John Steinbeck

Early Life

John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. was born on the 27th of February in 1902, in Salinas, California, U.S. He was the bright son of John Ernst Steinbeck, a county treasurer, while his mother, Olive Hamilton, was a school teacher. He was raised in a modest setting in the company of three sisters. Right from childhood, he developed a great taste for literature, and at the age of fourteen, he decided to make a career in writing. Also, his mother used to share his passion for writing and reading, her unwavering belief in his abilities blessed him with confidence to move forward. He lost his mother in 1934, and his father died in the following year. He felt those losses very much.


John Steinbeck had a strong foundation at home as his mother guided him in literary pursuits. His formal education started at Salinas High School from where he graduated in 1919. Later, he attended Stanford University and studied English literature. He left the institution in 1925 without completing his education. After this, he went to New York City and took odd jobs to support himself. Although he received a less formal education, his writings left a permanent mark on the history of literature owning to his narrative techniques.

Some Important Facts about John Steinbeck

  1. In 1940, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath.
  2. Several of his great pieces have bee adapted into movies including The Grapes of Wrath, The Forgotten Village, Of Mice and Men, and East of Eden.
  3. He died on the 20th of December in 1968 in New York City at the age of 66.
  4. During his life, he produced 16 novels, six non-fiction works, and two collections of short stories.
  5. He was awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1962 and was given the Presidential Medal for Freedom by Lyndon B. Johnson.

Writing Career

John Steinbeck wrote several masterpieces during his lifetime. His writing career is marred with a series of challenges, yet he dazzled the generations with his literary pieces. Weaving the life story of Privateer Henry Morgan, his first novel, Cup of Gold, published in 1929 set the stage for his arrival in the world of fiction writing. After the success of his first work, he spent the next four years producing shorter works including The Pastures of Heaven and The Red Pony. In 1933, he produced another novel, To a God Unknown, which depicted the family life of a homesteader in California. However, his success as a writer came with his novel, Tortilla Flat, which appeared in 1935. His next work, The Grapes of Wrath, is based on a family from Oklahoma that strives to initiate their lives in California during the Great Depression. In 1941, he wrote, The Sea of Cortez followed by two other great works including The Moon is Down and Bombs Away.

His Style

John Steinbeck, as an established writer, added enough to the world of literature. His thoughtful ideas and unconventional style in narration won him immense popularity. In most of his writings, he focused on ethnic characterization and their cross-cultural identities. He tried to exhibit an organic means of expression for each piece of writing. Although some of his pieces follow documentary-style such as The Grapes of Wrath and The Pearl, interestingly he never prepared any documentary. In fact, he intentionally used this distinct style to separate himself from other writers. The recurring thematic strands in most of the writings are the nature of loneliness, nature of dreams, cultural combination, and role of society. He often turned to metaphors, imagery, symbolism, and similes to create a unique style

Some Important Works of John Steinbeck

  • Best Novels: He was an outstanding writer, some of his famous novels include, Once There was a War, East of Eden, The Winter of our Discontent, Cannery Row, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flat, To a God Unknown and Cup of Gold.
  • Other Works: Besides writing heart-warming novels, he tried his hands on nonfiction. Some of them include Their Blood is Strong, Sea of Cortez, Bombs Away, A Russian Journal and The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

John Steinbeck’s Impact on Future Literature

John Steinbeck was a dynamic writer who started his writing career in his young age and became popular during his lifestyle. His writing style and settings of his masterpieces brought new ideas to the world of literature. Although he had a significant influence on a diverse range of writers and critics, he impressed the baby boomers the most. In fact, he expressed his thoughts and ideas in his literary pieces so well that today most of the writers imitate his style for fictional writing.

Famous Quotes

  1. Oh, we can populate the dark with horrors, even we who think ourselves informed and sure, believing nothing we cannot measure or weigh. I know beyond all doubt that the dark things crowding in on me either did not exist or were not dangerous to me, and still I was afraid.” (Travels with Charley: In Search of America)
  2. I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?” (East of Eden)
  3. JOHN What a frightening thing is the human, a mass of gauges and dials and registers, and we can read only a few and those perhaps not accurately.” (The Winter of Our Discontent)