The Evolution of John Steinbeck

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The Evolution of Steinbeck

In "The Grapes of Wrath", Steinbeck takes a great leap forward in his storytelling. His characters are better developed and more human. Steinbeck's development as a writer was linked to his growth as a person and his furthered capacity for understanding in others, particularly the disenfranchised. The process and struggle that ensued during the early years of his career were instrumental in his growth and are demonstrated in the development of his views on industrialization and it's effects on the working class.

His greater understanding seemed to lead to an end to his theological approach to writing, or at least a modification of it. For with greater understanding came empathy, and with empathy came subjectivity. With the distance gone between he and his characters, it became possible to identify with the characters on a deeper level. They were more true to life than the characters of his previous novels. When Steinbeck managed to cross this line, he made a leap from the realm of the good writers into the Valhalla of great authors. This is when Steinbeck into people. Few of the masses were not familiar with the likes of a Tom Joad or Mack. (A Joseph was much harder to come by.)

In his earlier books, works like "To a God Unknown" and "In dubious Battle", Steinbeck delved into the man driven by ideology. Anything but "down-to earth", the characters in these books were motivated by what could be. As creatures of speculation, they were driven by the mind's eye. While Joseph lived for the earth, he never managed to be of it, (at least in the manner of your everyday farmer.) Like any man who have walked through the halls of formal education, Steinbeck himself was a man of...

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..."employable." Dr. Kelly posed the question, " what if World War II had not interposed and brought the U.S. out of the Great Depression?" At what point are the evils of the marketplace checked? Time will tell.

Without a common enemy, where is the unifying cause to organize? What will bring the people together? Once people are driven by hunger it seems to be to late. Hunger is desperate and powerless, without reason or strength. Humanity has conquered the world. Can we conquer out greed and fear? Steinbeck was unsure that our species could overcome our seemed hatred of ourselves. Maybe the fear of terrorism can bring the world together. In the meantime, people continue to struggle. Maybe things will finally change and we can all gain the empathy and understanding that were Steinbeck's. Unfortunately, those qualities seem to come only through great struggle.
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