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?I never wrote two books alike?, once said

John Steinbeck (Shaw, 10). That may be true, but I think that he wrote many of

his novels and short stories based on many of the same views. He often focused

on social problems, like the ?haves? verses the ?have nots", and made

the reader want to encourage the underdog. Steinbeck?s back ground and concern

for the common man made him one of the best writers for human rights. John

Steinbeck was born in Salians, California and spent most of his life there or

around Salians, because of that he often modeled his stories and the characters

around the land he loved and the experiences he encountered. He lived in Salians

until 1919, when he left for Stanford University, he only enrolled in the

courses that pleased him – literature, creative writing and majoring in Marine

Biology. He left in 1925, without a degree. Even though he didn?t graduate his

books showed the results of his five years spent there. His books display a

considerable reading of the Greek and Roman historians, and the medieval and

Renaissance fabalists and the biological sciences (Shaw 11). He then moved to

New York and tried his hand as a construction worker and as a reporter for the

American. (Covici , xxxv). Steinbeck then moved back to California and lived

with his wife at Pacific Grove. In 1934, he wrote for the San Franciso News, he

was assigned to write several articles about the 3,000 migrants flooded in at

Kings County. The plight of the migrant workers motivated him to help and

document their struggle. The money he earned from the newspaper allowed him to

travel to their home and see why their reason for leaving and traveled to

California with them, sharing in with their hardships (Steinbeck, 127). Because

John Steinbeck was able to travel with the Okies, he was able to accurately

portray them and their struggles. Each book that he wrote had settings in the

places where he has either lived or wanted to live. He presented the land as it

was. The characters in his stories experienced floods, drought, and other

natural disasters, while in the Salians Valley (Shaw, 5). What Steinbeck wrote

was very factual and in depth. He exhibited his awareness of man and his

surroundings, in his early books, before people ate, a pig had to be

slaughtered, and often that and before they ate, it had to be cooked. Also when

a car broke down, the characters had to find parts, and fixed it themselves

(Shaw, 13). Many people consider that John Steinbeck novels are records of

social history. His books are the history of plain people and society as a

whole, many of his books focused on the Great Depression, Social Prejudice,

religion, and the automobile (Rundell, 4). He may be considered as a

Sentimentalist, because of his concerns for the common man, human values, for

warmth and love and understanding. The social relevance of his writings reveals

him as a reformer (Covici, xxii). In his novel The Pastures of Heaven, Steinbeck

brings up the issues of Japanese Americans fitting into social groups, and in

East of Eden, he examines the problems of intelligent and educated

Chinese-Americans in the California setting. John Steinbeck only once seriously

considers the problems of Negroes in Society. Crooks, the stable boy in Of Mice

and Men, was an outcast and never destine to fit into the generally white

society of ranching. Not only did Steinbeck recognize the -problems of

minorities and racial prejudice, he also mentioned class prejudice. The

difference between the ?haves? verses the ?have nots? was brought up in

the novel, The Grapes of Wrath, usually the people who had any financial

stability hated the Okies, who had none. Owners hated the Okies because they

were soft and the Okies were strong, also the store keepers hated them because

the Okies had no money to spend in their stores (Bowden, 12). The Grapes of

Wrath presents these issues in the form of an epic and sums up the despair of

the early 1930?s. The Joads experience: love, brotherhood, integrity, class

fear, power, violence, and suspension, the same as every other migrant. Their

conflict was a national epic, instead of a personal one. The parable of the

tortoise crossing the road represents the people of the 1930?s, he is beaten

by the sun, knocked around, and struggles, but probably reaches his destination.

In his other stories, he also uses characters and symbols to represent the

migrants of the 1930?s, and often makes his symbolism obvious. The story of

the gophers in Cannery Row represents that you can?t have your cake and eat it

too. In conclusion, John Steinbeck with his concern for man and his environment,

and his broad background has made him a respected author, and human rights

activist. His books are as relevant to us today as they were sixty years ago,

and are also important as documentation of social history.

Bibliography

Benet?s

Readers, Encyclopedia of American Literature. 1991 ed. Bowden, Edwin T. The

Dungeon of the Heart. New York, NY: The Mcmillan Company, 1961. Covici, Pacal

Jr. The Portable Steinbeck. New York, NY: The Viking Press, 1963. McWillams,

Carey, "California Pastoral?, Antioch Review, March, 1942: 103-21.

Rundell, Walter Jr. Steinbeck?s Image of the West, 4-17 Shaw, Peter. "Steinbeck:

The Shape of a Career?, Saturday Review, 8 February, 1969: 10-14. Steinbeck,

John. ?A Primer on the Thirties". Esquire October 1973: 127-131, 364,

366. Walcutt Charles C. ?Later Trends in Form: Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dos

Passos?, American Literary Naturalism: A Divided Stream. University of

Minnesota, 1956: 258- 59. 268-69

324


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