Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, only a little green showing through the film of dust. The men were silent and they did not move often.

– John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 1. This is the first time that the men are seen in the novel, as they survey their ruined crops of corn, blanketed in dust and parched by drought. At this point the men are viewed as decision-makers and authority figures in the sharecropper families. But as the novel progresses the Joad family gender roles will change and there will be a shift from patriarchy to matriarchy with Ma Joad assuming a leading role. Meanwhile as the man stand by their fences, the image of the disappearing green conjures up a picture of hope being extinguished by the dust. The men’s shock at the destruction of their labor is suggested by how they become silent and almost motionless, as their families wait to see what they will do.