John Steinbeck: Champion Of The Underdog Essay

John Steinbeck Champion Of The Underdog Term paper

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John Steinbeck had sympathy for “the oppressed, the misfits, and the distressed.” ;Much of his work is marked by a conflict between his feeling for nature and his sympathy for human beings. He can view his characters as living on a purely animal level, moved by forces they can hardly understand or control. He was best known for his basis on the American experience often with sympathetic focus on the poor, eccentric, or the dispossessed. (Hodgins 546) In February 27, 1902 he was born in Salinas, California (McGraw-Hill 191). His father was a merchant and a bookkeeper that became treasurer of Monterey County (Amwest Internet). The father’s side was from German descent. The name was originally Grosssteinbeck (Kunitz 338). His mother taught in one-room schoolhouses all over Monterey County. She was very educated and wanted her son to be a great scientist or scholar (Amwest Internet). His mother’s descent was Northern Irish (Kunitz 338). At Salinas High School, John Steinbeck was well rounded. At age 15 he decided to become a writer, influenced by an English teacher, and faintly remembered by schoolmates for spending so much time in his room writing. He proceeded to graduate and go to Stanford University (Kunitz 1338). At Stanford University he took courses that interested him (McGraw-Hill). He studied small amounts of literature and writing, but he devoted special attention to the study of marine biology (Hodges 546). He studied this because it was his greatest interest (Kunitz 1338). While in college he worked as a laboratory assistant and farm laborer to support himself (McGraw-Hill 191). He left in 1925, after 6 years, without a degree. Ironically later on, most of his surroundings while growing up would influence his writings (Thompson 717). As you will see in his works most of his fiction settings are in or around his birthplace (World Book 885). After Stanford he worked many odd jobs. Some of the jobs would include: a apprentice hod-carrier, a apprentice painter, a working chemist, a caretaker of a Lake Tahoe estate, a surveyor in the big sur country, and a fruit picker. He then decided to move to New York City. While in New York City he worked as a reporter and a laborer. He was later discharged because he wrote reflections instead of reporting facts (Kuntiz 1338). He was dissatisfied in New York after 5 years. He married and moved back to California to set the scene up for his first novel. His first novel was Cup of Gold, written in 1929 (Van Doren 364). During part of his life the United States was going through The Great Depression and Steinbeck was not affected (Van Doren 364). After his first novel, which was not successful, he was not discouraged. He then moved to writing serious fiction (McGraw-Hill 191). He didn’t have much success until the release of Tortilla Flat (1935). Tortilla Flat was a series of humorous stories about Monterey paisanos. His novel, Tortilla Flat, received the California Commonwealth Club’s annual gold medal for the best novel by a California writer. (Amwest Internet) Although his first three books were financial failures he continued to write. Some of his works (in no particular order) would include the following: East of Eden (1952), which was one of his most ambitious novels and also called Steinbeck’s finest novel. Travels with Charley, which was one of his most popular novels, it was about an author touring America with his dog named Charley. Bombs Away: The story of bomber team, which was written during World War II. Dubious Battle (1936), that deals with the strikes of the migratory fruit pickers of a California plantation. The Moon is down ;this deals with the Nazi occupation of a Scandinavian Village. The Long Valley (1938), which was a series of admirable short stories. The Grapes of Wrath (1939), which was the study of Oklahoma tenant farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where they became migratory workers. This novel won the National Book Award and the 1940 Pulitzer Prize and established Steinbeck as one of the most highly regarded writers of his day. This novel was a sensational best seller and was made in to a winning motion picture. Of Mice and Men (1937), that started as a play, was the study of the imbecile giant and an unusual friendship between two workers. It started as a play but was published a best selling novel and a motion picture (McGraw-Hill 192). Lannery Row, which was written in 1944. The Wayward Bus, which was written in 1947. The Pearl which about a woman borrowing a fake pearl and losing it thinking that it is real and saves money to buy a authentic pearl and gave it back to the woman (McGraw-Hill 192). Throughout Steinbeck’s life he had three wives, two children, and some big events. On January 14, 1930 he marries Carol Henning at Monterey. During this marriage they spent much of their time sailing and fishing. They lived on $25 a month. Later, “in most prosperous days,” ;they lived near Los Gatos. During his marriage he meets Edward F. Rickets, which would become a life long friend. He then separates from Carol in the spring of 1941 and moves to New York City with the singer Gwendolyn Conger. Then finally in March 1942 Carol sued him for divorce. They ended the marriage having no children. On March 29, 1943 he marries Gwendolyn in New Orleans. His first son, Tom, was born on August 2, 1944. Then again on June 12, 1946 birth of this second son, John IV. During all of this he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in December 1948. In August 1948 he divorces his second wife Gwendolyn Conger leaving two children behind. December 28, 1950, Steinbeck marries his third and final wife (I think), Elaine Anderson Scott (Amwest Internet). Steinbeck was described as a big man, blonde, with deep blue eyes and a deep, slow, quiet, voice. During Steinbeck’s famous life he went through hard and bumpy times. One thing that is ironic is that he is shy and hates publicity. He escaped from his publicity by leading marine biology expeditions to the Galapagos Island. Some facts that pertain to Steinbeck is that “He is the only western writer who has been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, the only western novelist to have a book reach the top of the best seller list” ;(Amwest Internet). Some people had different classifications for Steinbeck on the subject of the labor camps in California as The American Novel states: “Steinbeck was too individual to be so badly classified. He had been assigned by a newspaper to write articles about translucent labor camps in the California’s.” ;When Steinbeck was asked why he writes he answered: “Like everyone, I want to be good and strong and virtuous and wise and loved. I think that writing may be simply a method or technique for communication with other individuals ;and its stimulus, the loneliness we are born to. In writing perhaps we hope to achieve companionship, what some people find in religion. A writer may find in his craft…. Absorption of the small and frightening and lonely into the whole and complete, a kind of breaking through to glory” ;(Thompson 717). As stated by Alexander Stanley in “The Conflict of Form in Tortilla Flat”: “Critical study of Steinbeck’s fiction has been inhibited by the hostile imprecise use of “primitivism” ;as a piece of critical invective.” ;In the 1950s he starts to lose his content, creativity, and he had lack of substance (McGraw-Hill 192). The last five years of his life he spent in New York City and in Sag Harbor. He wrote and traveled with his third wife Elaine. He managed to win the Nobel Prize in 1962 (Novel Guide Internet). Later, he gets sick and was diagnosed with Arteriosclerosis. On December 28, 1968 at 66 years old he dies in New York City of this disease.

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