Jiho Park

Mrs. Brayko
AP Literature D Block
Steinbeck is a Journalist of Life
Literature can often be an author’s lifetime journal as its characters and plot portrays the
adventure that the author had while he or she was still alive. To an author, life is the most important
and the most exciting story and therefore is the perfect material to use to create a meaningful piece
of work. John Steinbeck started his life journey in the early 1900s, as he grew up watching his
father take on several different jobs to feed his family. Growing up in an economically weak
household, Steinbeck wrote much about social novels dealing with economic problems of rural
labor. Steinbeck also wrote about the pursuit of happiness as he believed it to be the most important
goal in life. Steinbeck was the type of author who wrote according to his experience; he very well
addresses hardship and labor through many of his well known books such as the Grapes of Wrath,
East of Eden, and of Mice and Men.
The theme of labor and economic problems is evident in most of Steinbeck’s writings.
Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California where, back in the early 1900s, was considered the land
of opportunity for the less wealthy citizens of the United States of America. Additionally to his
environment, Steinbeck’s mother and father both worked to keep food on the table for Steinbeck
and his three sisters. As he saw the harsh conditions of the less wealthy through his hard working
parents, Steinbeck learned the difficult nature of the lower class jobs and the importance of work.
Steinbeck also gained experience through working himself. Working as a construction worker and
as a caretaker to support himself financially, Steinbeck could learn what it feels like to be a working
class citizen. Novels such as the Grapes of Wrath shows that Steinbeck has indeed wrote his novels
while reflecting upon his own experience, as the Grapes of Wrath told the story of Oklahoma tenant
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farmers who, unable to earn a living from the land, moved to California where they became
migratory workers. Steinbeck has lived in California and therefore he could tell his readers about
his experience with the scanty job opportunities and the brutal working conditions in California
through the tragic story about the African Americans who have suffered much from the migratory
work that they have done to survive. The hardship that the African American migratory workers
through their labor shows how Steinbeck constantly emphasizes his wishful intentions to spread the
society’s misdirection that brought upon the economic problems. "66 is the path of a people in
flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and invasion, from the
twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from floods that bring no richness to the lnad and steal
what little richness is there." (Grapes of Wrath 150)
Consequently, all three novels shares the major theme of the pursuit of happiness as the
characters portray a desire to attain comfort and a stable life. After deciding to become a writer at
the young age of fourteen, Steinbeck had to consider what he wanted to do or what he wanted to
obtain through his career; Steinbeck had to face the inevitable decision making in life. Steinbeck
concluded that the reason that people work so hard is to obtain true satisfaction in life. Humans live
to be happy and therefore work to be happy. Amidst the hardship of labor and pressure to fulfill
social duties, people live on, dreaming that one day they will find the reason that their life is so
meaningful. His emphasis on the importance of the pursuit of happiness can be shown as his two
characters of the novel of Mice and Men talks about their plans after retirement. “We gonna have a
little place,” Lennie explained patiently. “ we gonna have a house an’ a garen and a place for alfalfa,
an’ that alfalfa is for the rabbits, an’ I take a sack and get it all fulla alfalfa and then I take it to the
rabbits.” (of Mice and Men) George and Lennie desires to obtain a “dream home” after they have
earned enough money through hard labor. The dream home that they two characters mentioned
symbolizes happiness as the pursuit of this home refers to the pursuit of happiness. Steinbeck shows
that people endure hardship in hope to someday make the coping worth the time, as he did with his
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own career as he endured the hardship of his early days as an author when he had to do manual
labor along with writing his novels to not starve. Also, in the novel Grapes of Wrath, the oppressed
African Americans, although lost much hope due to the hardship and despair continued to live on
and beard the sufferings because they believed that one day they might experience the “time of
change” in which their miserable lives would seize to hurt them. "They's a time of change, an' when
that comes, dyin' is a piece of all dyin', and bearin' is a piece of all bearin', an' bearin' an' dyin' is
two pieces of the same thing. An' then things ain't so lonely anymore. An' then a hurt don't hurt so
Steinbeck’s experience in life is not only applied in his themes and plots, but also in his style
of writing. Steinbeck is the precursor of the simplistic yet concise style of writing. His style has had
such an impact on the readers back in his era that many contemporary writers claim to have had
been inspired by him. The use of a simplistic style of writing effectively highlights the very point of
his major themes: to be able to express his ideas and to be able to effectively deliver what he has
experienced to society. The language of his novels are relevant yet simplistic. The dialogues within
the novel are written in a very succinct manner. "Tha's good, " he said. "You drink some, George.
You take a good big drink. " He smiled happily. George unslung his bindle and dropped it gently on
the bank. "I ain't sure it's good water, " he said. "Looks kinda scummy. " (of Mice and Men 2)
Steinbeck chose to write in this manner because he wanted to avoid confusion and any multi
meaning passages. Steinbeck also used slangs that were widely used back in the twentieth century
and wrote his dialogues freely, to make his passages more natural and easier to understand. “I bet it
wasmore than four miles. Damn hot day. " Lennie looked timidly over to him. "George?" "Yeah,
what ya want?" "Where we goin', George?" (of Mice and Men 3) Using slangs such as “wasmore”
and “goin’” instead of the and more formal way of writing the aforementioned words, Steinbeck
could reach through more readers who have experienced similar life events as the characters of the
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Steinbeck chose to use his simplistic style of writing and purposely made his novels deliver
themes and ideas in a straightforward manner because he wanted more people read his novels.
Steinbeck was a literary journalist who wanted to reach as much people as he could, so that he
could tell the people of his countries about society’s misdirection. Also, by pointing out the
misdirections of his society, Steinbeck encouraged change. For example, in the novel of Mice and
Men, Steinbeck uses the character George to get his readers to understand what is like to be a
migratory laborer. "George went on.“With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to
talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room bowin’ in our jack jus’
because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives
a damn. But not us.” (of Mice and Men 14) Steinbeck effectively portrayed the sad life of a
migratory worker through George and by doing so, he has given a reason for the society to change,
for the greater good of the people.
Steinbeck’s life experience and philosophies are recorded in his novels of Mice and Men,
East of Eden, and Grapes of Wrath as Steinbeck mirrors his life through the many characters and
themes that represent his opinion on society’s direction. In all three of his novels, Steinbeck has
highlighted the economic problems of labor and the significance of the pursuit of happiness which
allowed people to cope with any hardships or struggles. One should also note that by pertaining to
his theme of the working class, Steinbeck has brought his novels relevance to the twentieth century
United States. In each of his aforementioned novels, Steinbeck has pointed out society’s
misdirection that eventually lead to the hardship of certain social groups. In the novel Grapes of
Wrath, Steinbeck points out the struggles faced by the African American working class citizens who
have felt despair as they were oppressed by society and were driven to poverty. In the novel East of
Eden, Steinbeck has portrayed the life of a working class family who have, after a long period of
struggle and instability, found happiness and comfort. In the novel of Mice and Men, Steinbeck has
vividly described the lives of migratory workers who have endured much hardship in hopes of
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attaining their dreams. Steinbeck also used a simple and concise writing style to make his novels
comprehensible to the working class citizens who could not be educated due to fulfilling their
essential duty as family members and to not starve. Steinbeck was a journalist who tried to bring
change to his society.
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Work Cited
"John Ernst Steinbeck Jr.." 2014. The Biography.com website. Apr 25 2014
“John Steinbeck - Biographical". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2013. Web. 24 Apr 2014.
Steinbeck, John. East of Eden. Revised Edition ed. Vol. 1. New York: Penguine Classics, 2002. 1
vols. Print.
Steinbeck, John. Grapes of Wrath. Revised Edition ed. Vol. 1. New York: Penguine Classics, 2006.
1 vols. Print.
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. Reissue Edition ed. Vol. 1. New York: Penguine Classics, 1993.
1 vols. Print.
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Work Consulted
Benson, J, and J Parini. "John Steinbeck." EBSCO. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.
Yee, Kristine R. "John Steinbeck." John Steinbeck's THE GRAPES OF WRATH: A Call to Action.
N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.
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