John Steinbeck

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© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

John Steinbeck: The Years of Greatness, 1936-1939
Tetsumaro Hayashi.
University of Alabama Press, 1993
The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck IV; Nancy Steinbeck.
Prometheus Books, 2001
Understanding Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, and The Pearl: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents
Claudia Durst Johnson.
Greenwood Press, 1997
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
Steinbeck's Typewriter: Essays on His Art
Robert DeMott.
Whitston, 1997 (Revised edition)
The Social Novel at the End of An Era
Warren French.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1966
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "A Troubled Nation- 'How Nice It's Gonna Be, Maybe, in California'"
In Europe's Image: The Need for American Multiculturalism
O. R. Dathorne.
Bergin & Garvey, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Steinbeck's European Audience"
Opposing Censorship in the Public Schools: Religion, Morality, and Literature
June Edwards.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Religion and Morality in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck" and Chap. 10 "Religion and Morality in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck"
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 On Human Kindness (1940)"
Writing the American Classics
James Barbour; Tom Quirk.
University of North Carolina Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: "The Mirror and the Vamp: Invention, Reflection, and Bad, Bad Cathy Trask in East of Eden" begins on p. 235
Bilingual Wordplay: Variations on a Theme by Hemingway and Steinbeck
Gladstein, Mimi R.
The Hemingway Review, Vol. 26, No. 1, Fall 2006
A Sourcebook of American Literary Journalism: Representative Writers in An Emerging Genre
Thomas B. Connery.
Greenwood Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of John Steinbeck begins on p. 223
Search for more books and articles on John Steinbeck