Grapes of Wrath

Steinbeck, John

John Steinbeck, 1902–68, American writer, b. Salinas, Calif., studied at Stanford. He is probably best remembered for his strong sociological novel The Grapes of Wrath, considered one of the great American novels of the 20th cent. Steinbeck's early novels—Cup of Gold (1929), The Pastures of Heaven (1932), and To a God Unknown (1933)—attracted little critical attention, but Tortilla Flat (1935), an affectionate yet realistic novel about the lovable, exotic, Spanish-speaking poor of Monterey, was enthusiastically received. A compassionate understanding of the world's disinherited was to be Steinbeck's hallmark. The novel In Dubious Battle (1936) defends striking migrant agricultural workers in the California fields. In the novella Of Mice and Men (1937; later made into a play), Steinbeck again presents migrant workers, but this time in terms of human worth and integrity—a theme he also used in The Moon Is Down (1942; later made into a play), about Norwegian resistance to the Nazis. The Grapes of Wrath (1939; Pulitzer Prize), while treating the plight of dispossessed Dust Bowl farmers during the 1930s, presents a universal picture of victims of disaster. Steinbeck's depiction of the westward migration of the Joad family, and their subsequent struggles in the exploitative agricultural industry of California, is realistic and moving, and he endows his humble characters with nobility. Steinbeck's other works are diverse, ranging from the literal account of a voyage, The Sea of Cortez (1941; written with the marine biologist E. F. Ricketts); to a parable, The Pearl (1948); to a playful French folk piece, The Short Reign of Pippin IV (1957). Love of his native land shines through the exquisitely nostalgic story "The Red Pony" in The Long Valley (1938). The somewhat sentimental attitude of Tortilla Flat appears again in Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1947), and Sweet Thursday (1954). More ambitious are the novels East of Eden (1952), a family chronicle with the Cain and Abel theme, and Winter of Our Discontent (1961), about a suburbanite's moral conflict. Steinbeck also wrote notable nonfiction, particularly The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) and A Russian Journal (1948), and the screenplays for the motion pictures The Forgotten Village (1941) and Viva Zapata! (1952). Travels with Charley in Search of America appeared in 1962 and America and Americans in 1966. Steinbeck was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature.

See his letters, ed. by E. Steinbeck and R. Wallsten (1975); biographies by J. Benson (1984) and J. Parini (1995); study by J. H. Timmerman (1986).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Understanding The Grapes of Wrath: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents
Claudia Durst Johnson.
Greenwood Press, 1999
The Critical Response to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath
Barbara A. Heavilin.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Student Companion to John Steinbeck
Cynthia Burkhead.
Greenwood Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Grapes of Wrath (1939)"
Barron's Simplified Approach to The Grapes of Wrath
Robert L. Gale.
Barron's Educational Series, 1967
John Steinbeck: The Years of Greatness, 1936-1939
Tetsumaro Hayashi.
University of Alabama Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "The Grapes of Wrath: Steinbeck and the Eternal Immigrant" and Chap. 10 "California Answers The Grapes of Wrath"
American Literature and the Dream
Frederic I. Carpenter.
Philosophical Library, 1955
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 18 "John Steinbeck: The Philosophical Joads"
Heroic Fiction: The Epic Tradition and American Novels of the Twentieth Century
Leonard Lutwack.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1971
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Grapes of Wrath"
Twentieth-Century American Literary Naturalism: An Interpretation
Donald Pizer.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1982
Librarian’s tip: "The Grapes of Wrath" begins on p. 65
Opposing Censorship in the Public Schools: Religion, Morality, and Literature
June Edwards.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Religion and Morality in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck"
Audience and Closure in 'The Grapes of Wrath.'
Visser, Nicholas.
Studies in American Fiction, Vol. 22, No. 1, Spring 1994
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Turning Wine into Water: Water as Privileged Signifier in 'The Grapes of Wrath.'
Cassuto, David.
Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 1993
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Steinbeck's Typewriter: Essays on His Art
Robert DeMott.
Whitston, 1997 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: "'This Book Is My Life': Creating The Grapes of Wrath" begins on p. 146
Working the Garden: American Writers and the Industrialization of Agriculture
William Conlogue; Jack Temple Kirby.
University of North Carolina Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Three "Disciplining the Farmer Class and Agriculture in The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Of Human Kindness (1940)"
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