John Steinbeck was an American writer in the mid-twentieth century, most famous for his novel The Grapes of Wrath. His writing is notable for its social consciousness and attempts to bring prominence to the problems of the rural poor.
John Steinbeck was an American writer in the mid-twentieth century, most famous for his novel The Grapes of Wrath. Born in 1902 in Salinas, California, he was greatly influenced by the farming economy he grew up in and the subsequent struggles brought on by the Great Depression. His writing is notable for its social consciousness and attempts to bring prominence to the problems of the rural poor.
Steinbeck developed both a love of the land and a love of writing at a young age. After dropping out of college, he took up writing in his early twenties, and finally earned recognition with his 1935 publication of Tortilla Flats, a humorous collection of short stories addressing the Mexican American experience. Of particular concern to Steinbeck was the life of the migrant worker, a topic again explored in his 1937 novella Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck used his fiction as a form of social protest, subtly criticizing the exploitation he perceived at the heart of the American agricultural economy. His greatest fame was achieved by connecting to the experiences of Depression-era Americans in his most ambitious work, The Grapes of Wrath. The 1939 novel follows the Joad family as they migrate from Oklahoma to California during the Dust Bowl. The Grapes of Wrath sold 10,000 a week, won a Pulitzer Prize, and was quickly made into a Hollywood film.
Steinbeck wrote in various genres throughout his prolific career. In general, however, he conveyed a realism of experience and built vivid, engaging character profiles. His novels often rely on symbolic structures that give them a mythical quality, as in the legend-like structure of The Pearl and Tom Joad’s epic hero’s journey in The Grapes of Wrath. In keeping with this symbolic intent, Steinbeck includes many archetypal characters and makes strong use of simile and metaphor. Although critics panned some of his later work as overly romanticized, Steinbeck charmed readers near the end of his life with his 1962 autobiographical travelogue, Travels with Charley: In Search of America. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in the same year, Steinbeck solidified his role as one of the most iconic writers of the twentieth century.
”Ideas are like rabbits: you get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
”We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.”
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