John Steinbeck Biography

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Grapes of Wrath Author/Context

John Steinbeck was born in 1902 in Salinas, California, a setting featured in many of his future novels. He studied biological sciences at Stanford University and worked at various jobs to pay his way through, but left without a degree in 1925 to pursue a writing career in New York. He worked as a journalist there and, after failing to publish his work, moved back to California. In 1929, he published his first work, Cup of Gold, a novel based upon the life of Sir Henry Morgan, the buccaneer. In 1930, Steinbeck married Carol Henry. The Depression began, and the publication of The Pastures of Heaven, 1932, and To a God Unknown, 1934, did little to bring Steinbeck wealth. Several of his stories, including The Red Pony, were published in The North American Review, and in 1935 The Murder was awarded the O'Henry Prize.

Steinbeck's agent was introduced to the publisher, Pascal Covici. Covici was impressed with Steinbeck's work and in 1935 published Tortilla Flat, which drew quite a bit of attention from the public and brought in several thousand dollars for its film rights. Steinbeck began to be sought out as a writer. When Of Mice and Men was published in 1937 it was a nation-wide success. Steinbeck did not want his success to weaken his commitment to the intellectual goals of his writing, and later that year he embarked upon a trip from Oklahoma to California with a group of migrant workers. He worked and lived alongside them in a work camp in California. This experience was the inspiration for his next novel, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939, the publication of which created heated controversy and brought Steinbeck enormous financial success. His social criticism and Trancendentalist philosophies gained him much criticism. Steinbeck was denounced in Congress for his radicalism. However in 1940, The Grapes of Wrath was awarded The Pulitzer Prize and is now seen as a major American novel.

Steinbeck began to travel more and write less after the publication of The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck remarried and moved to by his experiences as a husband and father in New York. Most of his other writing New York. He became the father of two sons before another divorce in 1948. In 1950, he married Elaine Scott and gained a stepdaughter. East of Eden, 1951, was inspired during this period was nonfiction. Steinbeck died in 1968.


Benson, Jackson J. John Steinbeck. Writer: A Biography. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1984.

"John Steinbeck." The Portable Steinbeck. Ed. Pascal Jr. Covici. New York: Penguin Books U.S.A., Inc., 1971.

"Steinbeck, John." Masterpieces of American Literature. Ed. Frank N.Magill. New York: Salem Press, Ltd., 1993.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Random House Inc., 1993.

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