John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was an American novelist who is known for works such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, 'The Grapes of Wrath,' as well as 'Of Mice and Men' and 'East of Eden.'

john steinbeck looks past the camera with a neutral expression on his face, he is wearing a light jacket and a dark shirt

(1902-1968)

Who Was John Steinbeck?

John Steinbeck 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. Steinbeck dropped out of college and worked as a manual laborer before achieving success as a writer. His works often dealt with social and economic issues. His 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath , about the migration of a family from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California, won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. Steinbeck served as a war correspondent during World War II, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

Early Life and Education

John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California. Steinbeck was raised with modest means. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, tried his hand at several different jobs to keep his family fed: He owned a feed-and-grain store, managed a flour plant and served as treasurer of Monterey County. His mother, Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, was a former schoolteacher.

For the most part, Steinbeck — who grew up with three sisters — had a happy childhood. He was shy but smart. He formed an early appreciation for the land and in particular California's Salinas Valley, which would greatly inform his later writing. According to accounts, Steinbeck decided to become a writer at the age of 14, often locking himself in his bedroom to write poems and stories.

In 1919, Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University — a decision that had more to do with pleasing his parents than anything else — but the budding writer would prove to have little use for college.

Over the next six years, Steinbeck drifted in and out of school, eventually dropping out for good in 1925, without a degree.

Following Stanford, Steinbeck tried to make a go of it as a freelance writer. He briefly moved to New York City, where he found work as a construction worker and a newspaper reporter, but then returned to California, where he took a job as a caretaker in Lake Tahoe and began his writing career.

John Steinbeck’s Books

Steinbeck wrote 31 books over the course of his career. His most well-known novels include Of Mice and Men (1937), Grapes of Wrath (1939) and East of Eden (1952).

'Of Mice and Men' (1937)

Two poor migrant workers, George and Lennie, are working for the American dream in California during the Great Depression. Lennie, who has a mild mental disability, is steadfastly faithful to his friend George, but he has a habit of getting into trouble. Their goal: to own an acre of land and a shack. After they both secure jobs working the fields of the Salinas Valley — Steinbeck’s own hometown — their dream seems more attainable than ever. However, Lennie’s inclinations eventually get him into trouble again, spiraling to a tragic conclusion for both men. The book was later transformed into a Broadway play and three movies.

'The Grapes of Wrath' (1939)

Widely considered Steinbeck's finest and most ambitious novel, this book tells the story of a dispossessed Oklahoma family and their struggle to carve out a new life in California at the height of the Great Depression, the book captured the mood and angst of the nation during this time period. At the height of its popularity, The Grapes of Wrath sold 10,000 copies per week.

'The Pearl' (1947)

This story, based on a Mexican folktale, explores human nature and the potential of love. Kino, a poor diver who gathers pearls from the ocean floor, lives with his wife Juana and their infant son Coyotito by the sea. On the same day Coyotito is stung by a scorpion and is turned away by the town doctor because they can’t afford care, Kino finds the largest pearl he’s ever seen on one of his dives. The pearl, which brings the potential of great fortune, ignites the neighbors’ jealousy, eventually becoming a dangerous agent of evil.

'East of Eden' (1952)

Some of Steinbeck’s other works include Cup of Gold (1929), The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), all of which received tepid reviews. It wasn't until Tortilla Flat (1935), a humorous novel about paisano life in the Monterey region was released, that the writer achieved real success.

Steinbeck struck a more serious tone with In Dubious Battle (1936) and The Long Valley (1938), a collection of short stories. He continued to write in his later years, with credits including Cannery Row (1945), Burning Bright (1950), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961) and Travels with Charley: In Search of America (1962).

In 1940, Steinbeck earned a Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath . In 1962, the author received the Nobel Prize for Literature — "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception." Upon receiving the award, Steinbeck said the writer’s duty was “dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.”

During World War II, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune .

Around this same time, he traveled to Mexico to collect marine life with friend Edward F. Ricketts, a marine biologist. Their collaboration resulted in the book Sea of Cortez (1941), which describes marine life in the Gulf of California.

Wives and Children

Steinbeck was married three times and had two sons. In 1930, Steinbeck met and married his first wife, Carol Henning. Over the following decade, he poured himself into his writing with Carol's support and paycheck, until the couple divorced in 1942.

Steinbeck was married to his second wife, Gwyndolyn Conger, from 1943 to 1948. The couple had two sons together, Thomas (born 1944) and John (born 1946). In 1950, Steinbeck wed his third wife, Elaine Anderson Scott. The couple remained together until his death in 1968.

Steinbeck died of heart disease on December 20, 1968, at his home in New York City.

QUICK FACTS

  • Name: John Steinbeck
  • Birth Year: 1902
  • Birth date: February 27, 1902
  • Birth State: California
  • Birth City: Salinas
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: John Steinbeck was an American novelist who is known for works such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, 'The Grapes of Wrath,' as well as 'Of Mice and Men' and 'East of Eden.'
  • Fiction and Poetry
  • Astrological Sign: Pisces
  • Stanford University
  • Interesting Facts
  • John Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University but never finished his degree.
  • During World War II, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune.
  • Steinbeck had married three times in his lifetime.
  • Death Year: 1968
  • Death date: December 20, 1968
  • Death State: New York
  • Death City: New York
  • Death Country: United States

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CITATION INFORMATION

  • Article Title: John Steinbeck Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/authors-writers/john-steinbeck
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: April 14, 2021
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014
  • A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
  • In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.
  • Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
  • We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome.
  • The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.
  • A writer lives in awe of words, for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you.
  • To finish is sadness to a writer—a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn't really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done.
  • I know that no one really wants the benefit of anyone's experience, which is probably why it is so freely offered.
  • I should think that a comfortable body would let the mind go freely to its gathering.
  • I do a whole of a day's work and then the next day, flushed with triumph, I dawdle. That's today. The crazy thing is that I get about the same number of words down either way.
  • I guess it is a good thing I became a writer. Perhaps I am too lazy for anything else.
  • For poetry is the mathematics of writing and closely kin to music. And it is also the best therapy because sometimes the troubles come tumbling out.
  • The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness.
  • I learned long ago that you cannot tell how you will end by how you start.
  • We work in our own darkness a great deal with little real knowledge of what we are doing. I think I know better what I am doing than most writers but it still isn't much.
  • Give a critic an inch and he'll write a play.

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Biography

John Steinbeck biography

John Steinbeck (1902 – 1968) was an American writer best known for his novels about the social consequences of the Great Depression in America. His most famous works include Of Mice and Men (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and East of Eden (1952). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

“The writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit—for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation.”

—Steinbeck, Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech 1962

John Steinbeck Short Biography

john-steinbeck

Steinbeck studied at Salinas High school, and then went to Stanford University in Palo Alto. Despite staying there for five years, he left without a degree. In 1925, he left university and sought to establish himself as a writer in New York. However, he was unable to make a career for himself and he was forced to support himself doing odd jobs. In 1928, discouraged, Steinbeck returned to California where he got a job as a caretaker in Tahoe city. Despite working full time, in 1929, he was able to get his first novel, Cup of Gold , published.

However, after a few years, Steinbeck received some financial support from his father, this allowed him to give up his full-time job. Steinbeck was able to devote more time to writing from his father’s cottage in Pacific Grove, Monterey, California. He also married Carol Henning in 1930.

In 1935, the novel ‘ Tortilla Flat ‘ was published to critical acclaim. The novel was set in Monterey after World War One and portrays a bunch of homeless and classless men who reject the social mores of society. This novel was his first major breakthrough and gave him the financial income and confidence to pursue writing other novels.

This period led to some of his most productive writing years. In particular, his short book ‘ Of Mice and Men ‘ (1939)and the epic novel – The Grapes of Wrath (1939) established his reputation as one of the pre-eminent modern American writers.

Of Mice and Men was a short story about two migrant workers, George Milton and the mentally retarded Lennie Small who seek employment during the Great Depression. The Grapes of Wrath is a deeper discussion of the social, economic and cultural implications of the Great Depression. It focuses on a family of poor tenant farmers and their difficulties during the Great Depression; it offers a sympathetic account of migrant workers and is critical of capitalism. The Grapes of Wrath became the best selling book of 1939, and it led to Steinbeck being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Both books captured the despair and personal cost of the Great Depression, and have become a classic literary account of this period. As well as the social implications, Steinbeck also captured a poignant reference to a mystical element of American farming land. The tragedy of the Great Depression heightened the missed opportunities to enable the American dream of cultivating the most fertile soil of the country.

Steinbeck’s subtle political commentary was also controversial. The book, The Grapes of Wrath , was banned by the Kern County board of supervisors from 1939-41. Steinbeck was an active supporter of the FDR’ s Liberal New Deal and had strong contacts with left-wing writers and labour union figures. In 1967, he went to Vietnam and wrote strongly in support of the war, which many felt was compromising his earlier liberal ideas. Steinbeck complained of government harassment because of his political views, arguing J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI encouraged the tax authorities to harass him.

In 1942, he divorced his first wife and remarried, Gwendolyn Conger, they had one child – John Steinbeck IV. During the Second World War, Steinbeck wrote a novel inspired by the spirit of resistance to German occupation – The Moon is Down (1942). He also served as a war correspondent; he saw action in the Mediterranean and North Africa. In 1944, he was wounded after a munitions explosion and returned home.

After the war, he visited the Soviet Union with renowned photographer, Robert Capa. He published his experiences in ‘ A Russian Journal ‘ it was a rare American insight into post-revolutionary Russia.

In 1948, Steinbeck experienced a period of mental depression after a close friend, Ed Ricketts died in a motor accident, and his second wife insisted on divorce shortly after. Ricketts had encouraged much of Steinbeck’s writing during his most productive period in the late 1930s.

Steinbeck remarried for the third time in 1950. In 1952, he wrote his last great masterpiece, East of Eden

“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”

— John Steinbeck, East of Eden

In 1962, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Nobel Committee cited his great works Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and a recent novel ‘ The Winter of Our Discontent ‘. Steinbeck was typically modest, questioning whether he really deserved it.

After 1962, he didn’t write any more novels until his death in 1968.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan . “ Biography of John Steinbeck ”, Oxford, UK www.biographyonline.net , 22 January 2013. Last updated 8 February 2019.

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John Steinbeck

John Ernest Steinbeck (1902-1968) was an American novelist. His most celebrated works are “The Grapes of Wrath”, “East of Eden”, and “Of Mice and Men”. His works are considered classics in Western literary history. Also, he was termed as “a giant of American Letters”. He earned the Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize for his timeless pieces of art. His writings are full of imaginative representations and realistic fiction.

Most of Steinbeck’s works are set on the ideas of injustice, misery, and fate that befall the ordinary lot. Steinbeck’s works are mostly set in California, specifically Salinas Valley. During his lifetime, he wrote 33 books that included noon-fiction, short stories, and novels.

A Short  Biography of John Steinbeck

John Ernest Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, on 27 th February 1902. His father, John Ernest Steinbeck, worked different jobs to feed the family. For example, he ran a grain store for some time, worked a flour plant, and served as Monterey County treasurer.  His mother, Olive Hamilton, was a former schoolteacher. Steinbeck received the love of reading and writing from his mother.

John Steinbeck grew as a member of Episcopal Church; however, he later became an agnostic. Moreover, he grew up with his three sisters in a happy childhood. He was an intelligent and shy child. As he had intended to become a writer from the age of 14, Steinbeck would occasionally lock himself in the room and write stories and poems.

From a very young age, he developed an admiration for his birthplace, Salinas, and the whole of California. This love can be seen in his great literary writings. Likewise, he discussed the Pacific Coast as the setting of his works. As he worked on nearby ranches and also worked for the Spreckels Sugar Company on farms, he got the experience of the tough side of life.

He also managed to get some time for writing and depicted the harsher aspects of life in it. In 1919, after graduating from Salinas High School, Steinbeck got admission to Stanford University, California. There he chose English Literature as his major subject but left it in 1925 before completing his degree.

He stayed in New York for some time and lived on certain odd jobs to pursue his writing career as a freelance writer. After failed attempts to publish his work, Steinbeck came back to California and began working as a guide for tourists for Lake Tahoe in 1928. There, he met Carol Henning. They married in Los Angeles in 1930 where Steinbeck began the business of making plaster mannequins.

After six months, the couple moved back to Pacific Grove, California, when they turned empty-handed. There they lived in Steinbeck’s family cottage. They were supported by the family for some time and Steinbeck wrote without interruption during that time. When Steinbeck was left alone, he and his wife even rarely stole from food shops and accepted charity.

Steinbeck met Ed Ricketts in 1930, who was a marine biologist. He taught him a great deal about biology and philosophy and was Steinbeck’s close friend for a decade of good and bad times. Steinbeck and his wife informally worked for him in his laboratory from 1930 to 1936. He separated from his wife in 1942.

Steinbeck married for the second time to Gwendolyn Conger in 1943 but divorced in 1948. In 1950, he married Elaine Anderson Scott. With her, he remained till death in 1968.

John Steinbeck’s Writing Career

Early career.

During the time of the Great Depression and misery, Steinbeck published “Cup of Gold” in 1929. However, it did not gain a sweeping success. The story loosely centers on the journey of life and death of Henry Morgan, a privateer, set in the city of Panama.

In 1932, Steinbeck published a shorter work, “The Pastures of Heaven”. The story features a valley near Monterey which came to light when a Spanish corporal discovered it while pursuing Indian slaves. Next, he published “The Red Pony” in 1933. It was about Steinbeck’s childhood memories in 4 chapters of a hundred-page book.

In 1933, the third work of Steinbeck, “To a God Unknown” was published. He completed it within five years. It tells the story of the life and family of a rancher living in California. During this time, Steinbeck struggled to get success in his writing career to gain a deserving status for his work. That is why most of his works have the main characters struggling to find meaning in life and settle their lives.

Successful Career

Steinbeck’s real success was achieved in 1935 with the publication of “Tortilla Flat”. The novel tells about the adventures of homeless wandering men just before the US prohibition and after World War-I. The novel occurs in Monterey, California, after the war. For this novel, Steinbeck was awarded a gold medal by California Commonwealth Club.

In the novel, the characters are represented as ironic replicas of the great knights on adventures. After the great success, Steinbeck began writing his “California novels” series in which he depicted the condition of common people during the Great Depression. These novels included “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Of Mice and Men” (novella), and “In Dubious Battle”. He also started a series of articles “The Harvest Gypsies” about the issues of migrant laborers for the newspaper San Francisco News .

Of Mice and Men

One of Steinbeck’s memorable works, “Of Mice and Men” was a novella featuring two migrants working as laborers on agricultural land in California. The story was called a “little masterpiece” because of its great appreciation. It was also staged under the direction of George S. Kaufman.

Steinbeck’s Masterpiece

In 1939, Steinbeck followed his succession of novels with “The Grapes of Wrath”. It was based on the article series about immigrant laborers in San Francisco that Steinbeck wrote sometime earlier. The novel is considered to be the masterpiece of Steinbeck. 

The book was New York Best Selling book for 1939. The book was awarded the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction . However, due to the negative representation of some views of Capitalism, the book was banned in 1939. The ban was lifted in 1941.

Impact of World War-II

During World War II, Steinbeck worked as a war correspondent. In 1942, he wrote, “The Moon is Down” which is about the Norwegians under the command of the Nazi regime. His other works that were deeply affected by the war are “Cannery Row” (1945), “The Pearl” and “The Wayward Bus” both written in 1947. These novels consist of a critical view of the war-torn society and show how ordinary people suffer at the hands of colonial and imperial powers.

Later Novels

Steinbeck’s later novels, “Burning Bright” (1950), “East of Eden” (1952), and in 1961, “The Winter of Our Discontent” struggled to regain Steinbeck’s literary status as it was when he wrote his early novels in the 1930s. However, these novels did not gain great attention and praise. His success lies in the naturalistic depictions in his works. He created symbolic structures and archetypal imitations that made him a notable writer of English history.

Before his death, no novel was issued in six years. Steinbeck died in December 1968 due to heartache at his home in New York City.

John Steinbeck’s Writing Style

Steinbeck is indeed a master of writing. He artfully weaves his tales with clashes between expectations and reality, and consciousness and changing situations. Steinbeck’s major success lies in his ability to set the scene for readers. He wanted his stories to be felt by the audience by constructing visual representations of his work.

General Descriptions

Steinbeck would begin his works with general descriptions rather than specifying things. For example, in “Of Mice and Men”, he began with a long description of the Salinas River, Gabilan Mountains, and their surroundings. However, nothing is described specifically. It is because Steinbeck tries to connect readers to the work.

He includes them in the narrative by creating broader visual interpretations of the scenes. For example, the readers do not know about the Salinas River but they are aware of a river’s specifications so they can create strong visual images of the situations. He also begins “East of Eden” with a similar common description of nature in general.

Steinbeck’s great novels begin with such a descriptive tone that share many details with the readers and yet do not share anything at all that one can think about. However, we get an idea of where the story sets in.

Striking Imagery

In most of his novels, Steinbeck uses heavy imagery to describe a scene. His words are flowing with emotions and they impart a visual theme. He uses simple and common vocabulary to achieve this lasting effect of imagery. For example, in “The Grapes of Wrath”, his simple description is:

The wind grew stronger, whisked under stones, carried up straws and old leaves, and even little clods, marking its course as it sailed across the fields. The air and the sky darkened and through them, the sun shone redly, and there was a raw sting in the air.

Though, the above words have nothing remarkable or highly appreciated. However, they combine to create a permanent effect on the mind. This is an enduring feature of Steinbeck’s works that he weaves something powerful out of ordinary.

Narrow Down the Scene

After a general description, Steinbeck narrows down the scope of his imagery by introducing the main characters to the audience. For instance, in “Of Mice and Men”, the characters Lennie and George are first introduced after the general imagery of the scenes is presented.

In this way, the narrator sets a natural scene for the readers to feel the upcoming scene and compare it to the freshness of nature. For example, when the readers become a part of the vast and beautiful natural scene, they are surprised to witness two men coming along the path and talking. This surprises them just like the rabbits in the scene making them more like a part of animals than humans.

Art of Characterization

Steinbeck’s writing talent can be seen in his art of characterization. He presents his characters in a way one can relate to. For instance, the readers feel that they know the characters and empathize with their struggles. For example, we see typical stereotypical characters of Lennie and George in “Of Mice and Men” and empathize with their trials and efforts.

The other feature of his writing is that Steinbeck’s works force the readers to think about themselves in such situations. They imagine if they were there in place of the characters, what they would have done to tackle the issue. He takes a contemporary setting and modernizes it according to the demands of every kind of reader.

Through Steinbeck’s omniscient narration, we come to know about the reality of the characters and develop sympathy with them. For example, Lennie and George are not educated; however, they have a dignified living.

The Beauty of Salinas

Steinbeck’s works always depict Salinas in good terms and present its beauty in a captivating way. Although his stories may contain tragic incidents and miserable conditions, Salinas is always beautifully described. For example, at the beginning of “Of Mice and Men”, there is a beautiful description of the natural life of Salinas Valley and the river.

Experimenting with Style

Steinbeck wanted to be experimental with his work; therefore, he developed a unique form of expression for his works. For instance, he created “The Grapes of Wrath” in a documentary style. He also chose the picaresque style for “Tortilla Flat”, and the fable for “The Pearl”. Likewise, his work consists of plays, scripts, war propaganda, and political shade. Therefore, it can have many adaptations as well.

“Visionary” Style

Steinbeck’s work can be placed in the “myth-symbol school” of writing. Therefore, it contains elements like myths, visions, symbols, dreams, and the unconscious. These qualities were termed as “visionary” by Carl Jung. His realism also springs from Steinbeck’s love for philosophy and psychology.

For example, in “The Pearl”, there is a realistic depiction of the imperialism of contemporary times. It also features how the common people are mentally constructed and how the elite class keeps the lower people below their rules and values. Likewise, there are elements of myth and symbols in the pearl. For example, the great white pearl has many symbolic meanings.

Themes in John Steinbeck’s Writings

American dream.

In the 20th-century, the American dream was a craze of most middle-class people. They would migrate to the urban areas in search of a better life and more facilities. For example, in “The Grapes of Wrath”, thousands of farming families including Joad’s family come from Oklahoma to California to chase the American dream. They travel there to find good jobs and prosperous life. However, all the jobs are already filled up and they only find more misery than Oklahoma.

As society moves towards a technically advanced and industrialized social life, they do not care about other members in their struggle for the American dream. Steinbeck forces this idea of supporting each other as it makes the characters like Joad rethink human values and relationships. In a way, Steinbeck questions the modern concept of happiness and its achievement through material success.

Similarly, in “Of Mice and Men”, George and Lennie create their little dreams to have a small farm of their own where they can live secure, responsible, and free.

John Steinbeck expresses in his novels the realistic conditions of his era. He is one of those writers who penetrated the political setting of the time. For example, Steinbeck portrayed the Great Depression (economic crisis) in America in most of his works.

Furthermore, he represented the condition of those migrants who came to pursue the American dream in the big cities of America. For example, in “The Grapes of Wrath”, Joad’s family travels to California to get good jobs. However, they remain unemployed and wander homelessly.

Lack of Power

Steinbeck depicts intellectual, social, financial, and political powerlessness in his works. It is due to the representation of lower-class people. For example, in “The Pearl”, Steinbeck shows how common people suffer the wrath of the elites. As the baby Coyotito dies because the doctor refuses to treat him with less money.

In “The Grapes of Wrath”, Lennie is mentally weak, although he is physically strong. Therefore, he relies on George for instructions.

We can trace loneliness and isolation in Steinbeck’s characters. The humans are alone and incomplete in themselves and crave others’ support and company. For example, in “Of Mice and Men” Joad’s family finds itself helpless in the great city and is not able to discard the tag of misery without the support of fellow citizens.

In “The Grapes of Wrath”, the main characters Lennie, Crook, and Curley’s wife show signs of loneliness.

Social Injustice

Steinbeck always struggled to highlight social injustice. His passion was to talk about those people of the society who were marginalized and were treated harshly. As in “Cannery Row”, the prostitute and Chinese immigrants were treated differently and harshly than other people. Although they worked wholeheartedly, they were looked down upon because of their background.

Achievements

In 1938, Steinbeck was given the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play for “Of Mice and Men”. For “The Grapes of Wrath” he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction . In 1962, he received the most coveted award Nobel Prize in Literature, and earned the honor of Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.

Works Of John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck Bio

short biography john steinbeck

John Steinbeck was born in Salinas in 1902 to a middle-class family living a few blocks from Salinas’ bustling Main Street. His father, John Ernst Sr., worked as a manager in the local flour mill. Later, he owned a feed store and was later appointed Monterey County Treasurer. Steinbeck’s mother, born Olive Hamilton, was a former school teacher who enforced high academic standards for her children and encouraged a love of literature. John Steinbeck had three sisters: two older sisters Esther and Beth, and a younger sister Mary, whom Steinbeck was close to throughout their childhood together.

Schooling for Steinbeck showed an early love of storytelling and writing. In high school, a favorite teacher of Steinbeck, read his stories aloud to the class as positive examples, both embarrassing him due to his shyness and encouraging him to continue. He carried this love of writing to college, attending Stanford University’s growing selection of creative writing and English courses. However, the details of taking a full roster of requirements for graduation did not appeal to Steinbeck, so he left the University in 1925 without a degree, having taken the courses that interested him over six years.

Steinbeck’s early work and writing as an independent adult were varied and difficult. He worked at odd jobs, including construction work, journalism, as a winter caretaker for a Tahoe estate, and finally in a Tahoe fish hatchery. Throughout this assortment of jobs, Steinbeck tried to write in his free time. The job as a winter caretaker for a Tahoe vacation estate afforded him the most time to write; he finished his first novel-length manuscript, isolated in his cabin after long winters. This became The Cup of Gold (1929) . While working at the hatchery the following summer, Steinbeck met Carol Henning, who would become his first wife. The couple married on January 14, 1930, in a courthouse ceremony.

Together, they lived as long as they could in Los Angeles until the money ran out, forcing them to move to the Steinbeck family vacation cottage in Pacific Grove. There, Carol worked a series of odd jobs herself, putting her skills as a secretary to good use, while Steinbeck wrote as much as he could. During this early period of his writing career, Steinbeck wrote The Pastures of Heaven , stories that became part of The Red Pony , The Long Valley , and To a God Unknown . However, his first commercial success came with the publication of Tortilla Flat . This was Steinbeck’s first book published with his new publisher and editor, Pascal Covici. He would remain Steinbeck’s friend and editor until his death in 1964.

After this turning point in Steinbeck’s career, he started work on some of the best-known pieces, including In Dubious Battle , Of Mice and Men , and the crowning achievement, The Grapes of Wrath . At its publication in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath was a controversial book. Steinbeck felt that it plagued the rest of his career: everyone from his literary agents to the reading public was waiting for another Grapes of Wrath . Unfortunately, after fame and fortune came to his life, Steinbeck’s marriage to Carol wavered and fell apart. They divorced in 1943, freeing Steinbeck to marry Gwyndolyn “Gwyn” Conger, whom he had met several years before.

With the dawning of the 1940’s, Steinbeck turned to the growing war effort, producing propaganda pieces supporting the American war effort. The Moon is Down rose to a level of prominence in Europe it never achieved in the United States. For occupied Europe, it became a well-loved work, passed clandestinely from reader to reader even when it could earn them a prison or death sentence. In 1943, Steinbeck experienced war for himself as a war correspondent, writing for the New York Herald Tribune and syndicated in every state except Oklahoma. Upon returning from the war, Steinbeck felt the need for something different. During the war, his injuries and experiences put him in a dark mood that lasted for many months afterward.

Finally moving out of his dark mood, Steinbeck wrote Cannery Row , a book that, in a 1953 essay, Steinbeck says that the soldiers asked for: something funny and not about the war, as they were sick of war. In this post-war period, Steinbeck also returned to pre-war material from his 1940 trip to Baja California, where he and Ed Ricketts went on a trip to collect marine specimens. The Pearl was the result of this tour of his recent past, a novella together with a film by Mexican director Emiliano Fernandez. He also wrote The Wayward Bus , which has its roots in Steinbeck’s time in Mexico.

However, two tragedies struck quickly in 1948: Ed Ricketts died from injuries sustained in a car accident with an oncoming train, and Gwyn asked for a divorce. Later that year, Steinbeck returned to the cottage in Pacific Grove, where he spent much of his time in the 1930s. The following year, he received a visit from actress Ann Southern, who brought along her friend, Elaine Scott. She would become Steinbeck’s third and last wife; the couple married less than a week after Elaine secured her divorce from actor Zachary Scott in December 1950. Then, in early 1951, Steinbeck turned to the “big novel” of his career, East of Eden , drawing on his own family history intertwined with the fictional Trask family. They play out a retelling of the Cain and Abel story. The novel took nearly a year to complete and was published in 1952.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Steinbeck and Elaine traveled widely. Steinbeck finally achieved his goal of supporting their travels through journalism, written about the places they visited. The trip that stood out most for Steinbeck was a ten-month stay in Somerset, England, where Steinbeck worked on a modernized version of the King Arthur stories he loved from his childhood. It stood incomplete for the rest of Steinbeck’s life, though published posthumously in 1976. After months abroad for many years, Steinbeck turned back to his own country, writing about the United States in Travels With Charley and expressing his concern over moral decay in America in The Winter of our Discontent . Later, in America and Americans , Steinbeck returned to the issue of Americans, their culture, and what America was like in the mid-1960s. Although critical of excesses and moral laziness, Steinbeck was clearly sympathetic to Americans as a people and wrote about his belief in the potential Americans have for greatness.

In 1962, Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his body of work. His is “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and social perception,” said Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Anders Osterling in his presentation speech. In 1964, Steinbeck was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson, with whom the writer was personally acquainted.

Steinbeck’s health continued to decline throughout the mid-sixties, and he eventually died at his home in New York City on December 20, 1968.

The National Steinbeck Center, a museum and cultural center in downtown Salinas, pays tribute to his life and lasting impact on American letters and American identity. The Steinbeck Museum explores his ecological vision, his commitment to social engagement, and his many stories about the working class—all of which ensure his work is deeply relevant today. Steinbeck’s books have been published in more than 45 languages, and he is, truly, a citizen of Salinas as well as a citizen of the world.

Steinbeck Young Authors Program

The Steinbeck Young Authors Program aspires to ignite the imagination of middle school students, specifically those in grades 6th to 8th. It seeks to lead them on an inspiring journey through the works of the legendary American author, John Steinbeck, while simultaneously encouraging the cultivation of their own unique narrative talents. Participating in this program offers a platform for students to not only express their artistic flair but also to deepen their appreciation for Steinbeck’s literary legacy.

Program Highlights:

Discovering John Steinbeck:  Students will embark on a voyage into the world of John Steinbeck—his life, his creations, and the thematic tapestries he wove into his narratives.

Crafting Original Narratives:  Encouraging young minds to channel their imaginative energies, the program invites students to craft their own original stories. This endeavor not only nurtures their writing acumen but also empowers them to articulate their distinctive voices.

Anthology Publication:  The pinnacle of this journey is the anthology publication, which will feature submitted works by students. This honor is not merely a celebration of their creative endeavors, but an affirmation of their literary aptitude.

Steinbeck Center’s Day of Writing*:  Two students, nominated by their teachers, will be granted the unique privilege of participating in the Steinbeck Center’s Writing Day here at the National John Steinbeck Center located in Salinas, CA. (Local Students Only*)

We firmly believe that the Steinbeck Young Authors Program will significantly enrich your student’s educational journey. By fostering a passion for literature, refining their writing skills, and nurturing their creative instincts, this initiative promises to be a transformative experience. 

In order to facilitate seamless participation, we kindly request that you disseminate this information to your esteemed teaching colleagues. Linked at the bottom of this email, you will find a Google Form  tailored for teachers who wish to partake in this year’s Steinbeck Young Authors program. The deadline for teachers to complete the form is set for Friday, September 29th, 2023 . We kindly request that each teacher completes the form only once. 

Following this, teachers can anticipate receiving their Google Drive links from [email protected] by no later than Friday, October 6th, 2023.  Teachers can have their students start working on their writing as soon as teachers get their Google Drive resources. Student submissions are due by January 31st, 2024. We will be in contact about dates for the Day of Writing and the Steinbeck Young Authors Awards night as we approach the end of the semester. 

Should any queries arise or further information be required, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] .

The Steinbeck Collection at the National Steinbeck Center started with a small donation of Steinbeck first-edition books in the 1960s. From humble origins and with the careful collecting and stewardship across decades by people dedicated to Steinbeck’s legacy, the Collection has grown to include approximately 40,000 items, ranging from manuscripts to newspaper clippings, and films to artwork.

The mission that drives the collection, preservation, and sharing of the items in the Steinbeck Collection is to document and share Steinbeck’s legacy. To that end, the collection includes items as varied as John Steinbeck’s life and experiences as a student, war correspondent, novelist, State Department emissary, and Nobel Laureate.

The highlights of the Collection are further described below. For more information about other parts of the Collection, such as foreign editions of Steinbeck’s works, critical analysis and review of Steinbeck’s life and writing, art, or film, please contact the Archivist at [email protected]

John Steinbeck Museum Archives

Agricultural and Local History

John Steinbeck Museum Letters

Correspondence

John Steinbeck Letters

Manuscripts

John Steinbeck Museum National Steinbeck Center Archives

Pauline Pearson Oral Histories

John Steinbeck History Museum

Steinbeck Family Artifacts

Contact the archivist.

Please contact Guest Services for Archive Showings or Docent-led Tours at 831.775.4721

In an effort to support our amazing educators, we have officially launched the  National Steinbeck Center’s Educational Resources  web page, where you will find interactive lesson plans from our award-winning  Red Pony  curriculum, fun activities, interactive content and more that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home.

The Time the Wolves Ate the Vice Principal

short biography john steinbeck

Interactive Activity 8 – Teaching The Pearl Curriculum Guide: Writing an I AM Poem

short biography john steinbeck

Poetry is a creative form of writing that allows people to express their feelings and ideas through the use of distinctive style and rhythm. Use the “I AM” model below to craft a poem from the point of view of a character from John Steinbeck’s novels or short stories. You can also choose to write one after a literary character that you read about recently. The poem should be no longer than one page. Study the poem on the second page to give you a better idea of how your poem can look like.

Let’s celebrate National Poetry Month together by show us your dramatic reading abilities and recording yourself (with your parent/guardian’s permission) reading it out loud portraying the character you chose and hash tagging  #SteinbeckFromHome  for a chance to be featured in our social media accounts. Be creative and have fun!

Interactive Activity 7 – Share Your Family Stories

short biography john steinbeck

Did you know that John Steinbeck’s maternal grandfather, Samuel Hamilton, was from Ireland and was one of the pioneer settlers of the town of Salinas during the 1850s? Steinbeck’s family history can be traced all the way back to his European roots. While we are all spending more quality time with our families at home, why not dive into your families’ histories and discover new tales about your past and ancestors.

Straight from our National Steinbeck Center Vault we are sharing a set of bilingual activities from our “A Century Ago in Steinbeck Country” Curriculum for Grade 3 that will provide students with a model for asking the right questions to dig deeper into their family history and find some true gems.  Download the “Family Stories Lesson Plan for Grade 3” activities from the link above or  click here !

Interactive Activity 6 – Steinbeck Scavenger Hunt

short biography john steinbeck

Today we invite you to take your Steinbeck knowledge and powers of deduction by participating in our virtual scavenger hunt! Download the clues from the link above (or click here) and use our virtual museum tour by visiting here (or here: www.steinbeck.org/visit/virtual-tour) to find the answers to the questions.

short biography john steinbeck

Record the time that it takes you to complete it and share it on our social media: www.facebook.com/nationalsteinbeckcenter!

Interactive activity 5 – interactive activity 5 – steinbeck crossword puzzle.

short biography john steinbeck

Interactive Activity 4 – “Steinbeck Lotería / Mexican Bingo” Lesson Plan

short biography john steinbeck

Today we’re going to have a fun bilingual activity with “Steinbeck Lotería / Mexican Bingo”!

All the materials you will need to play this game are available on the download link above, including instructions and “Lotería” game cards. If you have any questions or if you’d like to suggest more interactive lesson plans, please send us an email to: [email protected].

We also invite you to take a video or photo of your favorite board games and tag us @steinbeckcenter on your posts and we will share our favorites on our Instagram stories.

short biography john steinbeck

Interactive Activity 3 – “Preparing a Veterinarian Report” Lesson Plan

short biography john steinbeck

Today we’ll discover what it’s like to be a vet and learn about the fascinating world of horses! Tag us on social media with the hashtag  #SteinbeckCenter  with your favorite animal friend for a chance to be featured in our stories!

short biography john steinbeck

“No matter how good a man is, there’s always some horse can pitch him.”  

-john steinbeck, the red pony, interactive activity 2 – “writing a letter” lesson plan.

short biography john steinbeck

Nowadays, writing letters can be a fun and quarantine-compliant way to show solidarity with one another. Learn to write a compelling letter to your favorite recipient by downloading our  Red Pony  curriculum  “Writing a Letter”  lesson plan from our Educational Resources web page.

short biography john steinbeck

During John Steinbeck’s lifetime, letter writing was one of the most popular forms of communication.

Interactive Activity 1 – Steinbeck Coloring Sheets

short biography john steinbeck

  • Winter Bingo
  • Winter Bingo Spanish

Newsletter Archives

National Steinbeck Center Steinbeck Gazette

National Steinbeck Center’s next Academic Conference will be in 2024

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About John Steinbeck

short biography john steinbeck

Here you will find articles that address key elements intersecting Steinbeck’s life and work:

  • his friendship with biologist Ed Ricketts
  • reflections on what his novels offer to readers, philosophically and ecologically
  • background on The Grapes of Wrath

Thoughts on Steinbeck’s vision of nature and humanity

  • as revealed in Cannery Row
  • insight into how Steinbeck’s experiences inspired elements of The Red Pony
  • background on his controversial, censored 1941 film The Forgotten Village . The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas and the San Jose State University Steinbeck Center offer additional background information on John Steinbeck to the public.

Books by Susan Shillinglaw

More about john steinbeck: "of migrants and misdeeds".

  • "Thoughts on Steinbeck's Spirituality"
  • "Exploring The Red Pony"
  • "Steinbeck's The Forgotten Village"
  • "Why read Steinbeck?"
  • "Collaborators and Cohorts: Edward Flanders Ricketts & John Steinbeck"
  • "Reading Sea of Cortez" (960.54 KB)
  • "The Grapes of Wrath: Historical Background"
  • John Steinbeck, American Writer

Visit the Health Advisories website for the latest vaccination and mask information and to Report a Case.

SJSU is Open and Operational

Campus will be open January 22–26. Visit our FAQ to learn more .

Center for Steinbeck Studies

John Steinbeck, American Writer

by Dr. Susan Shillinglaw

Download "John Steinbeck, American Writer" as [pdf]

John Steinbeck was born in the farming town of Salinas, California on 27 February 1902. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, was not a terribly successful man; at one time or another he was the manager of a Sperry flour plant, the owner of a feed and grain store, the treasurer of Monterey County. His mother, the strong-willed Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, was a former teacher. As a child growing up in the fertile Salinas Valley —called the "Salad Bowl of the Nation" — Steinbeck formed a deep appreciation of his environment, not only the rich fields and hills surrounding Salinas, but also the nearby Pacific coast where his family spent summer weekends. "I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers," he wrote in the opening chapter of East of Eden. "I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer-and what trees and seasons smelled like."

The observant, shy but often mischievous only son had, for the most part, a happy childhood growing up with two older sisters, Beth and Esther, and a much-adored younger sister, Mary.

Steinbeck in 1909 with his sister Mary, sitting on the red pony

Steinbeck in 1909 with his sister Mary, sitting on the red pony, Jill, at the Salinas Fairgrounds.  

Never wealthy, the family was nonetheless prominent in the small town of 3,000, for both parents engaged in community activities. Mr. Steinbeck was a Mason, Mrs. Steinbeck a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and founder of The Wanderers, a women's club that traveled vicariously through monthly reports. While the elder Steinbecks established their identities by sending roots deep in the community, their son was something of a rebel. Respectable Salinas circumscribed the restless and imaginative young John Steinbeck and he defined himself against "Salinas thinking." At age fourteen he decided to be a writer and spent hours as a teenager living in a world of his own making, writing stories and poems in his upstairs bedroom. 

To please his parents he enrolled at Stanford University in 1919; to please himself he signed on only for those courses that interested him: classical and British literature, writing courses, and a smattering of science. The President of the English Club said that Steinbeck, who regularly attended meetings to read his stories aloud, "had no other interests or talents that I could make out. He was a writer, but he was that and nothing else" (Benson 69). Writing was, indeed, his passion, not only during the Stanford years but throughout his life. From 1919 to 1925, when he finally left Stanford without taking a degree, Steinbeck dropped in and out of the University, sometimes to work closely with migrants and bindlestiffs on California ranches. Those relationships, coupled with an early sympathy for the weak and defenseless, deepened his empathy for workers, the disenfranchised, the lonely and dislocated, an empathy that is characteristic in his work.

After leaving Stanford, he briefly tried construction work and newspaper reporting in New York City, and then returned to his native state in order to hone his craft. In the late 1920s, during a three-year stint as a caretaker for a Lake Tahoe estate, he wrote several drafts of his first novel,  Cup of Gold  (1929) about the pirate Henry Morgan, and met the woman who would become his first wife, Carol Henning, a San Jose native. After their marriage in 1930, he and Carol settled, rent-free, into the Steinbeck family's summer cottage in Pacific Grove, she to search for jobs to support them, he to continue writing. During the decade of the 1930s Steinbeck wrote most of his best California fiction:  The Pastures of Heaven  (1932),  To a God Unknown  (1933),  The Long Valley  (1938),  Tortilla Flat  (1935),  In Dubious Battle  (1936),  Of Mice and Men  (1937) and  The Grapes of Wrath  (1939).

To a God Unknown , second written and third published, tells of patriarch Joseph Wayne's domination of and obsession with the land. Mystical and powerful, the novel testifies to Steinbeck's awareness of an essential bond between humans and the environments they inhabit. In a journal entry kept while working on this novel - a practice he continued all his life — the young author wrote: "the trees and the muscled mountains are the world — but not the world apart from man — the world and man — the one inseparable unit man and his environment. Why they should ever have been understood as being separate I do not know." His conviction that characters must be seen in the context of their environments remained constant throughout his career. His was not a man-dominated universe, but an interrelated whole, where species and the environment were seen to interact, where commensal bonds between people, among families, with nature were acknowledged. By 1933, Steinbeck had found his terrain; had chiseled a prose style that was more naturalistic, and far less strained than in his earliest novels; and had claimed his people - not the respectable, smug Salinas burghers, but those on the edges of polite society. Steinbeck's California fiction, from  To a God Unknown  to  East of Eden (1952) envisions the dreams and defeats of common people shaped by the environments they inhabit.

Undoubtedly his ecological, holistic vision was determined both by his early years roaming the Salinas hills and by his long and deep friendship with the remarkable Edward Flanders Ricketts, a marine biologist. Founder of Pacific Biological Laboratories, a marine lab eventually housed on Cannery Row in Monterey, Ed was a careful observer of inter-tidal life: "I grew to depend on his knowledge and on his patience in research," Steinbeck writes in "About Ed Ricketts," an essay composed after his friend's death in 1948 and published with The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951). Ed Ricketts's influence on Steinbeck, however, struck far deeper than the common chord of detached observation. Ed was a lover of Gregorian chants and Bach; Spengler and Krishnamurti; Whitman and Li Po. His mind "knew no horizons," writes Steinbeck. In addition, Ricketts was remarkable for a quality of acceptance; he accepted people as they were and he embraced life as he found it. This quality he called non-teleological or "is" thinking, a perspective that Steinbeck also assumed in much of his fiction during the 1930s. He wrote with a "detached quality," simply recording what "is." The working title for  Of Mice and Men , for example, was "Something That Happened "- this is simply the way life is. Furthermore, in most of his fiction Steinbeck includes a "Doc" figure, a wise observer of life who epitomizes the idealized stance of the non-teleological thinker: Doc Burton in  In Dubious Battle , Slim in  Of Mice and Men , Casy in  The Grapes of Wrath , Lee in  East of Eden , and of course "Doc" himself in  Cannery Row  (1945) and the sequel, the rollicking Sweet Thursday (1954). All see broadly and truly and empathetically. Ed Ricketts, patient and thoughtful, a poet and a scientist, helped ground the author's ideas. He was Steinbeck's mentor, his alter ego, and his soul mate. Considering the depth of his eighteen-year friendship with Ricketts, it is hardly surprising that the bond acknowledged most frequently in Steinbeck's oeuvre is friendship between and among men.

Steinbeck's writing style as well as his social consciousness of the 1930s was also shaped by an equally compelling figure in his life, his wife Carol. She helped edit his prose, urged him to cut the Latinate phrases, typed his manuscripts, suggested titles, and offered ways to restructure. In 1935, having finally published his first popular success with tales of Monterey's paisanos,  Tortilla Flat , Steinbeck, goaded by Carol, attended a few meetings of nearby Carmel's John Reed Club. Although he found the group's zealotry distasteful, he, like so many intellectuals of the 1930s, was drawn to the communists' sympathy for the working man. Farm workers in California suffered. He set out to write a "biography of a strikebreaker," but from his interviews with a hounded organizer hiding out in nearby Seaside, he turned from biography to fiction, writing one of the best strike novels of the 1900s,  In Dubious Battle . Never a partisan novel, it dissects with a steady hand both the ruthlessness of the strike organizers and the rapaciousness of the greedy landowners. What the author sees as dubious about the struggle between organizers and farmers is not who will win but how profound is the effect on the workers trapped in between, manipulated by both interests. At the height of his powers, Steinbeck followed this large canvas with two books that round-out what might be called his labor trilogy. The tightly-focused  Of Mice and Men  was one of the first in a long line of "experiments," a word he often used to identify a forthcoming project. This "play-novelette," intended to be both a novella and a script for a play, is a tightly-drafted study of bindlestiffs through whose dreams he wanted to represent the universal longings for a home. Both the text and the critically-acclaimed 1937 Broadway play (which won the 1937-1938 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best play) made Steinbeck a household name, assuring his popularity and, for some, his infamy. His next novel intensified popular debate about Steinbeck's gritty subjects, his uncompromising sympathy for the disenfranchised, and his "crass" language.

The Grapes of Wrath  sold out an advance edition of 19,804 by 1939 mid-April; was selling 10,000 copies per week by early May; and had won the Pulitzer Prize for the year (1940). Published at the apex of the Depression, the book about dispossessed farmers captured the decade's angst as well as the nation's legacy of fierce individualism, visionary prosperity, and determined westward movement. It was, like the best of Steinbeck's novels, informed in part by documentary zeal, in part by Steinbeck's ability to trace mythic and biblical patterns. Lauded by critics nationwide for its scope and intensity,  The Grapes of Wrath  attracted an equally vociferous minority opinion. Oklahoma congressman Lyle Boren said that the dispossessed Joad's story was a "dirty, lying, filthy manuscript." Californians claimed the novel was a scourge on the state's munificence, and an indignant Kern County, its migrant population burgeoning, banned the book well into the 1939-1945 war. The righteous attacked the book's language or its crass gestures: Granpa's struggle to keep his fly buttoned was not, it seemed to some, fit for print.  The Grapes of Wrath  was a cause celebre. 

The author abandoned the field, exhausted from two years of research trips and personal commitment to the migrants' woes, from the five-month push to write the final version, from a deteriorating marriage to Carol, and from an unnamed physical malady. He retreated to Ed Ricketts and science, announcing his intention to study seriously marine biology and to plan a collecting trip to the Sea of Cortez. The text Steinbeck and Ricketts published in 1941,  Sea of Cortez  (reissued in 1951 without Ed Ricketts's catalogue of species as  The Log from the Sea of Cortez ), tells the story of that expedition. It does more, however. The Log portion that Steinbeck wrote (from Ed's notes) in 1940 - at the same time working on a film in Mexico,  The Forgotten Village  - contains his and Ed's philosophical musings, his ecological perspective, as well as keen observations on Mexican peasantry, hermit crabs, and "dryball" scientists. Quipped  New York Times  critic Lewis Gannett, there is, in  Sea of Cortez , more "of the whole man, John Steinbeck, than any of his novels": Steinbeck the keen observer of life, Steinbeck the scientist, the seeker of truth, the historian and journalist, the writer. 

Steinbeck was determined to participate in the war effort, first doing patriotic work ( The Moon Is Down , 1942, a play-novelette about an occupied Northern European country, and  Bombs Away , 1942, a portrait of bomber trainees) and then going overseas for the  New York Herald Tribune  as a war correspondent. In his war dispatches he wrote about the neglected corners of war that many journalists missed - life at a British bomber station, the allure of Bob Hope, the song "Lili Marlene," and a diversionary mission off the Italian coast. These columns were later collected in  Once There Was a War (1958). Immediately after returning to the States, a shattered Steinbeck wrote a nostalgic and lively account of his days on Cannery Row,  Cannery Row  (1945). In 1945, however, few reviewers recognized that the book's central metaphor, the tide pool, suggested a way to read this non-teleological novel that examined the "specimens" who lived on Monterey's Cannery Row, the street Steinbeck knew so well. 

Steinbeck often felt misunderstood by book reviewers and critics, and their barbs rankled the sensitive writer, and would throughout his career. A book resulting from a post-war trip to the Soviet Union with Robert Capa in 1947,  A Russian Journal  (1948), seemed to many superficial. Reviewers seemed doggedly either to misunderstand his biological naturalism or to expect him to compose another strident social critique like  The Grapes of Wrath . Commonplace phrases echoed in reviews of books of the 1940s and other "experimental" books of the 1950s and 1960s: "complete departure," "unexpected." A humorous text like  Cannery Row  seemed fluff to many. Set in La Paz, Mexico,  The Pearl  (1947), a "folk tale. . .a black-white story like a parable" as he wrote his agent, tells of a young man who finds an astounding pearl, loses his freedom in protecting his wealth, and finally throws back into the sea the cause of his woes. Reviews noted this as another slim volume by a major author of whom more was expected.  The Wayward Bus  (1947), a "cosmic Bus," sputtered as well. 

Steinbeck faltered both professionally and personally in the 1940s. He divorced the loyal but volatile Carol in 1943. That same year he moved east with his second wife, Gwyndolen Conger, a lovely and talented woman nearly twenty years his junior who ultimately came to resent his growing stature and feel that her own creativity - she was a singer - had been stifled. With Gwyn, Steinbeck had two sons, Thom and John, but the marriage started falling apart shortly after the second son's birth, ending in divorce in 1948. That same year Steinbeck was numbed by Ed Ricketts's death. Only with concentrated work on a film script on the life of Emiliano Zapata for Elia Kazan's film  Viva Zapata!  (1952) would Steinbeck gradually chart a new course. In 1949 he met and in 1950 married his third wife, Elaine Scott, and with her he moved again to New York City, where he lived for the rest of his life. Much of the pain and reconciliation of those late years of the 1940s were worked out in two subsequent novels: his third play-novelette Burning Bright (1950), a boldly experimental parable about a man's acceptance of his wife's child fathered by another man, and in the largely autobiographical work he'd contemplated since the early 1930s, East of Eden (1952). 

"It is what I have been practicing to write all of my life," he wrote to painter and author Bo Beskow early in 1948, when he first began research for a novel about his native valley and his people; three years later when he finished the manuscript he wrote his friend again, "This is 'the book'...Always I had this book waiting to be written." With  Viva Zapata! ,  East of Eden , Burning Bright  and later  The Winter of Our Discontent  (1961), Steinbeck's fiction becomes less concerned with the behavior of groups - what he called in the 1930s "group man" - and more focused on an individual's moral responsibility to self and community. The detached perspective of the scientist gives way to a certain warmth; the ubiquitous "self-character" that he claimed appeared in all his novels to comment and observe is modeled less on Ed Ricketts, more on John Steinbeck himself. Certainly with his divorce from Gwyn, Steinbeck had endured dark nights of the soul, and  East of Eden  contains those turbulent emotions surrounding the subject of wife, children, family, and fatherhood. "In a sense it will be two books," he wrote in his journal (posthumously published in 1969 as  Journal of a Novel: The "East of Eden" Letters ) as he began the final draft in 1951, "the story of my country and the story of me. And I shall keep these two separate." Early critics dismissed as incoherent the two-stranded story of the Hamiltons, his mother's family, and the Trasks, "symbol people" representing the story of Cain and Abel; more recently critics have come to recognize that the epic novel is an early example of metafiction, exploring the role of the artist as creator, a concern, in fact, in many of his books. Like  The Grapes of Wrath ,  East of Eden  is a defining point in his career.

During the 1950s and 1960s the perpetually "restless" Steinbeck traveled extensively throughout the world with his third wife, Elaine. With her, he became more social. Perhaps his writing suffered as a result; some claim that even  East of Eden , his most ambitious post- Grapes  novel, cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with his searing social novels of the 1930s. In the fiction of his last two decades, however, Steinbeck never ceased to take risks, to stretch his conception of the novel's structure, to experiment with the sound and form of language.  Sweet Thursday , sequel to  Cannery Row , was written as a musical comedy that would resolve Ed Ricketts's loneliness by sending him off into the sunset with a true love, Suzy, a whore with a gilded heart.  The musical version by Rodgers and Hammerstein,  Pipe Dream  , was one of the team's few failures. In 1957 he published the satiric  The Short Reign of Pippin IV , a tale about the French Monarchy gaining ascendancy. And in 1961, he published his last work of fiction, the ambitious  The Winter of Our Discontent , a novel about contemporary America set in a fictionalized Sag Harbor (where he and Elaine had a summer home). Increasingly disillusioned with American greed, waste, and spongy morality - his own sons seemed textbook cases - he wrote his jeremiad, a lament for an ailing populace. The following year, 1962, Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature; the day after the announcement the New York Times ran an editorial by the influential Arthur Mizener, "Does a Writer with a Moral Vision of the 1930s Deserve the Nobel Prize?" Wounded by the blindside attack, unwell, frustrated and disillusioned, John Steinbeck wrote no more fiction. 

But the writer John Steinbeck was not silenced. As always, he wrote reams of letters to his many friends and associates. In the 1950s and 1960s he published scores of journalistic pieces: "Making of a New Yorker," "I Go Back to Ireland," columns about the 1956 national political conventions, and "Letters to Alicia," a controversial series about a 1966 White House-approved trip to Vietnam where his sons were stationed. In the late 1950s — and intermittently for the rest of his life — he worked diligently on a modern English translation of a book he had loved since childhood, Sir Thomas Malory's  Morte d'Arthur ; the unfinished project was published posthumously as  The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights  (1976). Immediately after completing  Winter  , the ailing novelist proposed "not a little trip of reporting," he wrote to his agent Elizabeth Otis, "but a frantic last attempt to save my life and the integrity of my creativity pulse." In 1960, he toured America in a camper truck designed to his specifications, and on his return published the highly praised  Travels with Charley in Search of America  (1962), another book that both celebrates American individuals and decries American hypocrisy; the climax of his journey is his visit to the New Orleans "cheerleaders" who daily taunted black children newly registered in white schools. His disenchantment with American waste, greed, immorality and racism ran deep. His last published book, America and Americans  (1966), reconsiders the American character, the land, the racial crisis, and the seemingly crumbling morality of the American people.

In these late years, in fact since his final move to New York in 1950, many accused John Steinbeck of increasing conservatism. True enough that with greater wealth came the chance to spend money more freely. And with status came political opportunities that seemed out of step for a "radical" of the 1930s: he initially defended Lyndon Johnson's views on the war with Vietnam (dying before he could, as he wished, qualify his initial responses). And true enough that the man who spent a lifetime "whipping" his sluggard will (read  Working Days: The Journals of "The Grapes of Wrath"  [1989] for biting testimony of the struggle) felt intolerance for 1960s protesters whose zeal, in his eyes, was unfocused and whose anger was explosive, not turned to creative solutions. But it is far more accurate to say that the author who wrote  The Grapes of Wrath never retreated into conservatism. 

He lived in modest houses all his life, caring little for lavish displays of power or wealth. He always preferred talking to ordinary citizens wherever he traveled, sympathizing always with the disenfranchised. He was a Stevenson Democrat in the 1950s. Even in the 1930s, he was never a communist, and after three trips to Russia (1937, 1947, 1963) he hated with increasing intensity Soviet repression of the individual.

In fact, neither during his life nor after has the paradoxical Steinbeck been an easy author to pigeonhole personally, politically, or artistically. As a man, he was an introvert and at the same time had a romantic streak, was impulsive, garrulous, a lover of jests and word play and practical jokes. As an artist, he was a ceaseless experimenter with words and form, and often critics did not "see" quite what he was up to. He claimed his books had "layers," yet many claimed his symbolic touch was cumbersome. He loved humor and warmth, but some said he slopped over into sentimentalism. He was, and is now recognized as, an environmental writer. He was an intellectual, passionately interested in his odd little inventions, in jazz, in politics, in philosophy, history, and myth - this range from an author sometimes labeled simplistic by academe. All said, Steinbeck remains one of America's most significant twentieth-century writers, whose popularity spans the world, whose range is impressive, whose output was prodigious: 16 novels, a collection of short stories, four screenplays ( The Forgotten Village ,  The Red Pony ,  Viva Zapata! , Lifeboat ), a sheaf of journalistic essays - including four collections ( Bombs Away ,  Once There Was a War ,  America and Americans ,  The Harvest Gypsies ) — three travel narratives ( Sea of Cortez ,  A Russian Journal ,  Travels with Charley ), a translation and two published journals (more remain unpublished). Three "play-novelettes" ran on Broadway:  Of Mice and Men ,  The Moon Is Down , and  Burning Bright , as did the musical Pipe Dream . Whatever his "experiment" in fiction or journalistic prose, he wrote with empathy, clarity, perspicuity: "In every bit of honest writing in the world," he noted in a 1938 journal entry, "...there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love."

Short Biography of John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, on February 27, 1902 of German and Irish ancestry. His father, John Steinbeck, Sr., served as the County Treasurer while his mother, Olive (Hamilton) Steinbeck, a former school teacher, fostered Steinbeck’s love of reading and the written word. During summers he worked as a hired hand on nearby ranches, nourishing his impression of the California countryside and its people.

After graduating from Salinas High School in 1919, Steinbeck attended Stanford University. Originally an English major, he pursued a program of independent study and his attendance was sporadic. During this time he worked periodically at various jobs and left Stanford permanently in 1925 to pursue his writing career in New York. However, he was unsuccessful in getting any of his writings published and finally returned to California.

His first novel, Cup of Gold was published in 1929, but attracted little attention. His two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To a God Unknown , were also poorly received by the literary world.

Steinbeck married his first wife, Carol Henning in 1930. They lived in Pacific Grove where much of the material for Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row was gathered. Tortilla Flat (1935) marked the turning point in Steinbeck’s literary career. It received the California Commonwealth Club’s Gold Medal for best novel by a California author. Steinbeck continued writing, relying upon extensive research and his personal observation of the human condition for his stories. The Grapes of Wrath (1939) won the Pulitzer Prize.

During World War II, Steinbeck was a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches were later collected and made into Once There Was a War .

John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 “… for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and a keen social perception.”

Throughout his life John Steinbeck remained a private person who shunned publicity. He died on December 20, 1968, in New York City and is survived by his third wife, Elaine (Scott) Steinbeck and one son, Thomas. His ashes were placed in the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Salinas.

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  • World Biography

John Steinbeck Biography

Born: February 27, 1902 Salinas, California Died: December 20, 1968 New York, New York American writer

John Steinbeck, American author and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1962, was a leading writer of novels about the working class and was a major spokesman for the victims of the Great Depression (a downturn in the American system of producing, distributing, and using goods and services in the 1930s, and during which time millions of people lost their jobs).

John Ernst Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California, the only son of John Ernst Steinbeck Sr. and Olive Hamilton. His father was a bookkeeper and accountant who served for many years as the treasurer of Monterey County, California. Steinbeck received his love of literature from his mother, who was interested in the arts. His favorite book, and a main influence on his writing, was Sir Thomas Malory's (c. 1408–1471) Le Morte d'Arthur, a collection of the legends of King Arthur. Steinbeck decided while in high school that he wanted to be a writer. He also enjoyed playing sports and worked during the summer on various ranches.

Steinbeck worked as a laboratory assistant and farm laborer to support himself through six years of study at Stanford University, where he took only those courses that interested him without seeking a degree. In 1925 he traveled to New York (by way of the Panama Canal) on a freighter (boat that carries inventory). After arriving in New York, he worked as a reporter and as part of a construction crew building Madison Square Garden. During this time he was also collecting impressions for his first novel. Cup of Gold (1929) was an unsuccessful attempt at romance involving the pirate Henry Morgan.

Begins writing seriously

Undiscouraged, Steinbeck returned to California to begin work as a writer of serious fiction. A collection of short stories, The Pastures of Heaven (1932), contained vivid descriptions of rural (farm) life among the "unfinished children of nature" in his native California valley. His second novel, To a God Unknown (1933), was his strongest statement about man's relationship to the land. With Tortilla Flat (1935) Steinbeck received critical and popular success; there are many critics who consider it his most artistically satisfying work.

John Steinbeck.

Steinbeck next dealt with the problems of labor unions in In Dubious Battle (1936), an effective story of a strike (when workers all decide to stop working as a form of protest against unfair treatment) by local grape pickers. Of Mice and Men (1937), first conceived as a play, is a tightly constructed novella (short novel) about an unusual friendship between two migrant workers (laborers who travel to wherever there is available work, usually on farms). Although the book is powerfully written and often moving, some critics feel that it lacks a moral vision.

Steinbeck's series of articles for the San Francisco Chronicle on the problems of migrant farm laborers provided material for The Grapes of Wrath (1939), his major novel and the finest working-class novel of the 1930s. The Grapes of Wrath relates the struggle of a family of Oklahoma tenant farmers forced to turn over their land to the banks. The family then journeys across the vast plains to the promised land of California—only to be met with scorn when they arrive. It is a successful example of social protest in fiction, as well as a convincing tribute to man's will to survive. The Grapes of Wrath received the Pulitzer Prize in 1940.

Other subjects

During World War II (1939–45), which the United States entered to help other nations battle Germany, Italy, and Japan, Steinbeck served as a foreign correspondent. From this experience came such nonfiction as Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team (1942); Once There Was a War (1958), a collection of Steinbeck's dispatches from 1943; and A Russian Journal (1948), with photographs by Robert Capa. More interesting nonfiction of this period is The Sea of Cortez, coauthored with scientist Edward F. Ricketts. This account of the two explorers' research into sea life provides an important key to many of the themes and attitudes featured in Steinbeck's novels.

Steinbeck's fiction during the 1940s includes The Moon Is Down (1942), a tale of the Norwegian resistance to occupation by the Nazis (German ruling party that scorned democracy and considered all non-German people, especially Jews, inferior); Cannery Row (1944), a return to the setting of Tortilla Flat; The Wayward Bus (1947); and The Pearl, a popular novella about a poor Mexican fisherman who discovers a valuable pearl that brings bad luck to his family.

Later decline

In the 1950s Steinbeck's artistic decline was evident with a series of novels that were overly sentimental, stuffy, and lacking in substance. The author received modest critical praise in 1961 for his more ambitious novel The Winter of Our Discontent, a study of the moral disintegration (falling apart) of a man of high ideals. In 1962 Travels with Charley, a pleasantly humorous account of his travels through America with his pet poodle, was well received. Following the popular success of the latter work, Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Steinbeck's work remains popular in both the United States and Europe, chiefly for its social consciousness and concern and for the narrative qualities displayed in the early novels. Although he refused to settle into political conservatism (preferring to maintain traditions and resist change) in his later years, his all-embracing support of American values and acceptance of all national policies, including the Vietnam War (1955–75; conflict in which the United States fought against Communist North Vietnam when they invaded Democratic South Vietnam), lost him the respect of many liberal (preferring social change) intellectuals who had once admired his social commitments. He died on December 20, 1968, in New York City.

For More Information

Benson, Jackson J. John Steinbeck, Writer: A Biography. New York; Penguin Books, 1990.

Lynch, Audry. Steinbeck Remembered. Santa Barbara: Fithian Press, 2000.

Moore, Harry T. The Novels of John Steinbeck: A First Critical Study. Chicago: Normandie House, 1939, revised edition 1977.

Parini, Jay. John Steinbeck: A Biography. New York: H. Holt, 1995.

Steinbeck, John IV, and Nancy Steinbeck. The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2001.

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John Steinbeck Biography: A Journey From Struggle Into Nobel Prize

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“A sad soul can kill you quicker than a germ” – Travels with Charley, 1962.

John Steinbeck couldn’t find anything better than these words to define his compassion towards the marginalized.

In most of his works, Steinbeck was always keen on addressing people that the society chose to overlook. And perhaps that was the first reason behind the Nobel Prize that he received.

Steinbeck believed in the power of thought. His books have invited millions to look closely at the realities of life, no matter how harsh they are. He thought that acknowledging such hardships was the inevitable step toward solving them.

If Steinbeck’s works can do that, then how about his own life? That was the question that intrigued me to write this article. In the John Steinbeck biography, we’ll see how Steinbeck grew to be one of the greatest American authors.

Table of Contents

Birth and Family

John was born in 1902 in Salinas, California. He grew up happily alongside his three sisters. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, had to work a bunch of jobs to provide for his family. But his main profession, later on, was being the Monterey County treasurer.

John’s mother, Olive Hamilton, used to work as a school teacher. She’s thought to be the one who inspired John through her passion for reading and writing.

Steinbeck’s family tree traces to the rural valleys of Germany. The family name was “Großsteinbeck” before John’s grandfather shortened it.

Like most of the genius people, Steinbeck was a bit shy in his childhood. He liked to roam around Salinas, looking at the ranchers and paying attention to their stories.

Those two interests were the main factors that shaped Steinbeck’s later works. He’d written about the misunderstood framers who dreamt of owning their lands.

He described the endless shatter of their dreams upon the many economical hardships that faced the country.

Steinbeck started showing a deep love for reading when he was 9. “ Le Morte D’Arthur”  was one of his first reads ever. “When I first read it,” said Steinbeck, “I must have been already enamored of words because the old and obsolete words delighted me.”

When he turned 14, he was determined to pursue writing as a profession. That’s why he often locked himself in his bedroom for hours on end to write poems and stories.

“I used to sit in that little room upstairs,” said Steinbeck, “and write little stories and little pieces and send them out to magazines under a false name and I never put a return address on them…I wonder what I was thinking of? I was scared to death to get a rejection slip, but more, to get an acceptance.”

Education: One of the Famous Dropouts

Steinbeck wanted to perfect his writing skills, but he didn’t have a clear plan. To please his parents, and especially his mother, he decided to take a chance and enroll at Stanford University in 1919. There, he took a bunch of courses on writing and history.

For 6 years, Steinbeck didn’t care about his education. Eventually, he dropped out in 1925 without getting a degree.

It wasn’t all bad, though. In 1923, Steinbeck became interested in the works of William Emerson Ritter, one of the most acclaimed American biologists. This encouraged him to explore the great world of ecology later in his book “ Sea of Cortez .”

Career Timeline

As you might already know, the professional life of Steinbeck was full of great achievements. Throughout his career, he wrote 16 novels, 6 non-fiction works, and 2 short story collections. To keep things organized, I’ll approach Steinbeck’s career one decade at a time.

After dropping out of school, Steinbeck had no time to waste. In 1926, he decided to move out to New York, searching for decent job opportunities.

He managed to work as a newspaper reporter and a construction worker at the same time. But expectedly, he didn’t like where he stood.

“I had a thin, lonely, hungry time of it,” said Steinbeck in 1935. “I remember too well the cockroaches under my washbasin and the impossibility of getting a job. I was scared thoroughly. And I can’t forget the scare.”

That’s when Steinbeck decided to return back to California, but things weren’t bright there either. He had to work as an estate caretaker, then as an employee at a fish hatchery.

By 1929, during that harsh, depressing period, Steinbeck finished his first novel “ Cup of Gold ”. He built it loosely on the life of  Sir Henry Morgan , a famous Welsh privateer.

Understandably, this novel lacked the depth that was later portrayed in Steinbeck’s novels. And with the Great Depression getting closer, this novel was doomed to fail.

During those tough times, Steinbeck was lucky enough to meet Carol Henning, his first wife. They got married in 1930 and lived in the Steinbeck family summer cottage in Pacific Grove, California.

By that time, they were struck by the calamities of the Great Depression, just like everyone else. “Financially we are in a mess,” said Steinbeck in a letter to a friend, “but ‘spiritually’ we ride the clouds.”

To a God Unknown: The First Elaborate Novel

Despite those obstacles, Steinbeck was able to finish his second book “ To a God Unknown ” in 1933. Sadly, this novel didn’t receive the commercial appreciation that it was entitled to, mainly because of the poor financial situation back then. 

Nevertheless, it’s one of the richest works that Steinbeck has ever written. He burst a lot of the amazing ideas that he amplified in the following years. 

The Red Pony: The First Collection of Short Stories

In 1933, Steinbeck started publishing “ The Red Pony .” In each of its four stories, he began reflecting on the interesting lives of the ranchers who thrived in Salinas Valley. This was such an important step in his career. He knew by then that he was especially interested in exploring the stories of the marginalized. 

Tortilla Flat: The First True Success 

By 1935, Steinbeck heaved a sigh of relief after publishing his first commercially successful book, “ Tortilla Flat .” It told the story of paisanos who struggled to merge into the society of Monterey, California.

In spite of that, those paisanos cared about more trivial concepts like friendship , good company, and wine. 

This novel was valued the most by people who were still suffering from the consequences of the Great Depression.

They found it as a fun work of escapism and carelessness. This novel got even more fame when it was adapted into a  film  starring Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr.

In Dubious Battle: A Reflection on the American Society

For the first time, Steinbeck decided to widen his scope and address the misery of the whole Americans after the Great Depression. “ In Dubious Battle ”, was a 1936 novel that told the story of abused farmers who were trying to organize strikes for the sake of fair wages. 

I absolutely love how Steinbeck explored the concept of group behavior in this novel. It’s fascinating to learn how one man can coax a large group of people into action. And as the central figure gets more ruthless, the quicksands of power start to reveal. 

Of Mice and Men: A Novel Based on His Own Journey

In 1937, Steinbeck released “ Of Mice and Men ,” a novel that became one of his most beloved works. Loosely based on his own journey, he told the story of two friends who’re trying to secure jobs in the Salinas Valley. With one of the characters suffering from mental disability, you’re set to enjoy a “little study in humility” as Steinbeck describes it. 

Later on, this novel was adapted into three movies as well as a Broadway play. 

The Grapes of Wrath: His Finest Piece 

During the Great Depression, many families were abandoning their homes in search of jobs. Even if they found something, they were the victims of discrimination as locals viewed them as outsiders.

With an amazing effort, Steinbeck traveled to a bunch of areas in California to correctly depict these events in his book “ The Grapes of Wrath ” in 1939.

“I must go over into the interior valleys,” said Steinbeck to his literary agent, “there are about five thousand families starving to death over there. The states and counties will give them nothing because they are outsiders. But the crops of any part of this state could not be harvested without these outsiders. I’m pretty mad about it.” 

In my opinion, Steinbeck was at his best in the ’30s. Yet he managed to dazzle his audience with a bunch of great books in the following years. 

Sea of Cortez: An Important Non-Fiction Book

Contrary to what most people think, the “ Sea of Cortez ” (1941) was John’s favorite work, according to Elaine, his third wife. It depicts the journey he had with his best friend, Edward F. Ricketts, into the Gulf of California. 

It’s such an interesting read for people who want to connect to Steinbeck on a personal level. As a plus, you’ll get to know some cool facts about marine biology! 

The Pearl: A Take on Human’s Nature 

In 1947, Steinbeck wrote another piece that should be way more famous today. “ The Pearl ” speaks about a poor diver who collects pearls. After his son was denied medical care due to poverty, he found a large pearl that had a potential of unlimited fortune. 

Steinback uses this storyline to showcase humans’ pure evil. He illustrates that through the deeds of the diver’s neighbors, who grew envious of him shortly after his lucky incident. 

The ’50s and ’60s

Steinbeck died in 1968 as a result of congestive heart failure, which was mainly precipitated by his long history of heavy smoking. The case was so severe that doctors believed it was a long time coming. That’s why Steinbeck’s works started to decline gradually starting from the ’50s. 

East of Eden: Another Tribute for Salinas Valley

In 1952, Steinbeck wrote his last major novel that describes his hometown. According to Elaine, he wanted to leave an updated description of the Salinas Valley for his young kids, 6 and 4 years old at this time. 

Fun fact, Steinbeck views the “ East of Eden ” as his best novel. “I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this,” said Steinbeck. 

The Winter of Our Discontent: The Journey’s End

By 1961, Steinbeck left his last legacy with the novel “ The Winter of Our Discontent .” And what a finale that was!

Steinbeck controversially explored the concept of the American dream. He told the story of a decent store clerk that gradually abandons his morals after his family pushes him to pursue wealth. 

This novel asks an extremely important question that has puzzled humans for so long. Do we have to tromp on each other in order to reach our goals? I’ll leave this for you to figure out. 

Collecting the full awards received by a huge name like John Steinback in one article is rather hard. However, I must highlight his most famous awards as a humble deed to commemorate his efforts. 

  • New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for “Of Mice and Men”, 1938.
  • Pulitzer Prize, Fiction Award for The Grapes of Wrath, 1940.
  • King Haakon Liberty Cross (Norway) for The Moon Is Down.
  • Nobel Prize for Literature, 1962. 
  • Honorary Consultant in American Literature to the Library of Congress, 1963. 
  • United States Medal of Freedom, 1964

Final Thoughts

The vast majority of John Steinbeck’s novels showed the rich compassion that he felt toward the overlooked people in our society. The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and In Dubious Battle were focused on highlighting the dreadful repercussions that the Great Depression left. 

Some people might find the fact that he dropped out of college inspiring. And it’s true that Steinbeck didn’t benefit that much from Stanford, but that shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all plan. 

Steinbeck already had a talent. He just had to wait for the right moment to shine. It’s actually amazing that he managed to do that right after that major economical crisis. 

What do you think about those John Steinbeck facts? Do you know another writer who lived in similar conditions? Share with me in the comments!

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Steinbeck in the Schools Home

In Depth Biography: John Steinbeck, American Writer

short biography john steinbeck

John Steinbeck was born in the farming town of Salinas, California on February 27, 1902. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, was not a terribly successful man; at one time or another he was the manager of a Sperry flour plant, the owner of a feed and grain store, and the treasurer of Monterey County. His mother, the strong-willed Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, was a former teacher. As a child growing up in the fertile Salinas Valley —called the "Salad Bowl of the Nation" — Steinbeck formed a deep appreciation of his environment, not only the rich fields and hills surrounding Salinas, but also the nearby Pacific coast where his family spent summer weekends. "I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers," he wrote in the opening chapter of East of Eden . "I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer-and what trees and seasons smelled like."

The observant, shy but often mischievous only son had, for the most part, a happy childhood growing up with two older sisters, Beth and Esther, and a much-adored younger sister, Mary. Never wealthy, the family was nonetheless prominent in the small town of 3,000, for both parents engaged in community activities. Mr. Steinbeck was a Mason, Mrs. Steinbeck a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and founder of The Wanderers, a women's club that traveled vicariously through monthly reports. While the elder Steinbecks established their identities by sending roots deep in the community, their son was something of a rebel. Respectable Salinas circumscribed the restless and imaginative young John Steinbeck and he defined himself against "Salinas thinking." At age fourteen he decided to be a writer and spent hours as a teenager living in a world of his own making, writing stories and poems in his upstairs bedroom. To please his parents he enrolled at Stanford University in 1919; to please himself he signed on only for those courses that interested him: classical and British literature, writing courses, and a smattering of science. The President of the English Club said that Steinbeck, who regularly attended meetings to read his stories aloud, "had no other interests or talents that I could make out. He was a writer, but he was that and nothing else" (Benson 69). Writing was, indeed, his passion, not only during the Stanford years but throughout his life. From 1919 to 1925, when he finally left Stanford without taking a degree, Steinbeck dropped in and out of the University, sometimes to work closely with migrants and bindlestiffs on California ranches. Those relationships, coupled with an early sympathy for the weak and defenseless, deepened his empathy for workers, the disenfranchised, the lonely and dislocated, an empathy that is characteristic in his work.

After leaving Stanford, he briefly tried construction work and newspaper reporting in New York City, and then returned to his native state in order to hone his craft. In the late 1920s, during a three-year stint as a caretaker for a Lake Tahoe estate, he wrote several drafts of his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929) about the pirate Henry Morgan, and met the woman who would become his first wife, Carol Henning, a San Jose native. After their marriage in 1930, he and Carol settled, rent-free, into the Steinbeck family's summer cottage in Pacific Grove, she to search for jobs to support them, he to continue writing. During the decade of the 1930s Steinbeck wrote most of his best California fiction: The Pastures of Heaven (1932), To a God Unknown (1933), The Long Valley (1938), Tortilla Flat (1935), In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

To a God Unknown , second written and third published, tells of patriarch Joseph Wayne's domination of and obsession with the land. Mystical and powerful, the novel testifies to Steinbeck's awareness of an essential bond between humans and the environments they inhabit. In a journal entry kept while working on this novel - a practice he continued all his life — the young author wrote: "the trees and the muscled mountains are the world — but not the world apart from man — the world and man — the one inseparable unit man and his environment. Why they should ever have been understood as being separate I do not know." His conviction that characters must be seen in the context of their environments remained constant throughout his career. His was not a man-dominated universe, but an interrelated whole, where species and the environment were seen to interact, where commensal bonds between people, among families, with nature were acknowledged. By 1933, Steinbeck had found his terrain; had chiseled a prose style that was more naturalistic, and far less strained than in his earliest novels; and had claimed his people - not the respectable, smug Salinas burghers, but those on the edges of polite society. Steinbeck's California fiction, from To a God Unknown to East of Eden (1952) envisions the dreams and defeats of common people shaped by the environments they inhabit.

Undoubtedly his ecological, holistic vision was determined both by his early years roaming the Salinas hills and by his long and deep friendship with the remarkable Edward Flanders Ricketts, a marine biologist. Founder of Pacific Biological Laboratories, a marine lab eventually housed on Cannery Row in Monterey, Ed was a careful observer of inter-tidal life: "I grew to depend on his knowledge and on his patience in research," Steinbeck writes in "About Ed Ricketts," an essay composed after his friend's death in 1948 and published with The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951). Ed Ricketts's influence on Steinbeck, however, struck far deeper than the common chord of detached observation. Ed was a lover of Gregorian chants and Bach; Spengler and Krishnamurti; Whitman and Li Po. His mind "knew no horizons," writes Steinbeck. In addition, Ricketts was remarkable for a quality of acceptance; he accepted people as they were and he embraced life as he found it. This quality he called non-teleological or "is" thinking, a perspective that Steinbeck also assumed in much of his fiction during the 1930s. He wrote with a "detached quality," simply recording what "is."

The working title for Of Mice and Men , for example, was "Something That Happened "- this is simply the way life is. Furthermore, in most of his fiction Steinbeck includes a "Doc" figure, a wise observer of life who epitomizes the idealized stance of the non-teleological thinker: Doc Burton in In Dubious Battle , Slim in Of Mice and Men , Casy in The Grapes of Wrath , Lee in East of Eden , and of course "Doc" himself in Cannery Row (1945) and the sequel, the rollicking Sweet Thursday (1954). All see broadly and truly and empathetically. Ed Ricketts, patient and thoughtful, a poet and a scientist, helped ground the author's ideas. He was Steinbeck's mentor, his alter ego, and his soul mate. Considering the depth of his eighteen-year friendship with Ricketts, it is hardly surprising that the bond acknowledged most frequently in Steinbeck's oeuvre is friendship between and among men.

Steinbeck's writing style as well as his social consciousness of the 1930s was also shaped by an equally compelling figure in his life, his wife Carol. She helped edit his prose, urged him to cut the Latinate phrases, typed his manuscripts, suggested titles, and offered ways to restructure. In 1935, having finally published his first popular success with tales of Monterey's paisanos, Tortilla Flat , Steinbeck, goaded by Carol, attended a few meetings of nearby Carmel's John Reed Club. Although he found the group's zealotry distasteful, he, like so many intellectuals of the 1930s, was drawn to the communists' sympathy for the working man. Farm workers in California suffered. He set out to write a "biography of a strikebreaker," but from his interviews with a hounded organizer hiding out in nearby Seaside, he turned from biography to fiction, writing one of the best strike novels of the 1900s, In Dubious Battle . Never a partisan novel, it dissects with a steady hand both the ruthlessness of the strike organizers and the rapaciousness of the greedy landowners. What the author sees as dubious about the struggle between organizers and farmers is not who will win but how profound is the effect on the workers trapped in between, manipulated by both interests.

At the height of his powers, Steinbeck followed this large canvas with two books that round-out what might be called his labor trilogy. The tightly-focused Of Mice and Men was one of the first in a long line of "experiments," a word he often used to identify a forthcoming project. This "play-novelette," intended to be both a novella and a script for a play, is a tightly-drafted study of bindlestiffs through whose dreams he wanted to represent the universal longings for a home. Both the text and the critically-acclaimed 1937 Broadway play (which won the 1937-1938 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best play) made Steinbeck a household name, assuring his popularity and, for some, his infamy. His next novel intensified popular debate about Steinbeck's gritty subjects, his uncompromising sympathy for the disenfranchised, and his "crass" language.

The Grapes of Wrath sold out an advance edition of 19,804 by mid-April, 1939; was selling 10,000 copies per week by early May; and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. Published at the apex of the Depression, the book about dispossessed farmers captured the decade's angst as well as the nation's legacy of fierce individualism, visionary prosperity, and determined westward movement. It was, like the best of Steinbeck's novels, informed in part by documentary zeal, in part by Steinbeck's ability to trace mythic and biblical patterns. Lauded by critics nationwide for its scope and intensity, The Grapes of Wrath attracted an equally vociferous minority opinion. Oklahoma congressman Lyle Boren said that the dispossessed Joads' story was a "dirty, lying, filthy manuscript." Californians claimed the novel was a scourge on the state's munificence, and an indignant Kern County, its migrant population burgeoning, banned the book well into the 1939-1945 war. The righteous attacked the book's language or its crass gestures: Granpa's struggle to keep his fly buttoned was not, it seemed to some, fit for print. The Grapes of Wrath was a cause celebre.

The author abandoned the field, exhausted from two years of research trips and personal commitment to the migrants' woes, from the five-month push to write the final version, from a deteriorating marriage to Carol, and from an unnamed physical malady. He retreated to Ed Ricketts and science, announcing his intention to study seriously marine biology and to plan a collecting trip to the Sea of Cortez. The text Steinbeck and Ricketts published in 1941, Sea of Cortez (reissued in 1951 without Ed Ricketts's catalogue of species as The Log from the Sea of Cortez ), tells the story of that expedition. It does more, however. The Log portion that Steinbeck wrote (from Ed's notes) in 1940 - at the same time working on a film in Mexico, The Forgotten Village - contains his and Ed's philosophical musings, his ecological perspective, as well as keen observations on Mexican peasantry, hermit crabs, and "dryball" scientists. Quipped New York Times critic Lewis Gannett, there is, in Sea of Cortez , more "of the whole man, John Steinbeck, than any of his novels": Steinbeck the keen observer of life, Steinbeck the scientist, the seeker of truth, the historian and journalist, the writer.

Steinbeck was determined to participate in the war effort, first doing patriotic work ( The Moon Is Down , 1942, a play-novelette about an occupied Northern European country, and Bombs Away , 1942, a portrait of bomber trainees) and then going overseas for the New York Herald Tribune as a war correspondent. In his war dispatches he wrote about the neglected corners of war that many journalists missed - life at a British bomber station, the allure of Bob Hope, the song "Lili Marlene," and a diversionary mission off the Italian coast. These columns were later collected in Once There Was a War (1958). Immediately after returning to the States, a shattered Steinbeck wrote a nostalgic and lively account of his days on Cannery Row, Cannery Row (1945). In 1945, however, few reviewers recognized that the book's central metaphor, the tide pool, suggested a way to read this non-teleological novel that examined the "specimens" who lived on Monterey's Cannery Row, the street Steinbeck knew so well.

Steinbeck often felt misunderstood by book reviewers and critics, and their barbs rankled the sensitive writer, and would throughout his career. A book resulting from a post-war trip to the Soviet Union with Robert Capa in 1947, A Russian Journal (1948), seemed to many superficial. Reviewers seemed doggedly either to misunderstand his biological naturalism or to expect him to compose another strident social critique like The Grapes of Wrath . Commonplace phrases echoed in reviews of books of the 1940s and other "experimental" books of the 1950s and 1960s: "complete departure," "unexpected." A humorous text like Cannery Row seemed fluff to many. Set in La Paz, Mexico, The Pearl (1947), a "folk tale. . .a black-white story like a parable" as he wrote his agent, tells of a young man who finds an astounding pearl, loses his freedom in protecting his wealth, and finally throws back into the sea the cause of his woes. Reviews noted this as another slim volume by a major author of whom more was expected. The Wayward Bus (1947), a "cosmic Bus," sputtered as well.

Steinbeck faltered both professionally and personally in the 1940s. He divorced the loyal but volatile Carol in 1943. That same year he moved east with his second wife, Gwyndolen Conger, a lovely and talented woman nearly twenty years his junior who ultimately came to resent his growing stature and feel that her own creativity - she was a singer - had been stifled. With Gwyn, Steinbeck had two sons, Thom and John, but the marriage started falling apart shortly after the second son's birth, ending in divorce in 1948. That same year Steinbeck was numbed by Ed Ricketts's death. Only with concentrated work on a film script on the life of Emiliano Zapata for Elia Kazan's film Viva Zapata! (1952) would Steinbeck gradually chart a new course. In 1949 he met and in 1950 married his third wife, Elaine Scott, and with her he moved again to New York City, where he lived for the rest of his life. Much of the pain and reconciliation of those late years of the 1940s were worked out in two subsequent novels: his third play-novelette Burning Bright (1950), a boldly experimental parable about a man's acceptance of his wife's child fathered by another man, and in the largely autobiographical work he'd contemplated since the early 1930s, East of Eden (1952).

"It is what I have been practicing to write all of my life," he wrote to painter and author Bo Beskow early in 1948, when he first began research for a novel about his native valley and his people; three years later when he finished the manuscript he wrote his friend again, "This is 'the book'...Always I had this book waiting to be written." With Viva Zapata!, East of Eden, Burning Bright and later The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Steinbeck's fiction becomes less concerned with the behavior of groups - what he called in the 1930s "group man" - and more focused on an individual's moral responsibility to self and community. The detached perspective of the scientist gives way to a certain warmth; the ubiquitous "self-character" that he claimed appeared in all his novels to comment and observe is modeled less on Ed Ricketts, more on John Steinbeck himself. Certainly with his divorce from Gwyn, Steinbeck had endured dark nights of the soul, and East of Eden contains those turbulent emotions surrounding the subject of wife, children, family, and fatherhood. "In a sense it will be two books," he wrote in his journal (posthumously published in 1969 as Journal of a Novel: The "East of Eden" Letters ) as he began the final draft in 1951, "the story of my country and the story of me. And I shall keep these two separate." Early critics dismissed as incoherent the two-stranded story of the Hamiltons, his mother's family, and the Trasks, "symbol people" representing the story of Cain and Abel; more recently critics have come to recognize that the epic novel is an early example of metafiction, exploring the role of the artist as creator, a concern, in fact, in many of his books.

Like The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden was a defining point in his career. During the 1950s and 1960s the perpetually "restless" Steinbeck traveled extensively throughout the world with his third wife, Elaine. With her, he became more social. Perhaps his writing suffered as a result; some claim that even East of Eden , his most ambitious post- Grapes novel, cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with his searing social novels of the 1930s. In the fiction of his last two decades, however, Steinbeck never ceased to take risks, to stretch his conception of the novel's structure, to experiment with the sound and form of language. Sweet Thursday , sequel to Cannery Row , was written as a musical comedy that would resolve Ed Ricketts's loneliness by sending him off into the sunset with a true love, Suzy, a whore with a gilded heart. (The musical version by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Pipe Dream , was one of the team's few failures.) In 1957 he published the satiric The Short Reign of Pippin IV , a tale about the French Monarchy gaining ascendancy. And in 1961, he published his last work of fiction, the ambitious The Winter of Our Discontent , a novel about contemporary America set in a fictionalized Sag Harbor (where he and Elaine had a summer home). Increasingly disillusioned with American greed, waste, and spongy morality - his own sons seemed textbook cases - he wrote his jeremiad, a lament for an ailing populace. The following year, 1962, Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature; the day after the announcement the New York Times ran an editorial by the influential Arthur Mizener, "Does a Writer with a Moral Vision of the 1930s Deserve the Nobel Prize?" Wounded by the blindside attack, unwell, frustrated and disillusioned, John Steinbeck wrote no more fiction.

But the writer John Steinbeck was not silenced. As always, he wrote reams of letters to his many friends and associates. In the 1950s and 1960s he published scores of journalistic pieces: "Making of a New Yorker," "I Go Back to Ireland," columns about the 1956 national political conventions, and "Letters to Alicia," a controversial series about a 1966 White House-approved trip to Vietnam where his sons were stationed. In the late 1950s — and intermittently for the rest of his life — he worked diligently on a modern English translation of a book he had loved since childhood, Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur ; the unfinished project was published posthumously as The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976). Immediately after completing Winter , the ailing novelist proposed "not a little trip of reporting," he wrote to his agent Elizabeth Otis, "but a frantic last attempt to save my life and the integrity of my creativity pulse." In 1960, he toured America in a camper truck designed to his specifications, and on his return published the highly praised Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), another book that both celebrates American individuals and decries American hypocrisy; the climax of his journey is his visit to the New Orleans "cheerleaders" who daily taunted black children newly registered in white schools. His disenchantment with American waste, greed, immorality and racism ran deep. His last published book, America and Americans (1966), reconsiders the American character, the land, the racial crisis, and the seemingly crumbling morality of the American people.

In these late years, in fact since his final move to New York in 1950, many accused John Steinbeck of increasing conservatism. True enough that with greater wealth came the chance to spend money more freely. And with status came political opportunities that seemed out of step for a "radical" of the 1930s: he initially defended Lyndon Johnson's views on the war with Vietnam (dying before he could, as he wished, qualify his initial responses). And true enough that the man who spent a lifetime "whipping" his sluggard will (read Working Days: The Journals of "The Grapes of Wrath" [1989] for biting testimony of the struggle) felt intolerance for 1960s protesters whose zeal, in his eyes, was unfocused and whose anger was explosive, not turned to creative solutions. But it is far more accurate to say that the author who wrote The Grapes of Wrath never retreated into conservatism.

He lived in modest houses all his life, caring little for lavish displays of power or wealth. He always preferred talking to ordinary citizens wherever he traveled, sympathizing always with the disenfranchised. He was a Stevenson Democrat in the 1950s. Even in the 1930s, he was never a communist, and after three trips to Russia (1937, 1947, 1963) he hated with increasing intensity Soviet repression of the individual.

In fact, neither during his life nor after has the paradoxical Steinbeck been an easy author to pigeonhole personally, politically, or artistically. As a man, he was an introvert and at the same time had a romantic streak, was impulsive, garrulous, a lover of jests and word play and practical jokes. As an artist, he was a ceaseless experimenter with words and form, and often critics did not "see" quite what he was up to. He claimed his books had "layers," yet many claimed his symbolic touch was cumbersome. He loved humor and warmth, but some said he slopped over into sentimentalism. He was, and is now recognized as, an environmental writer. He was an intellectual, passionately interested in his odd little inventions, in jazz, in politics, in philosophy, history, and myth - this range from an author sometimes labeled simplistic by academe. All said, Steinbeck remains one of America's most significant twentieth-century writers, whose popularity spans the world, whose range is impressive, whose output was prodigious: 16 novels, a collection of short stories, four screenplays ( The Forgotten Village, The Red Pony , Viva Zapata!, Lifeboat ), a sheaf of journalistic essays - including four collections ( Bombs Away, Once There Was a War, America and Americans, The Harvest Gypsies ) — three travel narratives ( Sea of Cortez, A Russian Journal, Travels with Charley ), a translation and two published journals (more remain unpublished). Three "play-novelettes" ran on Broadway: Of Mice and Men, The Moon Is Down , and Burning Bright , as did the musical Pipe Dream . Whatever his "experiment" in fiction or journalistic prose, he wrote with empathy, clarity, perspicuity: "In every bit of honest writing in the world," he noted in a 1938 journal entry, "...there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love." ‍

by Dr. Susan Shillinglaw, San José State University

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COMMENTS

  1. John Steinbeck: Biography, Author, Pulitzer Prize Winner

    Steinbeck struck a more serious tone with In Dubious Battle (1936) and The Long Valley (1938), a collection of short stories. ... John Steinbeck Biography; Author: Biography.com Editors ...

  2. John Steinbeck

    John Steinbeck (born February 27, 1902, Salinas, California, U.S.—died December 20, 1968, New York, New York) American novelist, best known for The Grapes of Wrath (1939), which summed up the bitterness of the Great Depression decade and aroused widespread sympathy for the plight of migratory farmworkers.

  3. John Steinbeck

    John Steinbeck (1902-1968), born in Salinas, California, came from a family of moderate means. He worked his way through college at Stanford University but never graduated. In 1925 he went to New York, where he tried for a few years to establish himself as a free-lance writer, but he failed and returned to California.

  4. John Steinbeck

    John Ernst Steinbeck (/ ˈ s t aɪ n b ɛ k / STYNE-bek; February 27, 1902 - December 20, 1968) was an American writer.He won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception". He has been called "a giant of American letters." During his writing career, he authored 33 books, with one book ...

  5. John Steinbeck, American Writer

    John Steinbeck, American Writer. Steinbeck in 1909 with his sister Mary, sitting on the red pony, Jill, at the Salinas Fairgrounds. John Steinbeck was born in the farming town of Salinas, California on 27 February 1902. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, was not a terribly successful man; at one time or another he was the manager of a Sperry ...

  6. John Steinbeck biography |Biography Online

    John Steinbeck Short Biography. John Steinbeck was born on 27th February 1902 in Salinas, California. His family were descendants of German immigrants and lived in a small rural town. Steinbeck had a comfortable but modest upbringing. In the summer, he spent his time working on the nearby ranches to help with the harvest and earn money.

  7. John Steinbeck Biography, Works, and Quotes

    John Steinbeck was born in 1902 in Salinas, California, a region that became the setting for much of his fiction. As a teenager, he spent his summers working as a hired hand on neighboring ranches, where his experiences of rural California and its people impressed him deeply. In 1919, he enrolled at Stanford University, where he studied ...

  8. John Steinbeck Biography

    John Steinbeck Biography. J ohn Steinbeck was born in 1903 in Salinas, California, ... Steinbeck penned twenty-seven novels, three collections of short stories, and numerous essays between 1929 ...

  9. John Steinbeck

    John Steinbeck. The Nobel Prize in Literature 1962. Born: 27 February 1902, Salinas, CA, USA. Died: 20 December 1968, New York, NY, USA. Residence at the time of the award: USA. Prize motivation: "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception". Language: English.

  10. John Steinbeck's Writing Style and Short Biography

    John Ernest Steinbeck (1902-1968) was an American novelist. His most celebrated works are "The Grapes of Wrath", "East of Eden", and "Of Mice and Men". His works are considered classics in Western literary history. Also, he was termed as "a giant of American Letters". He earned the Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize for his timeless ...

  11. John Steinbeck summary

    John Steinbeck, (born Feb. 27, 1902, Salinas, Calif., U.S.—died Dec. 20, 1968, New York, N.Y.), U.S. Search Britannica Click here to search. ... Short story, brief fictional prose narrative that is shorter than a novel and that usually deals with only a few characters. The short story is usually concerned with a single effect conveyed in only ...

  12. John Steinbeck

    John Steinbeck Questions and Answers . Question: When was John Steinbeck born? Answer: John Ernst Steinbeck was born on 27 February 1902, in Salinas, California, United States. Question: What was John Steinbeck's family background? Answer: His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, was a county treasurer and his mother, Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, was a teacher. He had two elder sisters, Esther and ...

  13. Learn

    John Steinbeck Bio Young Authors Archives Resources Newsletter Steinbeck Academic Conference John Steinbeck Bio John Steinbeck Bio John Steinbeck was born in Salinas in 1902 to a middle-class family living a few blocks from Salinas' bustling Main Street. His father, John Ernst Sr., worked as a manager in the local flour mill. Later, he owned

  14. About John Steinbeck

    About John Steinbeck. Here you will find articles that address key elements intersecting Steinbeck's life and work: background on his controversial, censored 1941 film The Forgotten Village. The National Steinbeck Center. offer additional background information on John Steinbeck to the public.

  15. John Steinbeck

    John Ernst Steinbeck. John Ernst Steinbeck (1902-1968), American author and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1962, was a leading exponent of the proletarian novel and a prominent spokesman for the victims of the Great Depression.. John Steinbeck was born on Feb. 27, 1902, in Salinas, Calif., the son of a small-town politician and school-teacher. He worked as a laboratory assistant and farm laborer ...

  16. John Steinbeck, American Writer

    John Steinbeck was born in the farming town of Salinas, California on 27 February 1902. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, was not a terribly successful man; at one time or another he was the manager of a Sperry flour plant, the owner of a feed and grain store, the treasurer of Monterey County. His mother, the strong-willed Olive Hamilton ...

  17. Short Biography of John Steinbeck

    Short Biography of John Steinbeck. John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, on February 27, 1902 of German and Irish ancestry. His father, John Steinbeck, Sr., served as the County Treasurer while his mother, Olive (Hamilton) Steinbeck, a former school teacher, fostered Steinbeck's love of reading and the written word.

  18. John Steinbeck Biography

    Undiscouraged, Steinbeck returned to California to begin work as a writer of serious fiction. A collection of short stories, The Pastures of Heaven (1932), contained vivid descriptions of rural (farm) life among the ... John Steinbeck: A Biography. New York: H. Holt, 1995. Steinbeck, John IV, and Nancy Steinbeck. ...

  19. John Steinbeck Biography: A Journey From Struggle Into Nobel Prize

    In the John Steinbeck biography, we'll see how Steinbeck grew to be one of the greatest American Nobel Prize winning authors. ... Throughout his career, he wrote 16 novels, 6 non-fiction works, and 2 short story collections. To keep things organized, I'll approach Steinbeck's career one decade at a time. The '20s. After dropping out of ...

  20. John Steinbeck

    Born in Salinas, California, John Steinbeck would go on to win a Nobel Prize in 1962. His works include Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, and both hav...

  21. John Steinbeck: A Writer's Vision

    A short biography of author John Steinbeck's life and career, as told through archival photos and videos. Produced by the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Stein...

  22. John Steinbeck

    The Nobel Prize in Literature 1962 was awarded to John Steinbeck "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception" ... The Short Reign of Pippin IV: a Fabrication. - New York : Viking, 1957: ... The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer : a Biography. - New York : Viking., 1984:

  23. John Steinbeck

    In Depth Biography: John Steinbeck, American Writer. Steinbeck in 1909 with his sister Mary, sitting on the red pony, Jill, at the Salinas Fairgrounds. John Steinbeck was born in the farming town of Salinas, California on February 27, 1902. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, was not a terribly successful man; at one time or another he was the ...