The Work of John Steinbeck

The Work of John Steinbeck

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The Work of John Steinbeck

 
    John Steinbeck was a major literary figure in the 20th century and continues to be widely read in the twenty-first century. Steinbeck was born on February 27,1902 (About John Steinbeck) in the Salinas Valley of California. (Laskov) "His father, John Steinbeck, Sr. was the County Treasurer and his mother, Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, was a former school teacher. As a youth, he worked as a ranch hand and fruit picker. (John Steinbeck [2])". "He attended the local high school and studied marine biology at Stanford University between 1920 and 1926, but did not take a degree" (John Steinbeck [1]). Steinbeck's fascination with science and biology is evident in most of his works such as in this quote from the Grapes of Wrath: "Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up in the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments."  (Steinbeck 165) As Steinbeck began his writing career, he took many other jobs to support himself. For a short time, he worked at the American in New York City, and then returned to California where he worked various jobs such as a painter and fruit-picker before taking a job as a caretaker for a Lake Tahoe Estate. (John Steinbeck [1]) His job as a caretaker allowed him time to write and by the time he left the job in 1930 he had already published his first book, Cup of Gold (1929) and married his first wife Carol Henning (John Steinbeck [2]). After his marriage he moved to Pacific Grove, California where, in the early 1930s, Steinbeck met Edward Ricketts, a marine biologist, whose views on the interdependence of all life deeply influenced Steinbeck's novel To a God Unknown (1933). (John Steinbeck [2])

 

            Tortilla Flat (1935) was Steinbeck's first successful novel. (John Steinbeck [2]) "Of Mice and Men (1937), a story of shattered dreams, became Steinbeck's first big success. In the same year appeared also The Red Pony". (John Steinbeck [2]) With his feet firmly planted as a successful America author, Steinbeck had many more pieces published during the next twenty years, including The Pearl and The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath was hugely popular and was later made into an equally popular movie. (John Steinbeck [2])

 

John Steinbeck continued to write for the rest of his life, but many consider his writing career to have ended before he received the Nobel Prize.

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(John Steinbeck [2]) During WW II Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune in Great Britain and the Mediterranean area. (John Steinbeck [1]). Unfortunately, Steinbeck's personal life enjoyed far less success than his writing career. "In 1943 Steinbeck moved to New York City, his home for the rest of his life. His twelve-year marriage to Carol Henning ended in 1942. The following year he married the singer Gwyndolyn Conger and they had two sons, Thom and John before divorcing in 1949." (John Steinbeck [1]) Steinbeck once again remarried in 1950, this time to a woman named Elaine Scott. His son John, seven at the time, was hospitalized for an addiction to codeine and continued to have drug problems throughout his life. (John Steinbeck [1]) John Steinbeck IV had these remarks to make about his father:

 

"Artists by nature are not particularly gifted as parents. They can be very self-centered, very abusive, and dysfunctional when it comes to raising children. So the kid has to raise himself. Dad never had to be a parent except on his time and on his terms, and then he was very good at that, very good. Very Huck Finny. Had he had to do it day in, day out, he would have failed miserably." (Steinbeck, John IV 37)

 

"Steinbeck's later writings were works of entertainment and journalism interspersed with three attempts to reassert his stature as a major novelist: Burning Bright (1950), East of Eden (1952), and The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)". (John Steinbeck [2])  According to most critics, none equaled his earlier achievements. Steinbeck considered all his work as preparation for his great American novel, East of Eden. John Steinbeck died December 20, 1968 in New York. On March 4, 1969 his ashes were buried in the Garden of Memories cemetery in Salinas, California. (Neary)

 

Contrary to the style of his time, John Steinbeck wrote in a format that invited people from all walks of life to read his writing; this helped Steinbeck gain popularity as a writer within his own lifetime. While Steinbeck's works were easy to read and contained stories familiar to most readers, his literary preoccupations were with deeper, abstract ideas. Steinbeck explored themes of mythical naturalism, marginalized characters, and social activism (Bell).

 

Works Cited

1. John Steinbeck. 24 Oct. 2001. <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/johnstei.htm>.

2. John Steinbeck. 24 Oct. 2001. <http://www.ultranet.com/~gregjonz/steinbeck/steinbec.html>.

Bell, Dr. James. "John Steinbeck (1902-1968)". 22 Oct. 2001.

John Steinbeck's Bio. Ivan Laskov. 24 Oct. 2001 <http://www.ais.cz/Ivan.Laskov/steinbeck.htm>.

Krutch, Joseph Wood. "John Steinbeck's Dramatic Tales of Three Generations." Steinbeck and His Critics: A Record of Twenty-Five Years, University of New Mexico Press. 1957. pp. 302-305. Rpt. In Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. David Marowski. Vol 45 Detroit: Gale, 1987. pp. 370- 371

Neary, Walter. "About John Steinbeck". 27 Nov. 2001 <http://www.steinbeck.org/About.html>.

Steinbeck, John. Grapes of Wrath. 1939. New York: Penguin, 1973.

Steinbeck, John IV Nancy Steinbeck, and Andrew Harvey. Other Side of Eden. Prometheus Books. Feb. 2001.

Various contributors. "Amazon.com Buying Information." Amazon.com <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/stores/detail/-/books/0140186395/

customer-reviews/qid=1007248185/sr=2-1/ref=sr_2_75_1/102-8744870-2692125>. 28 Nov. 2001

Webster, Harvey Curtis. Out of the New Born Sun. Saturday Review, New York. Vol. XXXV. No. 38. 20 Sept 1952. pp. 11-12. Rpt. In Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. David Marowski. Vol 45 Detroit: Gale, 1987. pp. 369-370
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