John Steinbeck - Biography
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. During that
time, he worked odd jobs, often involving physical labor. He liked these jobs because it brought
him into contact with men of courage, strength, and honesty. He admired them for these qualities
and their lack of hypocrisy.
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. After publishing some novels and short stories,
Steinbeck first became widely known with Tortilla Flat (1935), a series of humorous stories
about Monterey paisanos.
Steinbeck's novels can all be classified as social novels dealing with the economic problems of
rural labor, but there is also a streak of worship of the working class in his books, which does not
always agree with his matter-of-fact sociological approach. After the rough and earthy humor of
Tortilla Flat, he moved on to more serious fiction, often aggressive in its social criticism, to In
Dubious Battle (1936), which deals with the strikes of the migratory fruit pickers on California
plantations. This was followed by Of Mice and Men (1937), the story of the imbecile giant
Lennie, and a series of admirable short stories collected in the volume The Long Valley (1938).
In 1939 he published what is considered his best work, The Grapes of Wrath, the story of
Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where
they became migratory workers. He won the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath.
Among his later works should be mentioned East of Eden (1952), The Winter of Our Discontent
(1961), and Travels with Charley (1962), a travelogue in which Steinbeck wrote about his
impressions during a three-month tour in a truck with his pet poodle that led him through forty
American states. He also wrote screenplays f