John Steinbeck (John Ernst Steinbeck) Biography
(1902–68), (John Ernst Steinbeck), A Cup of Gold, Tortilla Flat, In Dubious Battle
American novelist, born in Salinas, California, educated at Stanford University. He held various odd jobs before publishing his first work, A Cup of Gold (1929), a pirate romance about the buccaneer Henry Morgan. Tortilla Flat (1935), an affectionate portrait of the Mexican-American ‘paisanos’, set in Monterey, established him as a master of the realistic novel of contemporary life. In similar vein was In Dubious Battle (1936), focusing on the fraudulent and brutal practices of the Californian land monopolists, and Of Mice and Men (1937; dramatized, 1938), a narrative about two itinerant workers in California. The short stories in The Red Pony (1937) and The Long Valley (1938) also featured Southern Californian workers. The concern for the victims of the Depression expressed in these works came to fruition in his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath (1939; Pulitzer Prize). During the Second World War Steinbeck worked as a journalist and writer for the Office of War Information, a period which produced the anti-fascist short novel and play The Moon Is Down (1942), and Bombs Away (1942), the story of a bomber team. There followed Cannery Row (1945), also set in Monterey, which traces the lives of characters such as Doc the marine biologist, Mack and the Boys, the girls from the Bear Flag whorehouse, and Lee Chong the grocer. Among other works he wrote The Wayward Bus (1947), a satire on the modern businessman; The Pearl (1947), a parable; Burning Bright (1950); East of Eden (1952), the history of one family from the Civil War to the First World War; Sweet Thursday (1954), in which the characters in Cannery Row reappear; The Short Reign of Pippin IV (1957), a satirical novel of French politics; and The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), about a man struggling against the pressures of the modern world. He also wrote several books of travel and commentary such as The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1950), on a biological expedition; Once There Was a War (1958); Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), a narrative about a trip made with his dog; and several film scripts including The Forgotten Village (1941). A notable statement of his socio-philosophical beliefs is contained in The Sea of Cortez (1941), written with his friend and mentor Ed Ricketts. Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. Steinbeck: A Life in Letters (1975) is a comprehensive selection of his correspondence. See also Proletarian Literature in the USA.