The figure who appears walking down that road is every bit the lonely drifter of so much of his other films and, as played by Henry Fonda, is the same physical embodiment of the man set adrift and apart from society.
At the beginning of this film, however, that man is trying to return home, trying to reunite with the family he left behind when he went to prison for murder. Although he does find them, his search is bittersweet, as they have been uprooted from their family home and are about to head west, in search of better days and distant promises.
It is the same search that the Earp brothers are pursuing at the beginning of My Darling Clementine and the search that Kirby Yorke in Rio Grande is prevented from pursuing by orders that keep him from crossing the river into Mexico to exact revenge of Apache raiders. Tom Joad, Wyatt Earp, and Kirby Yorke are all men whose family connections both tie them to their duty and challenge their ability to make their own way in the world. Joad must help the family make the trek to California, even if it puts him at risk for breaking his parole and tests his ability to make a life for himself. Earp is bound to the life of a cowboy by his loyalty to his brothers and becomes a lawman to exact the revenge that this loyalty demands of him. Yorke's family includes not only an estranged wife and a son he has not seen fo 15 years but also a troop of men, a general who is both commanding officer and