John Steinbeck: Way of Life and to Success

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Table of contents

  1. Part 1- Steinbeck Introduced to the World
  2. Part 2: The Wrath of Words
  3. Part 3- The Fire of the People

Part 1- Steinbeck Introduced to the World

“Muscles aching to work, minds aching to create - that is man.” (John Steinbeck). Steinbeck failed many times in his life before he became an excellent author. John Steinbeck Jr. wrote award winning novels about The Great Depression and the migrant workers that lived during that time. His creativity and composition was influenced by people, songs and other books. John Steinbeck lived shy and modestly as a child to boldly and confident through writing as an adult. John Steinbeck grew up and made a vivid impression on the world.

To begin, John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. was born in Salina, California on February 27 in 1902. His parents John Steinbeck Sr. and Olive Hamilton Steinbeck were German immigrants who moved to that small town in California. His mother, Olive, was a school teacher and his father was a bookkeeper and an accountant. He also grew up with three sisters. He lived a very happy childhood and was very shy and smart. At age 14, with the influence of Steinbeck’s mother, he fell in love with literature and decided that he wanted to be a writer.

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Later in his life, Steinbeck went to Salinas high school and during his summers he worked on ranches to make money and help with the harvest. He graduated in 1919 and continued his academic career at Sanford University from 1919-1925 but never completed and got his degree. After this in the year of 1925, he went to New York for a new beginning. He began his new career in New York as a free-lance writer but he failed and returned to California. But, after publishing a few short stories and novels, including his first novel “Cup of Gold,” he became widely known with a series of humorous short stories called Tortilla Flat in 1935.

While, Steinbeck writes he had to have had inspiration. One of main inspirations was his mother, Olive. He had three wives Elaine Scoot, they got divorced, Carol Hemming, also divorced, and finally Gwyndolyn Conger. They provided him with inspiration, believe it or not. He also had two sons. So, his family provided him with plenty of inspiration. One of his best novels “East of Eden” was influenced by his divorce from his second wife and him also serving During World War II, as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Another influence would be his friend Ed Rickets, he was an American marine biologist, ecologist, and philosopher. He was influenced by great ideas like transcendentalism, biological ideas, and his sense of the group vs. the individual. More inspiration came from the classical literature he read and loved. The biggest influence had to have been his favorite book, Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur a collection of stories about king arthur. All in all, John Steinbeck has a lot of information and inspiration to choose from.

John Steinbeck’s influences led him to write some very popular books people read today. Some of his most novels that are still famous today are, Of Mice and Men, published in 1937, The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and East of Eden in 1952. All these novels have a common setting, place in time and have a couple common themes. They all take place in California, which is where Stenibeck grew up. They all take place in the 1900s and they all have common themes that are about friendship/kinship and hard times. His popular book The Grapes of Wrath, helped him win the Nobel Prize in literature in the year of 1962. Also because of this novel he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. Unfortunately, Steinbeck’s last novel was “Travels with Charley: In Search of America” was in the year of 1962. Six years later he passed away December 20, 1968, in New York, New York due to congestive heart failure. America lost a great author that day.

Part 2: The Wrath of Words

Steinbeck’s novels were mostly about the Great Depression and the migrant workers that lived in this time. The Great Depression was during the years of 1929 and ten years later ended in 1939. It began because of the stock market crash in October 1929 which sent Wall Street into a panic and wiped out millions of investors. 1933 was when the Great Depression hit its lowest point, close to 15 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half of the country's banks failed. Now, John Steinbeck’s novels have been written in the past about this catastrophic event.. The Grapes of Wrath is John Steinbeck’s most famous book.

The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939 as a narrative novel about the Great Depression and The Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. This novel was supposed to show the hardness of the Great Depression and arouses sympathy for the struggles of migrant farm workers. This proletarian novel advocates social change by showing the unfair working conditions migrants face when they reach california. This explains the wide circumstances of the world with which the protagonists contend.

Furthermore, the title of a novel is one of the most important things about it. The title The Grapes of Wrath was taken from the hymn, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” (Today Being Published, 2020, para 3) This hymn was written by Julia Ward Howe in 1861. The lyric he took the title from goes like this, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord, he is trampling out the vintage when the grapes of wrath are stored.” This song links the judgment of the wicked at the end of the age, through allusions to biblical passages such as Isaiah 63 and Revelation 19, with the American Civil War. Steinbeck himself tells his audience, “I like the song because it is a kind of march and this book is kind of a march.” (Telegraph Media Group LImited, 2020, para 8)

To go along with the title, Steinbeck wrote this book for his readers so he could intend to personalize the injustice dealt to many migrant workers on the road during the Great Depression. Steinbeck succeeded in raising awareness which became impetus for political activists movements. Now, the purpose of The Grapes of Wrath is a story that entails perseverance in dealing with oppressive labor conditions faced by migrant laborers during the Depression. This was conceived by the novel's tone was to inform the public of migrant flight. But, the main idea was that the novel advocates social change by showing the unfair working conditions migrants face when they reach california. The men who own the land, power and attempt to control supply and demand so that they can get away with paying poor wages.

Now, Steinbeck's main idea is to set up the book’s plot and show us many different themes. To begin the novel, Steinbeck starts off with the protagonist, Tom Joad, Released from prison due to manslaughter, making his own way home. After this he will meet u with his friend John Casey and the rest of his family. He notices that their family farm is being evicted from their family farm. They encounter many obstacles along the way such as their grandpa and grandma pass away and Tom Joad’s older brother abandons them. They are warned that the jobs in California they seek are imaginary. The Joads’ dream about California in bold relief against the realities they face.

Steinbeck's writing style in this novel helps progress his plot and themes, make his audience more interested and help develop his characters. John Steinbeck’s writing style in many novels is considered realistic and imaginary. Steinbeck's narrative style in The Grapes of Wrath was detail-oriented; whether he was writing a character or a landscape, he drew pictures with his language. This creates a visceral, or physical, experience for the reader. In the first chapter of the novel The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck's attention to detail that allows us to have empathy for the characters whose land is slowly decimated by drought in Oklahoma,

“In the last part of May the sky grew pale and the clouds that had hung in high puffs for so long in the spring were dissipated. The sun flared down on the growing corn day after day until a line of brown spread along the edge of each green bayonet. The clouds appeared, and went away, and in a while they did not try any more. The weeds grew darker green to protect themselves, and they did not spread any more. The surface of the earth crusted, a thin hard crust, and as the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red country and white in the gray country” (Steinbeck, 1939, Pg 1).

The description of the drought and the devastation it caused to the land continues for the entire first chapter, without even one conversation between any of the characters. Why does Steinbeck do this? Why doesn't he just say that the drought ruined the farmland? The answer is twofold. A twofold is a phrase of speech that has multiple senses or two different meanings that are understood 2 different ways. Steinbeck's use of long, detailed passages allowed him to figuratively paint each scene as he felt best. “Language to a writer is like paint to a painter” (Working Scholars, 2003, Para 3,4,5).

To go along with the writing style, many themes are produced through the novel. The main one is survival, but there are many other important ones like, Humanity, inhumanity and dehumanization, Dignity, Honor and Wrath, Faith and guilt, Family, friendship, community. To continue, survival is the main theme in the book because the joads survive many many challenges on their journey. The more common theme of Humanity, inhumanity and dehumanization is explained when the most brutal adversity the Joads face does not come from the unforgiving natural conditions of the dust bowl and it's from the Ozkie community receive the cruelest treatment from those most capable of helping the more fortunate individuals. As well as, Dignity, Honor and Wrath is introduced when the despite the destitution, the okies are shown to be extremely conscious of maintaining their honor No matter how dire their circumstances, the Joads are unwilling to stoop to accepting charity or stealing. Faith and guilt is stated at different times in The Grapes of Wrath, nearly all of the main characters endure spiritually trying times. Casy is the first to address this theme when he speaks of his reformed faith: instead of the black-and-white teachings of Christian dogma, Casy has come to believe in a natural unity of the human race. Lastly, Family, Friendship and Community is explained time and time again in The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck demonstrates the profound ties and nuanced relationships that develop through kinship, friendship, and group identity. The arc of the Joad family shows, on one hand, a cohesive unit whose love and support of one another keeps them from abandoning hope. On the other hand, however, the novel shows that this unity comes with complications. Themes are continuous morals that help the plot arise and make the novel more appealing to the readers.

Part 3- The Fire of the People

Although Steinbeck won awards and had very famous works, he was not always adored for his books. Often people do not realize what goes on in the author's life. Life as an author can be full of criticism on his or her books, poems and other articles. John Steinbeck got criticised a lot from his award winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

The Grapes of Wrath was criticised across the nations, across America it was banned and burned. Associated farmers of California dismissed the novel as lies and communist propaganda. It was also banned from Ireland and Soviet Union by Joseph Stallin and many more states and countries. After being criticised and knowing the people were rebelling, Steinbeck was now under FBI surveillance because he had received death threats. ‘The book was banned in many libraries and copies were symbolically burned in towns across America. When WB Camp, one of the most successful cotton producers in California, presided over its burning in Bakersfield, he said: ‘We are angry, not because we were attacked but because we were attacked by a book obscene in the extreme sense of the word”’ (Today Being Published, 2019, para 5).

Furthermore, not everyone hated his book Woody Guthrie wrote the song called “The Ghost of Tom Joad” based on The Grapes of Wrath. But, not only radicals loved Steinbeck’s novel; rather, it is the story itself that so profoundly resonated with the fighting and dedicated American workers in the 1930s. They rejected Steinbeck’s portal of the living and working situation in California as inaccurate and slanderous. Upon the release of the novel in 1939 it was immediately banned by the county council. Everyone rejected the book. Although The Grapes of Wrath was banned it is still considered one of the best novels written.

John Steinbeck once said, “Strength and success - they are above morality, above criticism” (John Steinbeck Quotes, 2020, quote 10). He may have criticised but many people loved his books and people still do. Steinbeck’s imagination and creativity helped him produce excellent award winning novels that made vivid impressions across the world whether they were good or bad.

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