorly fitted shoes.
As Tom continues towards his family home in his uncomfortable garb, he meets a trucker Although the rig’s owner displays a sign proclaiming, “NO RIDERS,” quick-thinking Tom overcomes the company mandate:
The hitch-hiker stood up and looked across through the windows. “Could ya give me a lift, mister,”
The driver looked quickly back at the restaurant for a second. “Did you see the No Riders sticker on the win’shield?”
“Sure -- I seen it. But sometimes a guy’ll be a good guy even if some rich bastard makes him carry a sticker.”
The trucker is in a bind. He surely knows Tom is an ex-con by the look of his clothing. But he also knows that he and Tom are both working-class people caught in a system in which they have almost no power. If he denies Tom the ride, he denies his own autonomy.