Wearing the new, cheap gray suit he got upon release from prison in McAlester, Oklahoma, Tom Joad hitches a ride with a truck driver who eyes him suspiciously. The driver asks a series of questions designed to tease Tom's story out of him, but Tom at first volunteers as little information as possible. He does tell the driver he is headed for the forty acres where his father is a sharecropper. The driver, surprised, tells Tom that most sharecroppers are "going fast," victims of tractors and dust storms. Making conversation to fill an awkward silence, the driver tells Tom of his hard life as a truck driver, and of his plans to enroll in a correspondence course: "Then I won't drive no truck. Then I'll tell the other guys to drive trucks." Like the displaced "croppers," this truck driver is seeking a better existence. Tom, finally tired of the driver's hints and insinuations, admits to having served four years for homicide. Rattled, the driver drops Tom off at the intersection of the highway and a dirt road.
The main protagonist of the story, Tom Joad is introduced. The reader learns about his past when he tells the truck driver where he has been for the past four years. Certain points pertaining to the plot are developed when the plight of the sharecroppers of the area are discussed.