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John Ernst Steinbeck

(1902-1968)

from "Fields of Vision by D.Delaney”

Life

Early years John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, in 1902 into a family of moderate means. His native region of Monterey Bay was later to become the setting for most of his fiction. In the years 1919-1925 he attended Stanford University, but eventually left without graduating.

Difficult beginnings Steinbeck moved to New York, where he tried to establish himself as a published author while doing a variety of menial jobs. Unable to get any of his writing published, he returned to California. He wrote his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929), while working as a security guard. It met with little commercial or critical success, nor did the works that followed: The Pastures of Heaven (1932), a collection of short stories, and a second novel, To a God Unknown (1933).

Critical and commercial success It was the collection of stories Tortilla Flat (1935) that established Steinbeck’s reputation. The novels that followed, Of Mice and Men (1937) and his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), enhanced his popularity and reputation. During the Second World War, he wrote some influential pieces of government propaganda and the anti-Nazi novel The Moon is Down (1942). He also worked for a period as a war correspondent for several news agencies. While still maintaining elements of social criticism Steinbeck’s post-war work was more sentimental. Novels such as Cannery Row (1945) and The Pearl (1947) lacked the hard edge of his earlier work.

Later years His last works include the novels East of Eden (1952) and The Winter of Our Discontent (1961). Although critics highlighted the flaws in these, they were much appreciated by the general reading public. In 1962 Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in New York in 1968.

Works

"Tortilla Flat” and "Of  Mice and Men John” Steinbeck’s literary output was extensive but uneven in quality. Today he is best remembered for the work he produced in the 1930s. Tortilla Flat (1935), the collection of short stories that brought him to the public’s attention, contains compassionate and humorous portrayals of Mexican American workers in the Monterey area. Of Mice and Men (1937) is the tragic story of two itinerant farm laborers and the deep bond of friendship that exists between them. It was successfully adapted for the stage and screen, as were several of his other works.

The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck’s greatest literary achievement was his 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. The novel tells the story of an Oklahoma farming family who are forced by soil erosion to leave their farm and migrate to California. The novel describes their ruthless exploitation by a pitiless system of agricultural economics.

Themes In his writing Steinbeck showed great compassion for the poor and the socially outcast. His own first-hand experience of hard labor and exploitation gave him penetrating insights into the plight of workers. In his most memorable works he criticizes a heartless society which, instead of helping the weak, exploits them ruthlessly.

Literary reputation Steinbeck’s literary talent lies in his ability to create credible characters, accurate dialogue and realistic settings. His style ranges from the lyrical and poetic to the journalistic and scientific. His work is characterized by sympathetic humor and keen social criticism.

External Links:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Steinbeck        

 
 
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