The air was thin and the sky more pale; and every day the earth paled. In the roads where the teams moved, where the wheels milled the ground and the hooves of the horses beat the ground, the dirt crust broke and the dust formed. Every moving thing lifted the dust into the air: a walking man lifted a thin layer as high as his waist, and a wagon lifted the dust as high as the fence tops, and an automobile boiled a cloud behind it. The dust was long in settling back again.

– John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 1. The first chapter, one of Steinbeck’s intercalary chapters, is devoted to a description of the great dust storm of 1934. The book’s narrative chapters are interspersed with these interchapters by Steinbeck. He uses the the latter to paint a broader picture and insert his own commentary and interpretation of the narrative story. The opening chapter paints a vision of the enveloping and unending nature of the swirling dust of the American Dust Bowl. The imagery of this passage describes how the slightest movement, whether of a walker or vehicle, stirs up a cloud of dust that takes a long time to settle back. The ubiquitous presence of the word "dust" in the chapter adds to the dramatic effect, it’s repeated 24 times in the opening chapter and 120 times in the novel.