1902

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was an American novelist whose Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, portrayed the plight of migrant workers during the Great Depression.

John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. (February 27, 1902 - December 20, 1968) was a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist and the author of Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden as well as other novels, Cannery Row. and Tortilla Flat.

John Stienbeck grew up in one of the most fertile valley's in the state, an area that became the setting for much of his greatest fiction. In the 50 years prior to the publication of Mice and Men most of the region's wheat and fruit crops were picked by migrant workers who follow the harvests, mostly single men without home or family, with a napsack and a bedroll as their only posessions. Stienbeck himself had worked the field's and packing plants as a highschool student. And after leaving Stanford university where he only half-hearedly pursued his studies he joined the ranks of the migrants moving from ranch to ranch for nearly two years experiencing first hand the loneliness and isolation of the itinerant working man.

Work

In Dubious Battle (1936)

This first novel tells the story of a fruit pickers' strike in California which is both aided and damaged by the help of "the Party," generally taken to be the Communist Party, although this is never spelled out in the book.

Of Mice and Men (1937)

Of Mice and Men is a tragedy that was written as a play in 1937. The story is about two traveling ranch workers, George and Lennie, trying to earn enough money to buy their own farm/ranch. As it is set in 1930s America, it provides an insight into The Great Depression, encompassing themes of racism, loneliness, prejudice against the mentally ill, and the struggle for personal independence.

The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

The Grapes of Wrath is set in the Great Depression and describes a family of sharecroppers, the Joads, who were driven from their land due to the dust storms of the Dust Bowl. The title is a reference to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Some critics found it too sympathetic to the workers' plight and too critical of capitalism but found a large audience of its own.

East of Eden (1952)

Steinbeck deals with the nature of good and evil in this Salinas Valley saga. The story follows two families: the Hamiltons – based on Steinbeck's own maternal ancestry – and the Trasks, reprising stories about the Biblical Adam and his progeny.

Travels with Charley: in search of America (1962)

In 1960, Steinbeck bought a pickup truck and had it modified with a custom-built camper top – which was rare at the time – and drove across the United States with his faithful 'blue' standard poodle, Charley. Steinbeck nicknamed his truck Rocinante after Don Quixote's "noble steed". In this sometimes comical, sometimes melancholic book, Steinbeck describes what he sees from Maine to Montana to California, and from there to Texas and Louisiana and back to his home on Long Island. The restored camper truck is on exhibit in the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas.