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John Steinbeck

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English Literature

The American John Steinbeck was a prolific author. The most famous of his novels are The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Of Mice and Men (1937). John Steinbeck often wrote about the struggles of the poor in America in the early 20th Century.

John Steinbeck's Biography

Early life and Education

John Ernst Steinbeck Jr was an American novelist born on 27th February 1902 in Salinas, California. He was one of four children, his father, John Ernst Steinbeck took on many different jobs including once being the treasurer of Monterey County in California. His mother, Olive Hamilton Steinbeck was a school teacher. Steinbeck Jr. grew up with three sisters and was considered shy but intelligent.

In 1919, John Steinbeck left home to attend Stanford University and studied there for six years. Despite the length of his studies, Steinbeck found little success and left without graduating. Soon after that, he left California for New York.

New York City and beyond

In 1925, John Steinbeck left home to pursue a career as a writer in New York City. He began working on construction sites and became a news reporter but found little success and soon moved back to California. In California, he took up other jobs in manual labour and became a caretaker in Lake Tahoe while writing his first novel Cup of Gold (1929). He wrote two more novels but was once again met with little success or recognition, but it is thought his employment in manual labour gave him inspiration for his later, more successful novels.

Literary success and Nobel prize

John Steinbeck’s fourth novel Tortilla Flat (1935) earned him recognition and from then on Steinbeck’s books took a more serious tone with novels such as Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, the latter earning him the Pulitzer Prize; it was adapted into a successful film in 1940. During World War 2, Steinbeck worked as a war correspondent for The New York Tribune. Steinbeck married three times and had two sons from his second marriage to Gwyndolyn Conger. In 1962 John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, a prestigious award given annually to authors whose body of work is considered exceptional.

Although he spent most of his life in Monterey County, California, which was also the setting for a lot of his novels, he died at his home in New York City from heart disease at 66 years old. He wrote thirty three books.

John Steinbeck’s Quotes

Twenty families became one family, the children were the children of all. The loss of home became one loss, and the golden time in the West was one dream.” -The Grapes of Wrath

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen.” - On creativity.

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” On how fear of powerlessness can cause a person to do act badly.

If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They’re the only ones who will help- the only ones.” Thoughts on the working class.

Steinbeck's novels

Now we’ll take a more detailed look at a few of Steinbeck's best known novels.

Grapes of Wrath (1939)

Steinbeck’s most widely acclaimed novel was published in 1939. It tells the story of the ‘Joad’ family from Oklahoma and is set during the great depression. The droughts rendered Oklahoma farmland useless and, being farmworkers, the Joad family decide to head west to California to look for work.

The journey proves difficult for the Joads, losing family members on the way. Once they arrive in California they find that work is not as easy to find as they were told. They also face discrimination from locals and landowners alike. Through their struggles, the Joads learn to become less insular and embrace the community of migrants around them.

The themes of the book include social injustice and family, its sympathy lies with the plight of the Joad family and their fellow migrant workers. It shows us the discrimination and unfair treatment of those who were poor and without jobs at the hands of landowners. During the great depression in the U.S, there was a lot of unrest due to the influx of migrant workers. Business tycoons and landowners in California deemed The Grapes of Wrath to be ‘anti-capitalist’, feeling they were misrepresented in the novel. Some went as far as publicly burning copies of the book. Despite their protests, it was admired by both public and critics alike, winning both the National book award and the Pulitzer prize.

East of Eden (1952)

John Steinbeck’s epic novel, published in 1952, spans three generations from the American civil war to the first world war. The book largely follows the Trask family from the patriarch Cyrus, to his sons Adam and Charles and finally Adam’s sons Aron and Cal. Adam Trask marries Cathy, a woman who murdered her parents and stole their money. Cathy becomes pregnant and tries to perform an abortion but fails and gives birth to two boys, Cal and Aron.

The novel is about good and evil, and the question about whether a person is born evil or becomes evil over time. The book draws on the bible, particularly the story of Cain and Abel. In the bible, Cain feels jealous of Adam's love for Abel, and Cain questions whether or not he was born evil. In the story, we are twice reminded of this biblical tale, the first being Charles’ jealousy towards his brother Adam, and then with Adam’s two sons Cal and Aron, for Cal is jealous of his brother Aron. Cal feels he has inherited his evil feelings from his mother Cathy, where he sees Aron as the epitome of good, inherited from their father Adam.

Interesting facts about John Steinbeck

  • John Steinbeck not only wrote books but wrote several films as well. He wrote adaptions for his books and also directly for the screen, including Viva Zapata! (1952).
  • Struggling for success in his writing career, John Steinbeck had to work as a caretaker in Lake Tahoe to make ends meet.
  • The first draft of the novel Of Mice and Men was eaten by his dog, Toby. Steinbeck took the act well, saying, 'I was pretty mad but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically'
  • East of Eden (1955) became a successful film starring James Dean, who won a posthumous Oscar for his role.

John Steinbeck wrote thirty three books; some of his most famous novels informed the world of the plight of the working classes. His books were both imaginative and realistic, and often sympathetic. His lifetime's work was recognised in 1962 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) - Das Wichtigste

  • John Steinbeck was born on February 27th 1902 in Salinas, California.

  • An American author who received acclaim for novels such as The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden.

  • Often wrote novels concerning the plight of the poor working class in America.

  • His book, The Grapes of Wrath, won both the National Book Award and The Pulitzer Prize.

  • He won The Nobel Prize for literature in 1962.

  • Died 20th December 1968 from heart failure.

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck’s most famous novels were The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. The former won the National Book award and The Pulitzer Prize.

John Steinbeck was an American novelist who wrote over 30 books and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962

John Steinbeck died in 1968 due to heart failure as a result of heart disease.

The first draft of the novel Of Mice and Men was eaten by his dog, Toby. 

Final John Steinbeck Quiz

Question

What were John Steinbeck’s most famous novels?

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Answer

John Steinbeck’s most famous novels were The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. The former won the National Book award and The Pulitzer Prize.



Show question

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Who is John Steinbeck?

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Answer

John Steinbeck is an American novelist who wrote over 30 books and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962

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What was the cause of John Steinbeck’s death?


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Answer

John Steinbeck died in 1968 due to heart failure as a result of heart disease.

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Question

When was John Steinbeck born?



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Answer

John Steinbeck was born on February 27th 1902 in Salinas, California

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Question

 For which book was John Steinbeck awarded the Pulitzer prize?


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Answer

 John Steinbeck was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939. 



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 In what period of American history was The Grapes of Wrath set ?


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Answer

The novel The Grapes of Wrath  is set during the great depression in the U.S

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John Steinbeck was a war correspondent for which newspaper during World War 2?

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During World War 2 Steinbeck worked as a war correspondent for The New York Tribune.

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John Steinbeck was awarded which prestigious prize in 1962?

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In 1962 John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Why were copies of The Grapes of Wrath burned publicly?

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Answer

Business tycoons and landowners burned copies of The Grapes of Wrath because they thought it was anti-capitalist and misrepresented them.

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Question

James Dean starred in a film adaptation of which John Steinbeck novel?

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Answer

James Dean starred in a film adaptation of the book East of Eden.

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Which story from the bible is echoed in the novel East of Eden?

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Answer

The biblical story of Cain and Abel is echoed in the novel East of Eden.

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Who is the author of The Grapes of Wrath?

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Answer

John Steinbeck is the author of The Grapes of Wrath.

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What is The Grapes of Wrath about?

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The Grapes of Wrath is about the journey of the Joad family west to California. 

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What is the genre of The Grapes of Wrath?

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The Grapes of Wrath is an example of social realism.

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What is the setting of The Grapes of Wrath?

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The Grapes of Wrath is set in both Oklahoma and California.

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When does The Grapes of Wrath take place?

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The Grapes of Wrath takes place in 1930s America, during the Great Depression.

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Who are the family in The Grapes of Wrath?

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The family in The Grapes of Wrath is the Joad family.

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The Grapes of Wrath won which major literary awards?

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The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book award and the Pulitzer Prize.

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The Grapes of Wrath is set during which period of American history?

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Answer

The Grapes of Wrath is set during the great depression in America.

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Which famous road is taken by migrant workers to reach California?

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Answer

The famous road 'route 66' is taken by migrant workers to reach California.

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What are two of the themes of The Grapes of Wrath?

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Answer

The themes of The Grapes of Wrath are;

  • Human Cruelty
  • Dignity and Resilience
  • The Power of the Group
  • Greed and Generosity

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When was The Grapes of Wrath published?

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The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939.

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What is East of Eden (1952) about?

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Answer

East of Eden tells the story of three generations of the Trask family. Exploring the struggle between good and evil.

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Is East of Eden (1952) a true story?

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Answer

East of Eden is a fictional novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1952.

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Why is East of Eden(1952) a classic?

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Answer

Despite its popularity, the novel was not liked by critics at the time. It has since become known as a classic of American literature.

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How long is East of Eden (1952)?

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The novel is epic in scale, spanning three generations from the American Civil War until World War I.

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What does the title 'East of Eden' mean?

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Answer

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When was East of Eden published?

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Answer

East of Eden was published in 1952

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What is the central theme of East of Eden (1952)?

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Answer

The central theme of East of Eden (1952) is that of good and evil.

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Which biblical story draws many parallels with East of Eden (1952)?

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Answer

East of Eden (1952) draws many parallels with the biblical story of Cain and Abel.

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The novel's timeline spans which two significant wars?

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Answer

The novel spans the American Civil war and World War I

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Question

What is the name of Adam Trask's nefarious wife?

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Answer

The name of Adam Trask's wife is Cathy

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